information on Bill C-10 - Tax credits for violent or hateful film and tv productions
Note to readers:
While critics blasted the federal Conservatives for this initiative as some sort of moral majority crackdown, the move to amend the criteria for federal funding actually originated with the Liberals back in 1999. Click here for a letter from the Ministry of Heritage advising that changes to policies were forthcoming. Sheila Copps was the Minister of Heritage at the time and she never got around to introducing legislation. They did, however, consult with industry representatives at the time, although not with the public. After all, why ask us how we want our money spent.
The Action Agenda: A Strategic Blueprint for Reducing Exposure to Media Violence in Canada contains a chapter on tax credits and the type of brutally violent films we, the taxpayer, fund without our knowledge or consent. Click here for that (use the bookmarks to get to chapter 15 "Public Funding of Film & Television").
For instance, the movie, American Psycho, received $120,000 in tax credits from the federal government. Click here for an article on that. The vile and unspeakably violent book on which the movie was based, was a favourite of convicted serial rapist and child murderer, Paul Bernardo, and yet the taxpayer was forced to give the producers funding. At the right is an American Psycho promotional picture that appeared in Entertainment Weekly.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives lack the strength of their convictions and, during the Fall 2008 federal election campaign, caved under pressure and announced that they would not proceed with Bill C-10 if re-elected. This means the hapless taxpayer will continue to fund violent crap like American Psycho.
Thanks Mr. Harper. Good to know we can count on you to stand up for your principles.
Valerie Smith, The Free Radical
Toronto, Ontario October 8, 2008
Harper scraps controversial clause in Bill C-10
Tory Leader says government is considering the 'serious concerns that have been expressed by film creators and investors'
By Gayle MacDonald With a report from James Bradshaw
Globe and Mail
October 8, 2008
Canadian artists scored a victory yesterday after Stephen Harper abruptly pulled the plug on a controversial clause in Bill C-10 that would have allowed Ottawa to block tax credits for film and television projects it found morally offensive.
The Conservative Leader's about-face comes as Tory hopes of a majority fade, and support for the party is sagging in the crucial battlegrounds of Quebec and Ontario.
The move appears to be aimed at appeasing voters incensed at the provision in C-10, and at the nearly $45-million in recent cuts to a swath of other arts and culture programs. Reaction yesterday from some of the most influential voices in Canada's cultural sector was swift.
"It's the first arts cut that he's made that's actually good," said director David Cronenberg. "It's obvious he thought he was playing to a major constituency when he was talking about the cultural elites and the rich galas, and all that nonsense. He realized there are a lot of people of every so-called 'class' - working or middle class - who depend on their arts for their livelihood and for their intellectual well-being.
"He tried to play the dumb-it-down game and it didn't work because Canadians are not dumb."
Mr. Cronenberg was referencing comments made by Mr. Harper at a recent campaign stop in Saskatoon, where he said he did not believe that "ordinary working people" were sympathetic to "a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough."
Reached at the Vancouver International Film Festival, director Atom Egoyan said he felt "relief."
"Now we're waiting for other reversals of decisions," he said. "I think our message might be getting across. And that's great news."
The incendiary clause in C-10, as well as the $45-million in other cuts, has galvanized the arts community, sparking rallies and news conferences across the country. Many critics have charged the cuts were ideologically motivated by the Conservative government.
But Mr. Harper and his officials have repeatedly maintained they were simply implementing necessary reviews designed to identify inefficient or ineffective initiatives.
Actor, writer and director Sarah Polley said yesterday: "It's good news that this ridiculous clause has been thrown out, but it's only a start and doesn't negate the harm this government has caused to culture in this country."
The C-10 hoopla first reared its head in February after The Globe and Mail reported there was a little-known provision - at third reading before the Senate banking committee - that could cut off tax benefits for film and TV productions that contain graphic sex, violence or other content that the government finds offensive. It applied only to Canadian TV and film projects, while Hollywood and other foreign productions applying for tax credits would get a free pass.
