Arcadia Entertainment may close due to Nova Scotia film tax credit changes

The head of Arcadia Entertainment says the writing is on the wall for his business this year unless something is done to fix the Nova Scotia film tax credit.

Company says it's gone from 100 to zero productions after Nova Scotia government changed program

John Wesley Chisholm said without the previous film tax credit program, Nova Scotia companies have no advantage over bigger markets like Ontario. (CBC)

The head of a Halifax production company says the writing is on the wall for his business this year unless something is done to fix the Nova Scotia film tax credit.

Arcadia Entertainment president John Wesley Chisholm said his once-booming office has no projects lined up after July.

"Once these programs are done, unless we have a way to make more, we're done too," he said.

The company specializes in documentary or factual films. It produces the Hope for Wildlife series, and has produced pieces for the Documentary Channel and National Geographic.

Right now, Arcadia employs 40 people, all of whom are busy working on 100 different programs in production. All of those programs were lined up before the province changed the tax credit. Chisholm said it was their biggest year ever.

"We're still the same people. We still have the same abilities, the same equipment. We have the same good ideas," he said.

Last June, the governing Liberals cut the old tax credit, which rebated up to 65 per cent of labour costs. In its place, the government created a $10-million fund where producers can claim up to 25 per cent of eligible costs.

'Empty-handed'

Arcadia lines up work through television markets. Chisholm recently attended two different trade events.

"For the first time in my 17 years of doing it, I have come home empty-handed. The new tool doesn't work. We have no new productions for this year," said Chisholm.

He said the value of the Canadian dollar encourages networks to produce in Canada. But without the previous tax credit program, he said Nova Scotia companies have no advantage over bigger markets like Ontario.

"We're as good as anybody else in the world, we're not better than everybody else," he said. "To overcome this geopolitical disadvantage and bring that work to Nova Scotia, we need a tool to work and this one doesn't work."

Marc Almon, the chair of Screen Nova Scotia, said in a statement that Arcadia's struggles are a concern.

"This is a company that employs talented Nova Scotians, and exports quality television product around the world," he said. 

Almon said Screen Nova Scotia continues to be in talks with the provincial government: "There are some good ideas in play. But of course, it is disheartening to see so many of our colleagues struggling."

'Transition year'

Nova Scotia Business Minister Mark Furey said in a statement that the government is receptive to working with Screen Nova Scotia, and it wants the industry to be globally competitive.

However, he said the province "doesn't have the financial capacity to subsidize any industry or sector to the tune of 50 to 65 cent dollars."

The statement said film is no different than other sectors, including fisheries and forestry, and the industry needs to lead its growth.

Furey called this a "transition year." So far, nine projects have been approved under the new fund as of Dec. 1. Of those projects, $1.7 million has been committed by the government, with a production value of $5.6 million.

About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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