A high profile Nova Scotia businessman calls the existing film tax credit "nuts" and is coming to the defence of the Liberal government, which has been battered by criticism since it announced it was axing a large portion of the lucrative subsidy.
Seafood baron John Risley, president of Clearwater Fine Foods Inc., says he's been watching the debate unfold "with dismay" as those opposed to the cut warned of "Armageddon" and a "tidal wave" of job losses.
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"It is an absolute nonsense. The government cannot afford to be subsidizing any industry to this extent," Risley said Wednesday.
Risley says the business community has urged the province to get its fiscal house in order. And he says there would be a "hue and cry, justifiably so" if another industry were to receive such high subsidies to set up shop here.
Last week, the province announced it was slashing the film tax credit — essentially a guaranteed payroll rebate on eligible labour costs — from 100 per cent to 25 per cent.
Productions can recover the remaining 75 per cent only if they pay corporate income tax. Few companies make enough money to pay tax.
Risley calls Michael Donovan, the executive chairman of media production powerhouse DHX Media, a "local hero," but adds he's not interested in taxpayers paying up to 65 per cent of the company's salaries.
He says he "hopes to God" the Liberals don't cave to pressure from the film industry and adds he's unhappy not more in the business community are supporting the government.
While many working in film have warned the changes will gut the industry, the head of think tank Atlantic Institute for Market Studies says there's been no independent analysis of whether the subsidy works.
"There are numbers being thrown left, right and centre. None of these are independent numbers," Marco Navarro Genie, the president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.
He said the film tax credit is essentially "free money." He also says productions can film here, but take advantage of other lower cost jurisdictions for pre and post production and still receive the Nova Scotia tax credit.