HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives are promising to bring back a refundable film tax credit if elected May 30, taking aim at the creative-industry workers the Tories need to win over if they hope to make gains in the vote-rich Halifax area.
Tory Leader Jamie Baillie said Wednesday he would spend $34 million to revive the credit in a bid to aid the film and TV industry.
Baillie said the industry was set back when the Liberals controversially axed the tax in the 2015 budget and needs a tax credit model that is predictable.
He conceded the amount for the new fund is “somewhat open-ended,” and would likely be determined by market conditions.
“This is a projection of the potential we think exists in the industry,” said Baillie. “We aren’t just aiming to grab what we had and replace it; we want to see growth in the film industry because we know the government actually makes money from a thriving industry.”
Baillie wouldn’t say at what level the tax credit would be set under his party’s plan, saying it will be worked out with industry: “I will say this, it will be in the same range as the one that was cancelled a few years ago.”
The Tory announcement follows one last week from the NDP, which pledged a $23-million annual film tax credit, with an additional $10 million in the first year.
The former $24 million tax credit allowed qualifying productions to claim up to a maximum of 65 per cent of labour costs.
It was replaced by an incentive fund that provides base funding that is 25 per cent refundable for all production costs, including labour. Last month, the Liberal government tabled a budget that set the annual fund at $16.9 million.
Erika Beatty, executive director of Screen Nova Scotia, said a Price WaterhouseCoopers study it commissioned estimated the industry contributed $180 million to the provincial GDP in 2014, which she said was a banner year for productions.
Beatty said in the year following the removal of the tax credit, the production volume dropped to about half that number, but subsequently rebounded “significantly” to about 75 per cent of that figure in 2016.
Regardless of who wins the election, Beatty said it will be important to craft incentives that fit the industry’s needs and recognize its importance to the economy.
“The type of incentive is less important than the competitiveness of the program,” she said.
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Gary Burrill used a campaign stop at a Halifax nursing home Wednesday to announce $60-million over four years for long-term care for seniors.
Burrill said in a province with one of the country’s highest populations of seniors, people are waiting too long to secure beds in nursing homes, with the average wait time in 14 counties reaching 200 days. He said his plan would create about 500 new long-term beds.
“When this goes beyond a month and becomes a matter of six to eight months or, as is not rare in Nova Scotia, up towards a year, this is a very serious problem,” Burrill said.
“What we’re saying is, this isn’t a problem without a solution. We don’t have to just be in dismay about it. It’s a problem that requires investment.”
Burrill said he would also restore an $8-million Liberal cut to seniors’ nursing homes, freeze pharmacare premiums and lobby for a national pharmacare plan.
The Tories have also promised to restore that seniors’ funding, amid familiar opposition criticism that Premier Stephen McNeil’s cuts have degraded services, food quality and care at nursing homes throughout the province.
“The government has withdrawn from that investment because of their singular obsession with balancing the books of the province,” Burrill said. “We’re saying the care for a population in long-term care is a higher priority than balancing the books every year.”
But McNeil countered that his government had earmarked $3.2 million in targeted funding in last month’s proposed budget to increase food budgets and to enhance recreational therapy programming in long-term care facilities.
“We specifically did that because we didn’t want the money directed towards administration. We believe that money should go directly to clients and it’s over and above what their budgets are now.”
During a campaign stop in Sydney, N.S., McNeil also said the Liberals would expand eligibility for the caregiver benefit program through a $25 million investment over four years.
The program gives about $400 a month to those caring for people with severe dementia.
McNeil said the program would be expanded to include 400 people who care for those with lower levels of dementia this year and another 1,200 people caring for those with mental illness in 2018.
He said benefit levels wouldn’t change.
“That will stay the same, just that it will be available to more people, approximately 1,600 more families will be eligible for it.”
McNeil said a Liberal government would also spend $2.25 million over three years to increase support for medical consultation by using video technology.
– With files by Alison Auld