Much has been made in recent weeks of the abysmally shortsighted decision of the Liberal government of Nova Scotia to slash the film tax credit. This credit, which has been in effect for twenty years, has brought hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of film business to our province. Nova Scotia is in pretty bad financial shape and really needs all the help it can get.
Balancing any kind of budget is a huge challenge. A few years ago, the province put up a website that allowed people to try it for themselves. I learned very quickly that when you’re dealing with a deficit, as Nova Scotia is, there is no way to make cuts without looking–and feeling–like a monster. Cuts have to be made. All of them are bad for Nova Scotia. There is no way to avoid hurting someone.
But this one seems particularly bad. It isn’t just painful. It strikes at our ability to generate income. I know several people who moved here specifically to work in film, and their opportunities have dried up overnight. These aren’t twenty-somethings who can sleep on a couch anywhere. These are people with mortgages and young children. They’ve made major life decisions based on the tax credit.
Several major film projects cancelled their plans to film in NS immediately. No one else is going to come here when they can film more cheaply elsewhere. Even if the credit was reinstated tomorrow, which it certainly won’t be, the damage has been done. All these cancellations mean a loss of work for my friends, and a loss of money coming into the province–which means that we’ll be facing even more of a shortfall.
It’s pretty clear that Premier Stephen McNeil and Finance Minister Diana Whalen have screwed up badly here. The outcry has been huge. Whether this will cost the Liberals the next provincial election remains to be seen, of course. But even if they do lose power, they will go on to cushy jobs in the private sector, while a whole lot of other people will still be trying to piece their lives back together far from the place they thought was home.