Yesterday in his platform - called The True North Strong and Free: Stephen Harper's Plan for Canadians - the Tory Leader said that while "these proposals were approved unanimously by the House of Commons, we will take into account the serious concerns that have been expressed by film creators and investors.
"A re-elected Conservative government ... will maintain financial support for arts and culture at or above existing levels, while continuing to improve the effectiveness of allocations wherever possible."
All four opposition parties have pledged to reinstate the $45-million in axed programs.
Tories threaten to force election on C-10
Denying tax credits to offensive films deemed a confidence motion
May 1, 2008
Globe and Mail
By Bill Curry
OTTAWA — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is declaring film tax-credit legislation a matter of confidence in the Conservative government, meaning MPs could land on Canadian doorsteps this spring to debate the line between art and pornography.
Mr. Flaherty said the legislation, known as Bill C-10, contains a range of important tax measures and changes will not be tolerated.
"The bill should not be amended," he told reporters yesterday. "A tax bill is a confidence bill. We all know that."
Mr. Flaherty's warning followed his appearance before the Senate banking committee, which has been studying the legislation for weeks. The committee is expected to wrap up its work next week, and several Liberal senators have indicated a desire to amend the bill.
If amended, the bill would return to the House of Commons for a confidence vote. The legislation sailed through the House last year, but it hit a major snag in the Senate.
The government indicated in February that a provision of the bill will be used to draft guidelines on what kind of content could disqualify a production from receiving tax credits.
Canadian Heritage officials said the law will trigger consultations on new rules that will expand the criteria for denying the credits to include gratuitous violence, sexual content that lacks an educational purpose, or denigration of an identifiable group.
Filmmakers such as David Cronenberg and Sarah Polley are leading a campaign against the bill, describing it as a form of censorship. Mr. Flaherty said yesterday that while he enjoys Mr. Cronenberg's films, he remains unconvinced that the new approach has anything to do with censorship.
"What's being proposed is the same thing that was proposed by the previous Liberal government," he said. "When public money is being spent in the film and video industry, that the government has a responsibility to take a position with respect to public policy. And that is a position against things that are hateful, or extremely violent or very obscene. And I don't pretend that it's easy to draw the line. It isn't. Of course it isn't. This debate has gone on for decades. It's gone on certainly all my life. ... But should it be done? Yes. Because these are public tax dollars being spent."
Mr. Cronenberg questioned whether the script for his 1996 film Crash, about a group of people who are turned on by car accidents, would have made it past Mr. Flaherty or Heritage Minister Josée Verner.
"I have a feeling they would have been horrified and they would have killed it and it would never have gotten made because it needed the co-production deal and Telefilm money to get made," he said in an interview. "In essence, all Canadian filmmaking is independent filmmaking and we are very dependent on government money to have a film industry, and so denial of that money is tantamount to censorship. Everybody knows it. They can put up their façade all they want, but everybody, including them, knows it."
Liberal Senator Pierrette Ringuette appealed to Mr. Flaherty's economic instincts yesterday, telling him the legislation would put Canadian film jobs at risk because it would lead to uncertainty over future financing.
"The economy is not on such a sure footing. We're looking at thousands of jobs for Canadians in this industry and I think it is our responsibility to make sure that things are clear, that we are not putting forth legislation that may lose further Canadian jobs," she said.
Mr. Flaherty said he's not aware of any evidence the legislation puts jobs at risk and noted that Ms. Verner has pledged a year of consultations on the new guidelines.
Decency rule would imperil film and TV funding, say producers
Amendment to deny tax credits to offensive material
March 4, 2008
By Martha Worboy, Canwest News Service
OTTAWA - A possible amendment to a federal tax credit program may devastate Canadian film and television production, the chair of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) said yesterday.
In Ottawa for meetings with senior government officials regarding the proposal, Sandra Cunningham said she doesn't think such a consequence is intended, but it's likely to happen since the amendment would cast doubt over production financing.
