Like it or not, Squamish’s economic future is at least partly tied to the film industry — just one of many (forestry, tourism, shipping, technology and education) that can and should be integral parts of our community’s economic mix.
The discussion that took place in council chambers this week — about measures local officials can take to attract and keep a steady stream of film projects coming to town — certainly touched on some key issues. The bigger picture, though, also merits our attention as a community.
Recently, those involved in the film industry have lobbied the provincial government on the issue of tax incentives offered to film producers who choose B.C. as a location for all manner of filming. Proponents of greater incentives say our province is losing business to Quebec and Ontario, which offer more attractive tax incentives — a 25 per cent rebate on all production costs, vs. the 33 per cent rebate on only labour costs offered by B.C.
Critics of the push for B.C. to at least match the incentives offered elsewhere argue that we’re essentially subsidizing millionaires in Hollywood and elsewhere. A little perspective here, though: These sorts of incentives may well fall under the broad definition of “subsidy,” but they don’t actually cost B.C. taxpayers a dime. As stated by B.C. film industry worker Daryl Makortoff, in a recent guest column in the Vancouver Sun, offering tax incentives “just means that the government will be giving a little more back to production companies, but keeping thousands of film-industry workers off Employment Insurance, and having 30-40 per cent of their paycheques taxed again.”
This writer agrees that we shouldn’t be endlessly trying to one-up our neighbours to attract and retain business. What if, during meetings of Canada’s premiers, film-industry tax credits were made a regular agenda item? What if provinces agreed to offer essentially the same package of incentives for a period of time — say, five years? At each interval, the package could be either renewed or re-worked based on the current state of the industry.
The industry, while not without its impacts, is relatively benign and employs creative, energetic people, some of whom live in our midst. It should be welcomed with open arms — in both the short and long term.
— David Burke