Wednesday November 26, 2014

EDITORIAL - Investment choice strange one


The Saskatchewan government is supposed to have a map to take our province forward.

In terms of the film industry the map was destroyed when the government axed the Film Employment Tax Credit in the 2012 budget, a funding source most in the industry in the province said was critical in helping to get cameras rolling.

The film industry has been battered in Saskatchewan as a result of the government decision to trim a credit which at the end of the day was but a drop in budgetary terms, yet was an important component of financing packages for many films, the tipping point as it were, to make them viable.

It was not a particularly forward thinking move by the Brad Wall government, and one which may well have its impact in a more negative way locally if the decision ultimately impacts the Yorkton Film Festival.

The loss of the film credit hurts locally, and industry wise, it was a decision by government to basically sacrifice an economic sector, sending many in the industry scurrying to other provinces with a kinder eye to film production.

But let’s fast forward to 2014.

The Wall government has announced it will invest $2 million to ensure the upcoming Corner Gas movie is shot here.

The government is in for 23 per cent of the $8.5 million production - $500,000 from Creative Saskatchewan and $1,475,000 coming from Tourism Saskatchewan.

This is an investment which makes absolutely zero sense, and less so from the perspective of Yorkton.

For those who supported the axing of the film tax credit, the money for a single film has to be an affront, especially since the $2 million is more than the credit was in many years. The credit at least impacted multiple films and created jobs here.

The Corner Gas project will see crew move in for a few weeks of shooting, and be gone. There is no Saskatchewan-based career development, as was the hope with an ongoing tax credit.

That a big chunk of the government investment is coming out of Tourism Saskatchewan is another aspect of this announcement which should sour local taste buds.

It was only weeks ago the Yorkton Exhibition Association lobbied the Wall government to come up with $200,000 to save standardbred racing in Saskatchewan, another industry lost because of a cut, this time to Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority grants, by the Wall government.

The YEA had suggested the money, instead of coming from SLGA it might come from a variety of government sources, agriculture since it is horses, lotteries as it is a sport, and yes from tourism, since most drivers, owners, trainers and fans travelled far enough each week to fit the definition of tourism.

The YEA request fell on deaf ears in Regina, and racing is dead in Yorkton, and standardbred racing appears extinct in the province.

How is the Corner Gas film worth $1.5 million to tourism, and horse racing worth nothing?

Why would the government choose to maim the overall film industry in the province, yet can find $2 million sitting around to ensure a high profile film is shot here, of course saving Wall from having to explain why a television hit born here had to go elsewhere to shoot a follow-up feature film?

It is great to see Corner Gas back, even if it’s a one-time film, but the investment by the Saskatchewan government is at best tainted by its history, and is at worst Wall stroking his ego by bringing a well-known film to Saskatchewan.



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