The change to the Income Tax Act (Bill C-10) would allow Heritage Minister Josee Verner, or a government committee, to deny tax credits to productions deemed offensive and "contrary to public policy."
But since many Canadian productions are financed through bank loans -- with the likelihood of receiving federal tax credits once productions are complete--investors would be less likely to offer financial aid with such a high level of uncertainty attached to last-minute government approval.
"Banks won't loan money if it's a crap shoot on federal tax credit approval criteria and without loans, movies and TV shows won't get made. It's not sustainable and will devastate the Canadian industry," Cunningham said.
Bill C-10, approved by the House of Commons last fall, has reached its third reading in the Senate. Last Friday, the Senate banking committee postponed the third reading and is considering hearing witnesses in response to the outcry from the Canadian film and television industry. The national writers'
union is planning to stage a protest and the actors' union has asked the government to axe the plan.
The Heritage Department did not attempt to contact members of the industry regarding the amendment -- another reason for the criticisms, Cunningham said.
"As Canadians we value freedom of expression and being part of the political process. These values are at risk. We will remain vigilant," Cunningham said.
The heritage minister is expected to respond to suggestions from the CFTPA this week.
Cunningham believes that there are already enough provincial measures and rating systems in place that work to screen production content, including broadcaster rules and agencies such as Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Television Fund.
But it's not only the threat of censorship and limited funding that is upsetting producers. It's the idea that special interest groups may be influencing federal policy.
"I think it's very important we make it clear that part of what caused furor is the perception that a political agenda -- religiously motivated -- might effect policy. We don't want policy to be based on what special interest groups want," Cunningham said.
Evangelical minister and head of the Canadian Family Action Coalition Charles McVety has claimed credit for the amendment, saying that for years he has been lobbying the government to cut funding for productions involving violence and graphic sex.
The Department of Canadian Heritage did not return requests for comment.
Plan to cancel tax credits for "offensive" films, TV shows called censorship
February 28th 2008
TORONTO - It's decried as censorship while at the same time being welcomed as a much-needed guide by some in the television industry.
The government's proposal to cancel tax credits for any film or TV program it deems offensive, or not in the public's interest, has stirred controversy in the arts community.
The organization representing Canadian actors says the changes have grave implications for artists and are morally offensive to modern Canadian society.
Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, says the arts community is concerned about who exactly would make the decision as to what would be offensive.
"Does it translate to the Trailer Park Boys, because some of their material might be considered offensive to some?" he asked. "That's the whole issue.
What is offensive? What does offensive mean? What is not in the public interest? Who defines that?
"This smacks of censorship of the worst kind."
The amendment to Bill C-10 would allow the Heritage Minister to cancel tax credits for projects deemed to cross the line. The cancellation could happen even if other government agencies have invested in the questionable production.
The bill has been approved by all parties and is now before the Senate.
The Heritage Department denies it is a new measure to ban or restrict cultural works.
"The amendment replaces a similar provision that was in the income tax regulations between 1996 and 2005. Therefore it is not a new concept,"
Heritage spokeswoman Annette Gibbons said Thursday.
"Cultural funding program criteria have always included certain kinds of material such as hate propaganda, excessively violent material or pornography."
However, the department has occasionally received material that raised questions and it decided to update the criteria.
The added criteria will include child pornography, gratuitous violence and the denigration of an identifiable group.
"It is not our intention to take a dramatically different approach than we have in the past. We don't expect this to apply to a lot of productions . .
. I think it will depend case by case," Gibbons said.
Still, some are concerned what criteria will be used to determine what is appropriate and what is offensive.
Waddell wonders if the standards will be based on modern Canadian society or what he calls the fundamentalist perspective" that has crept up from the United States.
But not everyone thinks the plan is such a bad idea.
"There are a lot of things on TV today that, I think, have gone too far," said Mary Darling, executive producer of "Little Mosque on the Prairie," which airs in over 80 markets globally, including French-speaking Africa, the Middle East and several European countries.
"If something comes along that helps us to at least discern what is acceptable . . . then I think, as a producer, I'd be willing to look at that and explore it."
