Nova Scotia·Blog

Nova Scotia film incentive fund announcement contains no news

It had all the earmarks of a big news announcement — a hastily prepared news release and a late afternoon press conference from a cabinet minister. All that was missing was actual news.

Business Minister Mark Furey just as befuddled as reporters about late afternoon press conference

Business Minister Mark Furey and representatives from Screen Nova Scotia met on Thursday to talk about changes the film industry would like to see to make the fund easier to access. Furey said Friday no changes were made. (CBC)

There are certain cues that signal big news — or bad news — is coming from Province House, especially for political reporters.

There's the promise of a coming news release that is delayed, over and over again. And the assurance that a minister will be available to answer questions, but only late in the afternoon. When that's a Friday afternoon, the alarm bells go off all around.

Which is why, at 4:30 p.m. today, four TV cameras and five reporters were anxiously waiting in the lobby of Nova Scotia's Department of Business for a much anticipated news release and a minister's comments.

The big news?

"An important point of clarification," said the news release.

The issue: the Liberal government's controversial $10 million film incentive fund — the replacement to the much more generous film tax credit that was eliminated in last spring's budget.

'Nothing has changed'

Business Minister Mark Furey and representatives from Screen Nova Scotia had met on Thursday to talk about changes the film industry would like to see to make the fund easier to access.

The clarification?

"If eligible productions come forward when the fund is approaching or has reached its $10 million budget allocation, government will consider more resources on a case-by-case basis," the news release said.

This is a fund that is nowhere near tapped out. In fact, it's a fund the province is pleading for filmmakers to make greater use of.

Even Furey, whose office issued that release, seemed bewildered by the clarification.

"There is no announcement," he told reporters. "I've said that before. Nothing has changed."

So why write and issue a news release and make a cabinet minister available to answer questions about it late on a Friday afternoon?

'Expectations that had no basis'

"For me, it was obvious that there were expectations circulating that had no basis to them," Furey offered in the way of explanation.

"When there appeared to be expectations that had no basis, it was important to clarify that, and that's why we're having this discussion at this time."

The minister played a part, himself, in fuelling those expectations. On Thursday, before his meeting with Screen Nova Scotia, he told reporters that the province was "in a position right now with discussions with the industry that there are potential changes" to the film incentive fund.

Furey said Friday that no changes were made.

"The discussions didn't result in that," he said.

So, in the end, the minister was there to douse the flicker of hope that he sparked 24 hours ago by suggesting a change to the fund was possible.

Premier Stephen McNeil recently hired three experienced political reporters to provide advice and guidance, in an effort to end this government's propensity to stumble into troubles of its own making. The premier is keen to leave behind his government's retreat on pharmacare changes, the grief caused by cutting the budgets of beloved non-profit groups and the continuing protest by Nova Scotia's film industry.

It's unclear how Friday's chain of events fit into any calculated plan to do that.


Jean Laroche


Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.


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