Toronto mayor has an offer for Hollywood

David Miller says city has its competitiveness back

TORONTO -- Toronto Mayor David Miller is touring studio lots in Los Angeles this week with a promise: Hollywood producers will be charged just 78 cents for every Canadian dollar spent on city services.

That's only one of many sweeteners on offer as Miller attempts to woo the major studios back to Toronto after recent years in which they've steered production to New York State, Michigan and elsewhere south of the border.

Another carrot is an 80-cent Canadian dollar, compared with the American greenback, which has Toronto back on the radar of studio bean counters.

"We lost our cost competitiveness. We now have that back, and we're a full service provider," Miller said Tuesday from Los Angeles as his sales mission got under way. "Now's the time to come back to Toronto."

Toronto's past renown as Hollywood North began to ebb with the events of Sept. 11 and the 2003 SARS health scare in Toronto, and continued when U.S. states began matching tax breaks from Canada with their own financial incentives. A stronger American dollar from 2006 erased what remaining cost advantages Toronto offered to the major studios.

The mayor is banking that studio execs also are ready to return to Toronto, not least to shoot in the new Filmport mega-studio, after what he terms "varied" experiences in rival locales with less infrastructure including Louisiana, Michigan and New Mexico.

By contrast, Miller is touting Toronto as a known and stable quantity.

"Toronto has a good reputation in the U.S. We're safe, we're well organized. Our unions are true partners, and a number of producers have had positive experiences in the city," he said.

Miller's itinerary includes a Wednesday tribute to Ottawa-born Sandra Oh at the Canadian Consulate's residence in Hancock Park.