Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia film workers feel snubbed by premier's comments

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is coming under fire from a local film production company for comments he made following Thursday's cabinet meeting.

'It's an insult. The premier is saying we don't exist,' says Arcadia Entertainment's David Christensen

Arcadia Entertainment staff say they are upset with Nova Scotia's premier. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is coming under fire from a local film production company for comments he made following Thursday's cabinet meeting.

It's a familiar theme: the premier at odds with people in the province's film and video production industry.

McNeil said unlike the film tax credit, the digital media tax credit was maintained because it led to full-time, permanent jobs.

"They are for permanent employment here in the province," McNeil said.

The digital media tax credit isn't capped and allows animators and video game makers to recover 50 per cent of eligible labour costs or 25 per cent of total production costs, whichever is lower. 

Meanwhile, the Liberal government slashed the film tax credit in last year's budget, replacing it three months later with an incentive fund requiring every dollar spent, to be accounted for. A decision Arcadia Entertainment's creative director strongly opposed.

"When I got to work here this morning, I came to a pretty discouraged crew of 30 plus people who actually do have permanent full time jobs in the TV business," John Wesley Chisholm said at an employee gathering Friday.

'We do actually exist'

Many of Chisholm's employees have worked full-time longer than Stephen McNeil has been an MLA, a job he has held since 2003, Chisholm noted.

Writer and director Andrew Killawee pointed out he has worked at Aracadia for 14 years.

"The premier's not being entirely truthful with us," Killawee said.

"A little bit disingenuous, really, to suggest that the tax credit doesn't provide full-time jobs. We do actually exist — there are permanent full-time jobs."

Arcadia cuts

Chisholm said his company and others in the province have been rocked by the cut of the film tax credit a year ago.

He said he has let some workers go and now employs 32 people full time. In January, Chisholm worried the company might close, unable to do business like it was able to in the film tax credit era.

The film tax credit cut changed the company's ability to drum up business, he said.

"We're still running on commissions we got from before last year's announcement and we have work that will take us through to mid-summer," Chisholm said.

"We've already downsized by about 25 per cent because we are not adding any new things."

John Wesley Chisholm says he would like to see the old film tax credit system put back in place. (CBC)

'We're raising families'

Arcadia Entertainment has been a fixture on Quinpool Road since 2001. The company produces a wide variety of TV programming, which appears on several specialty channels.

One of its most popular shows is Hope For Wildlife, which features the rehabilitation of injured animals and their return to the wild.

"It's an insult. The premier is saying we don't exist, but obviously we do exist," sound editor and mixer David Christensen said. "We're raising families. We're making livings. We're paying taxes."

Chisholm said he would like to see the old film tax credit system put back in place. Instead, he said he is being stonewalled by the premier and his staff.

"Over the 52 weeks since the announcement, I've sent about 42 letters and communications to the Premier's Office and I have zero responses so far," he said. 

"It has been very difficult to keep morale up for my staff."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.

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