Lights, camera, inaction
Auditor says province not monitoring film, TV grants
The auditor general says Alberta’s $43-million film and TV grant program has been abused because the rules are so loose, they are almost unenforceable.
Merwan Saher said grant recipients have been violating the aim of the Alberta Production Grant by hiring people and buying services from out of province. He said one person claimed multiple salaries on the set for three jobs.
Saher stated the government was aware of the problem almost two years ago, rewrote the rules to tighten them up in early 2016, but then never implemented the changes. And he said the government has continued to hand out grants to producers deemed to have broken the rules.
The grant is given to film and TV production companies to encourage them to spend money in the province and hire local talent.
In late 2015, the Culture and Tourism department, acting on anonymous complaints, found some companies were hiring people and paying for services in B.C., Ontario and the United States. Neither the auditor nor the department would name the production companies involved.
The department crafted tighter guidelines in early 2016, at the same time that the current minister of the department, Ricardo Miranda, took over.
But under Miranda, the new rules were not put in effect for a year-and-a half, until they were introduced by him last week under a revised grant program, titled the Screen-Based Production Grant.
Miranda, in an interview, said the majority of the grant applicants followed the rules. He said the year-and-a half delay was because the issues were complex.
“It’s not something you can fix overnight,” said Miranda. “We needed to figure out how the program needed to be structured in a way that we captured some of the issues that were being raised (while) being responsive as well to the needs of the industry, because you could easily damage the industry if you create uncertainty. It’s highly mobile.”