The announcements made in the provincial budget are finally starting to sink home to a lot of various groups in Saskatchewan. During the past week, I have talked to a film producer, key people in the tourism industry and attended the Legislature to observe the reaction to some of the legislation that was talked about at budget time.
A few things are very obvious. There is no appreciation from most members of the Sask Party government for our film industry and the many hundreds of individuals who make up this unique form of expression. Also the proposed tourism crown corporation is simply a mechanism for the Sask Party to appoint some of their friends to well-paying board positions and at the same time, put a mechanism in place so that others of their friends can take advantage of opportunities in the tourism industry. My final observation after attending Question Period again is that the current NDP opposition is totally inept at holding this Sask Party government to account.
The frustration of people in the various interest groups is very apparent and they know they will get no help from the NDP in presenting their message on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. In fact, a lot of people that I talked to do not want to be associated with the NDP because it makes them look like they are supporters of the NDP which most of them are not and they are desperately looking for a right-of-centre alterative to help them with their struggles against what is truly an unfair budget.
It totally amazes me that this Sask Party government who continually brags about bringing people back to Saskatchewan and who is constantly travelling around the world trying to bring people to our province would virtually condemn anyone associated with any component of the film industry to perpetual absence from Saskatchewan if they are going to practice their craft. So we welcome plumbers, electricians, engineers and accountants but we don’t want writers, producers, technicians and actors. I always thought that a Saskatchewan society that had all of these components would be the one that we would strive for.
It is absolutely two-faced for our government to say that the tax credits and royalty holidays which we have made available to the mining and oil and gas industries is any different than what the film industry has had available. The only difference is it is millions of times bigger. The money that Bill Doyle of PCS gets in bonuses each year would be a game breaker for our film industry to have a little bit of seed money for projects. The royalty holiday on one horizontal well in the Bakken could potentially keep hundreds of talented people in Saskatchewan. The government of Saskatchewan from my days as Minister of Energy and Mines has used royalty holidays as an incentive for activity in the resource sector. The Sask Party government have taken this idea to the extreme. Bill Boyd the Minister of Energy and Resources made the statement that Saskatchewan would not look at reviewing oil royalties for at least 4 terms of government. That is ridiculous in the extreme and yet this government claims they are being fiscally prudent by cancelling the very small tax credits available to our film industry to balance our budget.
Just about every jurisdiction in North America has used some type of incentive to keep their talented people – many of whom are entrepreneurs in their own right practicing their craft at home – and allowing our talented young people to stay close to family and friends while developing their craft. My home community of Moose Jaw is a good example with a number of movies and feature productions that have been filmed here over the last ten years. The very popular show “Corner Gas” was partly produced just down the road at Rouleau. I am sure there are more good ideas waiting in the wings to be brought forward and produced in Saskatchewan. The ultimate entrepreneurs and believers in their talent and their surroundings are farmers and film makers. They both risk a lot not knowing what the ultimate outcome will be. The crop may be a good one in the fall or it may not be. The film may be a box office blockbuster or simply an expression of talent. It is in Saskatchewan’s interest, I believe, to encourage people in both areas.
Our budget could have been balanced in many ways. Obviously, the Sask Party government would rather pick on what they consider to be easy targets rather than doing the necessary tough decisions for the right reasons.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.