Alberta film industry lobbying government to change incentive program

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Just over two weeks before the next provincial budget is tabled, labour leaders and workers from the Alberta film and television industry gathered in an empty film studio in Calgary on Tuesday to push for changes to Alberta’s tax-credit system to better compete for billions of dollars worth of screen productions.

The news conference, at JR Studio in the city’s northeast, focused on a new report by the Alberta Federation of Labour that compared Alberta’s system to other provinces and states where film industries are thriving, including British Columbia, Manitoba, New Mexico and Georgia. While the report is new, the arguments are variations of what stakeholders have been saying for years: Alberta needs to step up with its incentives and approval system or miss a golden opportunity to attract some of the billions of dollars being spent on new content in North America.

The United Conservative Party transitioned from a grant-based to a tax-credit system, something many in the industry had been lobbying for. But in its 2019 budget, the government also announced it would cover 22 per cent — or 30 per cent for Alberta-owned productions — of eligible spending up to a cap of $10 million per production. The UCP insists it has maintained funding set by the previous government at $45 million annually.

But it also said the previous grant-based program was oversubscribed, which is why new money for film tax credits will only be $15 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year, $30 million in 2021-22 and $45 million in 2022-23. That works out to a 67-per-cent cut compared to the former grant program, says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. See more at Calgary Sun.

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