Lib­eral’s film in­dus­try mas­sacre still reeks

Annapolis Valley Register - - OPINION - Jim Vib­ert

Home­sick (adj.): long­ing, nos­tal­gia and sad­ness as­so­ci­ated with dis­lo­ca­tion from the place where one has the great­est sense of be­long­ing – home.

I had a chat re­cently with an ac­quain­tance who ex­hibits those symp­toms. A tal­ented, en­tre­pre­neur­ial guy, he’s the type that lead­ers of com­merce and gov­ern­ment claim Nova Sco­tia des­per­ately needs.

Yet, a few years back, those lead­ers sent le­gions of Nova Sco­tians who fit the de­scrip­tion into eco­nomic ex­ile. It stunk then and still reeks.

De­spite promis­ing full sup­port for film­mak­ers while court­ing votes in 2013, once in gov­ern­ment the Lib­er­als be­trayed and mas­sa­cred the in­dus­try.

Un­der the guise of tax eq­uity, and when that didn’t take of sav­ing money, the prov­ince drove a stake through the heart of a thriv­ing and, more im­por­tantly, a grow­ing and ac­claimed film sec­tor.

The growth re­versed overnight. Maud Lewis’ life story was shot in New­found­land. The ac­claim turned to dis­dain for a place that has no cre­ative soul. That’s a hor­ri­ble rep­u­ta­tion for a gov­ern­ment to hang on a prov­ince.

With the emo­tion of the mo­ment now a mem­ory to all but the dis­lo­cated, their fam­i­lies and friends, the pub­lic pol­icy de­ci­sion de­serves ex­huma­tion and dis­pas­sion­ate ex­am­i­na­tion.

The con­clu­sion: It was a mean­spir­ited, ill-ad­vised, un­in­formed, coun­ter­pro­duc­tive bul­let to the brain of an in­dus­try that bu­reau­crats didn’t like and politi­cians didn’t un­der­stand. Okay, a lit­tle pas­sion may have sur­vived.

Ig­nore gov­ern­ment’s to­ken ges­tures and feigned affin­ity for the cre­ative econ­omy. There is an­tipa­thy in gov­ern­ment for cre­ative types. They are strange, per­plex­ing crea­tures to a bu­reau­cracy vir­tu­ally de­void of cre­ative thought.

When the prov­ince killed the film tax credit it kept a neari­den­ti­cal dig­i­tal tax credit. Gov­ern­ment geeks get dig­i­tal. It says, “the fu­ture” to politi­cians and bu­reau­crats who some­how missed the world-wide ex­plo­sion in de­mand for film con­tent.

Nova Sco­tia still has a film in­dus­try, thanks to a few re­silient com­pa­nies. Nova Sco­tia Busi­ness Inc. (NSBI) stepped up to try to sal­vage some­thing and save the gov­ern­ment’s po­lit­i­cal face.

But film­mak­ing in Nova Sco­tia isn’t what it was, nor nearly what it could be.

There are hun­dreds if not thou­sands of Nova Sco­tians work­ing in film. You’ll find many of them in North­ern On­tario of all places, where their tal­ent, skill and ex­pe­ri­ence is trea­sured.

Cur­rently seven projects are in pro­duc­tion in North Bay alone. It’s a pretty lit­tle spot, but not nearly as pic­turesque as any one of the hun­dreds of coastal com­mu­ni­ties along Nova Sco­tia’s south, eastern, Cape Bre­ton or Fundy shores.

Tak­ing the axe to the film tax break de­prived some of those com­mu­ni­ties of a much-needed eco­nomic boost. The prov­ince put its faith and your money in stuff like aqua­cul­ture in­stead.

My erst­while ac­quain­tance, Bill Flem­ing, now ply­ing his tal­ents in pro­duc­tion de­sign in North­ern On­tario, worked with a set de­signer in Nova Sco­tia who es­ti­mated that over the decade 2005 to 2015 she spent $2 mil­lion, in places like Bear River, Bass River and Balls Creek, buy­ing Nova Sco­tia-made goods. She’s fin­ished and so are many more like her.

Con­versely, the prov­ince has no prob­lem drop­ping $10 mil­lion on tourism pro­mo­tion. If you could guar­an­tee Tourism Nova Sco­tia an au­di­ence of five mil­lion Ger­mans, you could grab a nice chunk of that cash.

A film shot on the Aspo­to­gan Penin­sula for Ger­man tele­vi­sion reached five mil­lion view­ers. Did in­ter­na­tional pro­mo­tional prom­ise of that mag­ni­tude fac­tor in the de­ci­sion to end of the tax credit?

The prov­ince will protest that the Nova Sco­tia Film and Tele­vi­sion Pro­duc­tion In­cen­tive at NSBI filled the gap. Film­mak­ers ac­knowl­edge NSBI’S ef­fort, but it is cum­ber­some and can’t heal the rep­u­ta­tional dam­age.

Could Nova Sco­tia’s film sec­tor be re­built to its for­mer en­ergy? Not eas­ily. Once the gov­ern­ment tells peo­ple they are un­wanted, it’s hard to bring them back. But it is worth a try.

Mcneil cabi­net min­is­ters claim Nova Sco­tia can’t com­pete with the in­cen­tives film­mak­ers are of­fered else­where. That po­si­tion seems to sup­port Stephen Harper’s in­fa­mous slight. This re­gion suf­fers from “a cul­ture of de­feat,” but it turns out the cul­ture re­sides in gov­ern­ment.

Maybe we can’t com­pete dol­lar-for-dol­lar with New York, but we can com­pete with North­ern On­tario, and we have some­thing bet­ter on of­fer.

The his­tory serves as an ex­am­ple of one thing that’s wrong around here. Our gov­ern­ments opt for short-term fi­nan­cial gain over the po­ten­tial for long-term eco­nomic growth, un­less that po­ten­tial fits neatly into one of the gov­ern­ment’s pre-fab­ri­cated boxes.

It’s short-sighted, nar­row­minded and pos­si­bly sui­ci­dal.

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