Entertainment

Taxpayers being abused by film funding: lobbyist

An evangelical leader says it is an abuse of taxpayers' money to put federal funding toward films such as Young People F---ing.

An evangelical leader says it is an abuse of taxpayers' money to put federal funding toward films such as Young People F---ing.

Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, says he has been lobbying for years to get a change to funding rules for films and television shows. The Canada Family Action Coalition is an evangelical group that seeks to have what it calls "Judeo-Christian moral principles" restored in Canada.

Bill C-10, an omnibus bill now before the Senate, includes provisions in the Income Tax Act that would allow the federal government to deny tax credits for films that are offensive or not in the public interest.

The tax credits would be withdrawn from films already made at the discretion of a committee of the Justice and Heritage departments who would vet films for inappropriate content.

"I find it outrageous that government takes our hard-earned tax dollars and funds movies like Young People F---ing," McVety told CBC News, a clergyman who is careful not to say the offensive word.

"All we did over the years was point out the abuse of taxpayer dollars in this way."

McVety said his group, which he describes as a grassroots coalition, did not meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Heritage Minister Josée Verner, nor did it present before the Commons heritage committee, which has a mandate to review cultural policy.

Instead, it presented to officials in the Prime Minister's Office and worked with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and with backbench MPs who support its position.

"The government finally looked at this issue and agreed," McVety said. After a written presentation, "Verner responded and she did not want to keep funding for films like this."

Young People F---ing, a film shown at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival and scheduled for commercial release in April, has been a particular focus of attention among MPs who pressed for a mechanism to withdraw government support from films deemed inappropriate.

Batters raised questions about film

Tory MP Dave Batters raised the film in questioning of Telefilm president Michel Roy before the heritage committee earlier this year.

"In my mind, sir, and in the minds of many of my colleagues and many, many Canadians who will be watching today, the purpose of Telefilm is to help facilitate the making of films for mainstream Canadian society, films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families in living rooms across this great country," Batters said at that meeting held in January of this year.

"I haven't seen this film, but it's my understanding that the film contains a lot of soft-porn images. It's supposedly somewhat witty, but with very blue dialogue. It is certainly not a discussion that most Canadians would share in their homes or offices," he said.

Also mentioned were the films Bubbles Galore, made by an adult entertainer and Control Alt Delete, which has scenes of masturbation.

Arts groups have criticized the plan to withdraw tax credits from films that don't meet the approval of a government committee. They point out that funding from Telefilm, the Canadian Television Fund and other such bodies is critical to raising enough money to make films in Canada.

Martin Geuro, director of Young People F---ing, said the amendment has the potential to choke off funding to Canada's film industry.

"The problem with the system — it makes the decision after the fact. That is potentially dangerous to the entire system," he said.

Geuro describes his film as an examination of sexual relationships of young couples.

David Cronenberg, director of the film Eastern Promises, called the proposal a form of censorship and said it is not appropriate in modern Canada.

'Assault on the charter:' Cronenberg

"I think it's a direct assault on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," he said Thursday. "I mean, I really think it's outrageous and it makes me very, very angry."

McVety dismisses suggestions that the vetting of films is an infringement of free speech.

"This idea that it is a Charter issue is nonsensical," he said. "We're not saying you can't make the film, just that you can't force the government to pay to make films such as Young People F---ing. That's not a freedom issue."

It’s not only the federal funding that goes to these films, but also provincial incentives and tax credits, McVety pointed out.

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