Big names bash budget

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The Sask. Party must not have realized the power of celebrity when it announced the end of the Saskatchewan Film Tax Credit in the provincial budget.

Let’s face it; the provincial budget is a pretty boring document unless you love doing number-by-number analysis. One way to make it more exciting is to read it like you’re Oprah. “You get a highway upgrade! You get a highway upgrade! Everybody gets a highway upgrade!”

Or, you can pretend that our province has been searching for the end of the rainbow. We finally found it and, wouldn’t you know, the rainbow ends in the middle of an oil field surrounded by potash mines. Of course, in this scenario, finance minister Ken Krawetz is a leprechaun and the budget funds are all being provided out of his pot of gold.

In all seriousness, the budget is a chance for the government to highlight what it deems important by doling out the big bucks from their coffers. This year, the leprechaun had no gold tucked away for the province’s film industry.

This move struck a nerve with the creator of one of Saskatchewan’s points of pride, Corner Gas. Canadian celebrity Brent Butt reacted incredibly reasonably to the end of a credit that made his well-known comedy possible. He created a new e-mail account to better understand the reason and possible effects of the end of the credit and gave some context.

To justify the move, the government cited an 18-per-cent decrease in Saskatchewan’s film industry last year (funny enough, minister of tourism, parks, culture, and sport Bill Hutchinson didn’t acknowledge that production might have decreased after funding for SCN was cut in 2010). The logic did not persuade Butt that the move was anything beyond “politicking.” Butt said the credit did not come out of taxpayers’ pockets. Of the money provided, Butt and others in the industry noted that more money was provided by the industry than was taken by the credit in the past 14 years of its existence.

On top of someone directly affected by the tax credit cut like Brent Butt, radio personality Jian Ghomeshi of Q dedicated his show-starting essay to denounce the end of the tax credit as ideologically-motivated and said that he was hearing from people all around North America of the awful impact such a foolish move would entail. Even the Hollywood Reporter has commented on this strange move by the government.

When the outcry in Saskatchewan reached as far as a national show like Q or an international publication such as the Hollywood Reporter, Premier Brad Wall became open to discussing the future of the industry with those involved. Nothing like a post-mortem consultation.

Shows like Corner Gas made us laugh and shared the nuances of our strange province. Love it or hate it, the voice of someone like Brent Butt or Jian Ghomeshi can be a lot more effective than non-celebrities who feel stiffed by the leprechaun in this budget.

By the time you have your hands on this paper the decision will already have been made regarding the film tax. Let’s hope it was the right one.

Chelsea Laskowski
Contributor

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