Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee
Re: Bill C-10
Thursday, June 5, 2008 - 10:45 A.M, to 1 p.m.
Room 9, Victoria Building, 140 Wellington Street, Ottawa
My colleague and I very much appreciate the opportunity to be here today. As well as Mayor of Toronto, I am also chair of the Toronto Film Board, which is an industry set up by the City of Toronto to promote the film and television and screen-based industries in the city Toronto.
The comments I will make today are my own opinion, but they are also supported by a resolution of the Toronto Film Board, Toronto City Council, the Big City Mayors' Caucus and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. We have serious concerns about the effect of Bill C-10 on our cities and their economies.
Mayor Tremblay and I are not here alone. We are speaking on behalf of municipalities across this country, including the major film producing cities:
Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver. We share a concern not only about our Economy, but also about Canada's and Canadians' continued ability to tell our own stories to each other without fear of artistic and financial humiliation.
Our country is an incredible country of diversity, of sounds and of pictures. We cannot allow the people who capture and interpret our country for ourselves to be diminished. The Canadian film industry introduces us to ourselves and projects modern Canadian diversity beyond our borders to the world. This industry is at the heart of the knowledge-based, creative economy that is growing so rapidly in Canadian cities in response to global recognition of what Canada has to cover offer the world.
It is my view that the provision we are discussing today is an unwarranted attack on what makes us all Canadians. It undermines the efforts of a growing creative industry that is seeding the opportunity to make our liveable communities grow and prosper for each and every one of our residents.
In Toronto, the creative sector is one of the four cornerstones of our Agenda for Prosperity -- which is the city's economic development strategy that was developed in partnership with the business community of Toronto, labour, the cultural communities and non-profit organizations. It has four simple pillars: Proactive Toronto, which means city government must play its role; global Toronto, recognizing that Toronto must view itself internationally; creative Toronto; and one Toronto, which is for the benefit of all Torontonians.
Creativity is at the heart of our strategy. The film and television industry is the steel bar that gives that pillar strength. In 2006, production companies spent in excess of $700 million making movies and television in Canada's largest city. More than 35,000 Torontonians directly earn their living working on location, behind and around the cameras and on the sound stages.
This industry is of incredible importance, obviously from those statistics, but its artistic and financial success is dependent upon the industry's ability to work in the field where the boundaries are well-defined and political interference or censorship will not be tolerated.
The Criminal Code already ensures that Canadian film productions meet accepted standards of quality and decency. Under the legislation before you, however, made-in-Canada motion pictures would be subject to a post-production government review that can only be described as arbitrary.
Only then would their eligibility for the appropriate tax credits be decided. Those that do not measure up to the currently unknown standard would lose funding they are depending on to build the kind of business that creates jobs and improves the economic well-being of our community. This is unacceptable.
This proposal completely destabilizes the already difficult monetary terrain that film producers must navigate in their search for funding. Films are made often on tight budgets directly dependent on the tax credit that has been carefully designed to support Canadian productions.
No financier will take the risk that their loans will not be repaid because of an after-the-fact cancellation of the tax credit. The storm of uncertainty stirred up by Bill C-10 would effectively end the film industry overnight -- not just in Toronto, but in Vancouver, in Montreal, in Halifax and across this country. This is unacceptable and must not come to pass.
Those of you who sit in this chamber of sober second thought have the opportunity to withhold final assent so the federal government can also rethink the direction it's taking. I am confident that, given the opportunity for meaningful discussion with film and television producers who have invested their lives in Canada, everyone in the House of Commons will see what a perilous path proposed Bill C-10 will put us on.
In Toronto, the city and the province are working together to assist the film industry. The provincial government has recently boosted domestic and foreign tax credits and provided tax relief for computer animators and invested considerably more money in promoting local production in the international marketplace. The Ontario government has put its support behind a cost-shared green screen initiative that has environmental sustainability as its goal.
At City Hall, we have introduced policies that are effectively reducing the film industry's property tax burden. We have brought in the tax increment equivalent grant to assist film companies with plans to build new facilities or retrofit existing ones. This program will be a boon to the new studio development on Toronto's eastern waterfront that is the largest purpose-built sound stage in the world.
But our bilateral partnership with the provincial government cannot be effective if the national government does not take the time to understand what is at stake.
A majority of senators can cause their colleagues in the House of Commons to find the time to consult with the all the stakeholders in this crucial sector before trying to pass legislation.
The film industry has enough hurdles to jump already in Canada without this additional one. We need the federal government to work with the film and television industry -- not against it.
All of you in this room can help make this change of attitude come about by simply refusing to put your stamp of approval on Bill C-10 in the form it was put before you late last year. Over the past three months, I know you have heard many representatives of the industry express their concern.
You have heard from studio owners, producers, writers, directors, cinematographers and from a multitude of Canadians who support our industry because it enriches their lives and gives them a better understanding of the country in which we live.
I think the message is clear. And I am pleased today to be able to add my voice - on behalf of the residents of Toronto -- to your deliberations.