Finance Minister Mike de Jong says B.C. is seeking a truce in the long-running subsidy war with other provinces over Hollywood movie production in a bid to contain the high cost of film tax credits.
He made the comments Wednesday at a forum on the economy and jobs at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, where Vancouver Coun. Adriane Carr asked what the province will do about high unemployment in the Lower Mainland film industry.
“I think we’re being played in Canada,” de Jong responded. “We’re being played one province against another. And the time has come for us to get smart and sit down as provinces and say ‘Here’s what we agree to do in Canada’.”
De Jong said B.C. has already begun exploratory talks with Ontario and Quebec on a reformed approach to film tax credits.
B.C.’s expenditure on film tax credits is nearing $400 million a year.
He said that’s paid out as a percentage of a production’s costs – no matter whether it makes or loses money – treatment other sectors can only dream about.
“I defy you to find a business in British Columbia that wouldn’t like to tally up their labour costs and send it to the government and get a cheque.”
De Jong said B.C. will continue to invest in film tax credits to support the industry, but said the province is at its limit.
“We are not either able or inclined to send more British Columbia tax dollars to a production house in Hollywood,” he said, to applause from delegates.
Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond said production numbers in B.C. are up this year, including major shoots involving actor George Clooney.
She said the government is considering opening a film office in Los Angeles to help sell the advantages of shooting in B.C.