Letter to the Editor - Film industry concerns

Dear Editor:

I was born and raised in Yorkton, and still have my parents and many great friends who live there. For a few years of my youth, I even had my own Yorkton This Week paper route that helped me buy all the candy and hockey cards I could ever want.

Fast-forward a couple decades and I now have been employed for 7 years at a video post-production company in Regina. I am very proud of the work that we do and the high praise we receive locally and all the way up to the international level. I paid my own way through school and was blessed to be hired at a job I love to go to everyday. This job has become a career and has been important in making a life for my young family. Our future in Saskatchewan was looking very bright. That was until the provincial government made the short-sighted decision to cut the film employment tax credit program in a devastating surprise budget announcement.

Any way that you look at this decision, it makes absolutely no sense. Crippling the film & media industry completely goes against the government's supposed policy of Saskatchewan wanting a high return on investment, creating innovative jobs, being a leading province for all of Canada, being competitive on a world stage, and encouraging young people to stay or return to Saskatchewan.

One of the most discouraging things is that the government has chosen time and time again to offer the public incomplete facts and information that's only meant to cloud the issue. When talking about the cost to taxpayers over the 15 years with the previous program, they always fail to mention that for the $100 million that was spent, $623 million was generated in direct economic activity in our province (using the government's own numbers) -- a huge 6:1 return on an investment.

It is especially hurtful that our provincial government would try to drive a wedge between the film & media industry and farmers, saying that that is where the savings would go. Every proud Saskatchewan resident has the highest respect for farmers and our agriculture industry, myself being one of them. According to the budget handed down by our government in March, there isn't any room in our "balanced budget" so that's why cuts were made. Where exactly is this extra money coming from that will be directed to agriculture? Just another political spin attempting to misdirect the attention away from the government making a very poorly informed decision. Now they have announced the province has a surplus of $47.5 million. Can the government come clean with their agenda or do they take care of their own before letting the public know anything? And no matter how many times our Premier says it, or his ministers repeat him verbatim, the previous tax incentive program was NOT a grant.

When the program was in place, it would, very importantly, enable productions within the province to be developed and produced locally. Also, the incentive program encouraged out-of-province productions to come to Saskatchewan. For example, a $10 million film production could choose to be made here because of the competitive incentive program. The money from this film's budget would go directly into the economy, being spent on things like hotel accommodations, restaurants, equipment rentals, transportation, lumberyards, and also at numerous other small businesses. The wages paid to the employees would also come from the production's budget. (Have you ever seen the number of people in a movie's credits!) These employees pay taxes on their wages, and what's left over is spent on everyday things like mortgage payments and grocery bills and dance classes for their kids.

Well after the entire $10 million has been spent, and after final production costs have been audited, the production company submits its tax credit claim for a partial rebate on Saskatchewan labour expenditures. This is what works as the industry standard for all of Canada, with the only exception now being in Saskatchewan. This was a tax incentive program designed to drive the provincial economy, NOT a throw-away grant.

Representatives from the film & media industry set about creating a new tax program. Using their experience and knowledge in the business side of the industry, along with extensive research, the representatives developed a proposal. They hoped to work with our provincial government in making this the new program moving forward. Instead, our provincial government took the proposal, changed the wording from "a refundable tax program" to "a non-refundable tax program", and with that, rendered it virtually useless and basically doomed the Saskatchewan film & media industry to be uncompetitive.

Where is the Saskatchewan Advantage if our government's decisions destroy an industry, forcing families and small businesses to leave the province they call home?

Randy Shumay
Video Editor
Regina SK

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