Steve Hoban disagrees.
The producer of Copperheart Entertainment said the current tax-benefit system works perfectly.
"There's nothing broken with this part of the system . . . Is the Canadian taxpayer paying for pornography? Are we paying for excessive violence? Are we making movies like 'Hostel' that involves taxpayers' money? "There's not a problem that this is solving. But what this is going to do is potentially create a huge problem - much bigger than Canadian Heritage has realized," said Hoban, who produced a short film "Ryan" that won an Oscar in 2005.
He said that if the new amendment was around when he started to finance his latest film, "Splice" starring Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody, he wouldn't have received the tax credit as there are some explicit sex scenes.
Hoban is not willing to call it censorship but does think it will take film production outside of Canada.
Evangelist takes credit for film crackdown
Christian crusader says he pressured cabinet ministers and PMO officials to deny tax credits to productions deemed too offensive
February 29, 2008
Globe and Mail
By Bill Curry and Gayle MacDonald
OTTAWA, TORONTO — A well-known evangelical crusader is claiming credit for the federal government's move to deny tax credits to TV and film productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other offensive content.
Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said his lobbying efforts included discussions with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and "numerous" meetings with officials in the Prime Minister's Office.
"We're thankful that someone's finally listening," he said yesterday. "It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government."
Mr. McVety said films promoting homosexuality, graphic sex or violence should not receive tax dollars, and backbench Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers support his campaign.
"There are a number of Conservative backbench members that do a lot of this work behind the scenes," he said.
Mr. Day and Mr. Nicholson said through officials yesterday they did not recall discussing the issue with Mr. McVety.
Canadian Heritage officials confirmed yesterday they will be "expanding slightly" the criteria used for denying tax credits to include grounds such as gratuitous violence, significant sexual content that lacks an educational purpose, or denigration of an identifiable group. More details are promised next week.
Arts groups say they will fight the change. Director David Cronenberg and other big industry names warned that the edgy, low-budget films that have garnered Canadians international acclaim will be at risk.
Conservatives deny that the changes are driven by politics or Mr. McVety, noting the previous Liberal government pledged to review the guidelines as far back as 2003.
Conservative MP Dave Batters recently urged the new president of Telefilm Canada, Michel Roy, to block federal funding for objectionable films, listing Young People Fucking as a recent example.
"In my mind, sir, and in the minds of many of my colleagues and many, many Canadians," said Mr. Batters during a Jan. 31 meeting of the Canadian Heritage committee, "the purpose of Telefilm is to help facilitate the making of films for mainstream Canadian society - films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families in living rooms across this great country."
In addition to the tax credits for labour costs, Telefilm is a second source of revenue for Canadian film producers. Mr. Roy pledged to raise the issue with the Telefilm board, but a spokesman said yesterday that no policy changes have been made.
Mr. Batters said yesterday he does not support censorship, but offensive films should be made with private money.
"If there's a market for that, let people pay the $11," he said.
Draft guidelines would give the Heritage Minister the clout to deny tax credits to projects deemed "offensive" by an independent committee that includes members of the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office and the Department of Justice.
Several powerful arts groups say the changes violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Yesterday, novelist Susan Swan, chair of the Writers' Union of Canada, pledged to lead her 1,600-strong membership in a protest.
"We're not going to sit back and accept this," vowed Ms. Swan, author of books such as The Wives of Bath and The Biggest Modern Woman in the World.
"We don't like being told what kind of art we can make by the federal government."
Mr. Cronenberg, whose most recent film was the Oscar-nominated Russian mob thriller Eastern Promises, called the move an assault on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"The irony is that it is the Canadian films that have given us an international reputation [that] would be most at risk because they are the edgy, relatively low-budget films made by people like me and others that will be targeted by this panel," he said.
"The platform they're suggesting is akin to a Communist Chinese panel of unknown people, who, behind closed doors, will make a second ruling after bodies like Telefilm Canada have already invested."
