A controversial bill has people in the Canadian film and television industry playing a waiting game before the Senate decides if it will receive royal assent.
“They’re taking the tax grants that Canadian productions apply for,” Ryan Henwood said. “They’re taking the power of who gets grants and who doesn’t and giving it entirely to the heritage minister.”
Henwood, 27, hopes that a revision of Bill C-10 will save his job. The Toronto-based sound editor had a production schedule lined up to begin this spring that would keep him busy until next year. However, the attention surrounding the bill has delayed production.
“(My clients) ended up stepping back,” Henwood said. “They’re not certain if the content of their production is going to please the heritage minister.”
Bill C-10, which passed late last year, has enraged members of the film and television community with its proposed amendment to the Income Tax Act. If Bill C-10 becomes law, the government will not give tax credits to those making productions if their projects are deemed inappropriate or “contrary to public policy.”
Henwood feels that the line is hard to draw between what is appropriate or not. “It gives the Canadian government the right to censor Canadian productions,” Henwood said. “It’s a little scary.” He encourages everyone he knows to take action against Bill C-10 by writing to their local Member of Parliament.
But John Williamson, the federal director of the Canadian Tax Federation, disagrees with Henwood. “Censorship is when the government disallows certain opinions and certain artistic expression,” Williamson said. “That is not what is happening here.”
Williamson said that the bill gives the federal government oversight and expands its power to choose which films to fund. He believes that lawmakers should have the power to review and restrict film and television content, but maintains that Bill C-10 has nothing to do with it censorship.
“People are free to go out and produce whatever kind of art they would like to produce,” Williamson said. “They just might not able to do it on the taxpayer’s time.”
Whether or not if the government will censor, members of the arts community still fear their livelihood could wane if Bill C-10 turns into law.
The bill has director David W. Scott worried. He stresses that independent filmmakers rely on the tax credit a great deal.
“If we don’t have the funds, we can’t make the movie,” Scott said. He also pointed out that Bill C-10 does not only affect talent, but people who work in areas such as lighting, costuming and set designing.
According to a news release, the Senate committee said that they will resume their study of Bill C-10 and will hold a public hearing, but they have yet to set a date. Until then, the arts community will watch developments with an anxious eye.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Scott said.