Toronto Film Board pleads incentives case


TORONTO -- Struggling to remain competitive with the incentives being offered by some U.S. states, Toronto's beleaguered film industry on Tuesday urged the Canadian government to get out its credit card to entice Hollywood movie producers back to the province.

Susan Murdoch, co-chair of the Toronto Film Board, an industry lobbying group, told the Toronto city council that it should urge the provincial and federal governments to follow the example of New York City and offer a bonus payment to foreign producers using local soundstages.

"I don't know what Toronto's tax incentives can be, but encouraging other levels of government to amend their current tax incentives to be more positive toward Toronto, that's what we're talking about," Murdoch explained when asked what steps Toronto could take to restore the city's flagging film and TV production sector.

Unveiling a strategic plan for Toronto's screen-based production industry, Murdoch said the city is losing Hollywood productions to rival locales that offer more generous tax credits and other financial incentives for producers, including southern U.S. states and Mexico.

In addition, the rising Canadian dollar, compared to the American greenback, meant total production spending in Toronto from 2003 to 2006 fell from $1.2 billion to about $700 million, with spending on feature film production down 35%.

To restore Toronto's competitiveness, Murdoch also urged that the Ontario and federal government speed up payments to foreign producers of tax credits based on local labor costs. Traditionally, foreign producers have had to wait up to two years before being reimbursed for certain labor costs after filing tax returns.

She also urged the Ontario government to consider providing 85% of the tax credit for indigenous producers up front so producers no longer have to turn to bank financing to cover production costs as they wait to receive their tax credits.