Cape Breton film worker ready to leave Nova Scotia

Nearly a year after the Nova Scotia government replaced its film tax credit with an incentive fund, scores of industry have gone to other Canadian centres for work. Set dresser Ray MacDonald of Westmount, Cape Breton, is considering it, too.

Set dresser Ray MacDonald has worked one week since the end of the Nova Scotia film tax credit

Set dresser Ray MacDonald of Westmount, Cape Breton, is actively looking for work outside Nova Scotia. (Steve Sutherland/CBC)

Nearly a year after the Nova Scotia government replaced its film tax credit with an incentive fund, the film and television industry in the province could perhaps best be described as dormant.

Scores of workers in the industry have gone to other Canadian centres to pursue their careers because of a dearth of jobs here.

Set dresser Ray MacDonald of Westmount, Cape Breton, is considering it, too.

In an interview with CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning, MacDonald said he's been unemployed for most of the last eight months, a far cry from better times when "I was pretty much rolling from show to show."

"The average production takes about maybe two months to shoot, and on a really good run, you do four or five shows in a row," he said.

He said before the collapse of the industry, he had worked steadily for about 10 months. The only work he's found in his field since last spring has been a week on a Newfoundland production called Frontier.

From credit to incentive

In the 2015 spring budget, the McNeil government eliminated the film tax credit, which provided rebates of up to 65 per cent of a production's labour costs.

It has been replaced by an incentive fund, which will reimburse 25 per cent of all money spent in Nova Scotia. That fund contains $10 million, but so far only $2.6 million has been spent.

MacDonald said the industry is "booming" now in Ontario and Alberta, where the governments support productions in the way Nova Scotia used to.

Like so many of his colleagues in the Nova Scotia film and television industry have argued, MacDonald said the provincial government made a mistake by comparing what it was spending on the tax credit to the amount actually paid in wages. 

"We're talking only salaries and wages in that case," he said. "We're not talking about the expenditures of everything else. They're not taking into account things like material costs and food, accommodation, all these other expenditures that are going out."

Union hopeful

MacDonald, who also sits on the executive of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 849, said he's optimistic things will turn around here at home one day.

"We've made suggestions to province of changes that need to be made to streamline things, to remove some of the hoops, to remove the actual cap, to just show that they're willing to co-operate with us to make our industry grow again.

"If that were to actually come about, I think that Nova Scotia could very much see a thriving film industry return, in time."


  • A previous version of this story said $1.5 million of Nova Scotia's film incentive fund has been spent so far. In fact, the correct figure is $2.6 million.
    Mar 16, 2016 11:18 AM AT

Steve Sutherland, Nicole MacLennan, Information Morning


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