Sask. premier won't reverse film tax credit cut

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he will not reverse his government's controversial decision to cancel the province's film tax credit.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall speaks with reporters late Monday, following his 90-minute meeting with Ron Goetz of the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association. (CBC)

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he will not reverse his government's controversial decision to cancel the province's film tax credit.

Nearly 100 supporters of the film and television industry gathered in the legislature's rotunda on Monday afternoon as Wall met with Ron Goetz, president of the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association, for 1½ hours.

Last week, Finance Minister Ken Krawetz announced in his budget that the government would wind the program down to save $8 million a year.

That sparked a fierce response from people in the movie and video business who say losing the credit — worth up to 55 per cent on the labour costs of a production — would kill the industry and drive skilled workers out of the province.

When the meeting ended shortly before 6 p.m. CST, Wall told reporters that he would not change the government's decision to scrap the tax credit, but he is willing to look at alternative ways to support the industry.

Wall proposes 'real' incentive

Wall said he would consider what he called a "real" tax incentive.

"As you make an investment, we will provide you a credit on taxes you pay in the province. In other words, you conduct your activities here, you make some money here, and so you owe taxes to the province," he explained.

About 100 film industry supporters packed the rotunda at the Saskatchewan legislature while the meeting was underway. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

"Well, a tax credit takes that amount off of the taxes you owe," he added.

Goetz said he is willing to discuss new ways of working with the province, but people in Saskatchewan's film and TV industry would still rather have the existing tax credit.

"We said, 'Well that's great, we'd love to be able to participate in that,'" he said.

"But unless we are concerned about what happens now for this season and in the next few weeks and months, there won't be much left to talk about."

Goetz said he asked Wall to extend the current tax credit program by three months, so crews can get through the current production season.

Wall did not commit to extending the tax credit program, but he said he would consult with cabinet.

Next steps

On Sunday, people employed in the industry met in Regina and Saskatoon to talk about their next steps.

A petition is being circulated and a postcard campaign has been launched. There's also video posted on YouTube urging the province to reverse course — a video that includes pleas from children of film industry workers.

Earlier on Monday, Wall said in a news release that the meeting will also cover ways the government and industry can work together to support filmmakers in Saskatchewan. He gave no indication the government was having second thoughts.

The province argues the film employment tax credit has cost the government $100 million since its introduction in 1998.

People in the film industry say many hundreds of millions more have been spent in Saskatchewan that would not be spent if there were no tax credit.