Controversial films could be the losers
Films with controversial subject matter, such as Lynne Stopkewich's acclaimed necrophilia film Kissed and Atom Egoyan's Where The Truth Lies (which got an NC-17 rating in the United States for a scene involving a
threesome) could lose the right to tax credits under new public policy guidelines.
Works by Martin Gero, the director of Young People Fucking (which opens in theatres in Canada in April), could also get a once-over from the panel.
"It seems ill-conceived from beginning to end, and is less about censorship than destroying the economic foundation of our entire industry," said Mr. Gero, who shot his debut feature film for $1.5-million with support from Telefilm and other government agencies. "It's old people fucking with the Canadian film industry."
Directors Guild slams Bill C-10
February 28, 2008
The Directors Guild of Canada today issued a strongly-worded letter to the Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage, concerning Bill C-10, an omnibus bill currently at third reading stage in the Senate, which would amend the Income Tax Act in such a way as to only provide tax credit support to a film or television production if such "…public financial support of the production would not be contrary to public policy."
"This provision is open to such a wide array of interpretations that it would have a dampening effect on artistic expression and, of equal if not greater importance, would discourage investment in an already under-resourced Canadian Film and television production sector," said Brian Anthony, National Executive Director and CEO of the DGC, in his letter to the Minister. "We feel that there are sufficient checks and balances at the disposal of the federal government, such as the Criminal Code, to ensure that its resources are appropriately invested," he went on to say.
Canadian film and television productions may receive a film or video production certificate issued by the Minister if they meet certain Canadian content criteria, and tax credits are then granted to qualifying productions. Calling this additional provision ill advised and ill-conceived, Anthony said that the amendment in question not only opens the door to potential abuse in this instance but sets a dangerous precedent for amending the funding criteria of other cultural agencies and programs in the Canadian Heritage portfolio.
Anthony therefore called upon the Minister in the strongest terms possible to reconsider and revoke this measure.
Canada tax credits: strings attached
February 29, 2008
By Etan Vlessing
TORONTO -- The Canadian government said Thursday that it has proposed amendments to the federal Income Tax Act that could potentially deny tax credits to film and TV productions considered "offensive" by a committee of bureaucrats.
The censorship measures, outlined in Bill C-10, which is now before Parliament, would enable the federal heritage minister to pull federal financing for film or TV productions deemed "contrary to public policy."
It was not known Thursday whether the censorship plan will extend to include foreign location shoots in Canada whose producers are eligible for tax credits from Ottawa.
An answer to that question was not immediately available from a spokesman for the Canadian Heritage ministry, who confirmed the existence of amendments to the federal Income Tax Act contained in Bill C-10.
The Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Assn., which lobbies on behalf of the major studios in Canada, on Thursday said they were looking into the proposed tax credit changes to see if foreign producers may be impacted.
The proposed censorship caused an immediate outcry Thursday from Canadian artists and content creators who expressed fear that the federal government aims to deny public subisides to any film or TV show that does not meet its standard for public interest.
"The government is overstepping its bounds and interfering in an arms-length process. Witholding public funding for film and television productions it deems offensive is a dangerous direction for this government that smacks of censorship," Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, representing 21,000 domestic performers, said.
Currently, the federal heritage department excludes talk shows, game shows, advertising, corporate videos and pornography from receiving tax credit support.
Bill C-10 would extend that programming exclusion to film and TV projects considered overly sexual, violent or hateful.
The heritage minister is expected to release guidelines on what might be considered offensive.
David Zitzerman, an entertainment lawyer with Goodmans LLP, said the Bill C-10 amendments are problematic because domestic film and TV shoots traditionally apply and possibly receive federal subsidies at the script stage, and then go onto to apply for and receive refundable tax credits well after principal photography is completed.
Producers that are denied tax credits by the committee of bureaucrats also would have to repay grants from Telefilm Canada, the federal government's film financier, or bank and distribution advances based on promised tax credits.
"You're not going to know if a film is controversial, whether it's acceptable, until the committee, if it chooses to, reviews and rules on your project," Zitzerman said.