sorry it's long, but important!
Here is a report on the meeting held between the film and television industry and the Government of Ontario on Wednesday, December 8, 2004.
The industry was represented by Alex Raffe (producer, co-chair of the Ontario Producers’ Panel of the CFTPA); Patrick Whitley (producer, Vice Chair of the CFTPA and Industry Co-chair of Film Ontario); Mark Prior (President of Comweb, and a Film Ontario board member); the Hon. Doug Frith (from the MPAA); and Brian Topp (Executive Director of ACTRA Toronto, and Labour co-chair of Film Ontario). Sarah Ker-Hornell (Managing Director of Film Ontario) provided staff support to our delegation.
The Government was represented by the Hon. Greg Sorbara, Minister of Finance, and a fairly large group of senior officials from the Department of Finance and other agencies in Government.
The tone of the meeting was friendly and businesslike throughout.
We left optimistic that the government is seriously considering a favourable announcement on provincial tax credits in the near future.
Minister Sorbara led off the meeting by expressing his regret that he wasn’t able to join us at the recent demonstration in front of Queen’s Park. He surveyed the Government’s understanding of the current condition of the film and television industry in Ontario; made it clear the Government appreciates the challenges we face; reiterated his public statements that the Government wants to partner with us to address them; but also made clear he wants to be sure the Government acts wisely and effectively in doing so.
Patrick Whitley opened our presentation. He thanked the Minister for the meeting. He underlined the urgency of the issues facing us. He said that the industry and labour have responded quickly to the conditions facing the industry, and said that we were here to
reach agreement on how the industry and the province can work together to keep the industry going. Ontario’s tax credits need to be addressed as quickly as possible.
Alex Raffe detailed current conditions on the domestic side of Ontario’s film and television industry. She outlined the dramatically uncompetitive nature of Ontario’s film and television incentives, and described the business consequences for her own production company. She urged attention on both the domestic and foreign service sides of the industry, given that they are mutually supporting.
The Hon. Doug Frith reviewed the current competitive environment Canada faces in the global production market. He also reviewed the history of Canadian and Ontario film and television credits, including the federal-provincial dialog that occurred when tax shelters were replaced by the current system.
Mark Prior outlined the effects that current conditions are having on the industry’s infrastructure in Ontario. He described the effect of current conditions on his own company, including the fact that their expansion plans currently exclude Ontario. He emphasized the decisive role of industry incentives in production decisions; outlined the success currently being enjoyed in other jurisdictions north and south of the border; and drew the government’s attention to the decision-cycles in the industry and the need for early action on the issues.
Brian Topp described the effects current conditions are having on working people in the industry. He gave the Minister a flavour of the mood of people at the recent demonstration, and reiterated Patrick Whitley’s points about the urgency of the issues and the need for early action to address them.
A detailed exchanged ensued about industry conditions; Ontario’s competitive position; and the alternatives available to the province.
Film Ontario, the Ontario Producers’ Panel/CFTPA and other partners have jointly funded over $80,000 in industry research through Ernst & Young over the past year, delving into the details of tax competitiveness and the alternatives now open. Finance officials recently asked a number of detailed questions about this research. Sarah Ker-Hornell provided written answers to their questions going into this meeting, and some of these were discussed. Finance Officials told us we had answered all their questions.
In summing up, we underlined what we were asking the Government of Ontario to consider:
• We asked the Government to implement the domestic film and TV commitments set out in the 2003 Liberal platform, which correctly outlines the issues and how the Government can help address them. This would increase domestic television incentives to 33% and film incentives to 40%, subject to certain caps.
• We asked the Government to match the federal service rate, increasing Ontario’s incentive from 11% to 16%.
• We proposed that these measures be announced as quickly as possible, subject to approval by the Legislature during the budget process (we asked that they be enacted retroactive to their announcement).
After meeting, the Government issued the following news release:
FINANCE MINISTER ACTIVELY LISTENING TO FILM INDUSTRY’S
TORONTO – The McGuinty government welcomes the input of the industry in finding ways to support the film and television production sector in Ontario, Finance Minister
Greg Sorbara says.
“I am pleased to say that we met today with Film Ontario and had a good discussion. They provided helpful insights into the industry,” Sorbara said. “There were some very throughtful proposals put on the table today. I reinterated our support for the industry and committed to a timely response given the urgent nature of the situation.”
We were pleased by this release since the Government acknowledges the “urgent” nature of the situation, and is contemplating a “timely response”. We weren’t expecting any immediate announcement on credits since the measures we are asking for require Cabinet approval.
We issued our own release last night:
FILM INDUSTRY MEETS WITH FINANCE MINISTER SORBARA
Toronto - Ontario's film and television industry left a meeting with Finance Minister Greg Sorbara optimistic that the Government heard the message and is serious about addressing the "perfect storm" facing Ontario's film and television industry.
"Minister Sorbara told us that the government understands that the industry is facing an urgent problem. He told us that the government is considering steps it can take in the very near future," said Alex Raffe, co-chair of the Ontario Producers Panel.
"We asked the government to announce that it will implement its 2003 election platform promising domestic tax credit enhancements as soon as possible, preferably announced before Christmas," said Patrick Whitley, co-chair of Film Ontario. "We also urged them to announce improvements in incentives for foreign service productions."
The government issued a press release tonight acknowledging the issues are "urgent" and need to be addressed in a "timely" manner. The industry will be watching for results in the days to come.
• Keep up the campaign: Companies and unions and guilds will continue to encourage their employees and members to email, write and fax the Minister of Finance, the Premier and other members of Government to underline the urgency of the issue and the need for action. If you haven’t written to the Government yet, please do so as quickly as possible. It’s important that they continue to see the commitment of people in our industry to turning it around.
• Daily contact with officials: We will be in daily contact with officials in the Government to work with them on the details of the proposed tax credit changes and to make sure any new issues or problems are immediately addressed.
• In the event of an early announcement: We are going to be thinking of ways to thank the Government for its early action. Celebration will be in order.
• In the event there is not an early announcement: A industry-wide Forum will be called in the first weeks of the new year to discuss an action plan to keep these issues in the public eye and to encourage the Government to address them as quickly as possible.
For more information:
Please call Sarah Ker-Hornell, Managing Director Film Ontario, (416) 642-6704 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org