Excerpt from “Debates & Proceedings” –
1st Session – 27th Legislature of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan
N.S. Vol. 54 – No. 22B Tuesday, March 27, 2012. 7 p.m.
Ms. Chartier: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am very pleased . . . I guess this is my third opportunity to wade into budget speech debate, and it’s always an opportunity too to say thank you to some very important people in our lives.
I know that the reason I’m here, Mr. Speaker, or the reason I chose to put my name forward to run is because I have two daughters, and my hope and my goal is to make sure that I leave this world a better place for them and for their cohort and future generations, Mr. Speaker. So I do this for my daughters, but my family has also had to make some huge sacrifices, as all our families do. So I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my husband, Blair, who makes sure that things are running smoothly for us at home and that Hennessey and Ophelia are well cared for while I’m here in Regina, Mr. Speaker.
I also actually would like to thank my parents, who for me, particularly as a mother of young children in this legislature, my life is very dependent on my support system, which again is my husband. It’s my mom and dad. It’s one of my sisters and the many friends who, when I get home on Thursday night from a week here in the legislature, I have friends who will make sure that our family’s got a good meal cooked. And I’ve got wonderful people in my life to make sure that I am able to do my very best representing the people of Saskatoon Riversdale.
I want to thank my staff, Vanessa, who’s my main constituency assistant, who’s fabulous. She’s empathetic. She’s hard-working. She’s thoughtful. She’s brilliant and incredibly tenacious and makes sure that the people of Saskatoon Riversdale get what they need in terms of services from our constituency office when I’m not able to be there. So a big thanks to Vanessa, and I really, really, very much appreciate all she does for our community. And last but not least, the people of Saskatoon Riversdale, who’ve placed a great deal of trust in me, Mr. Speaker, to be their voice here in this legislature, and I am honoured and privileged to be able to be here and speak and represent them, Mr. Speaker.
One of the things the Minister of Health said last night from his seat . . . It’s been interesting listening to some of the debates here, Mr. Speaker, because I think the members opposite have some new talking points. The Minister of Health last night asked, well why can’t you say something positive? Why is the opposition so negative? Why are they so pessimistic? And we’ve heard that in several speeches today, Mr. Speaker. So clearly their communications folks have tried to come up with some new talking points.
But unfortunately for the minister who had those comments last night, and everybody else, the reality is, Mr. Speaker, that our job is not to be the cheerleader for government. That is the cold, hard reality of opposition, Mr. Speaker. There are clearly enough pompom wavers on that side of the House. I don’t think that they need any more.
Our job, Mr. Speaker, our job, Mr. Speaker, is to stand up for the people of Saskatchewan who feel like, on an $11 billion budget and a booming economy thanks to our natural resources, life should be just a little bit easier. But there are many, many people who wonder about an $11 billion budget and can’t quite figure out, can’t quite figure out why they aren’t feeling all the positiveness that the Sask Party government touts in all its rhetoric and its communications. That message that that government delivers isn’t hitting home for many, many people, Mr. Speaker.
Those people come into our constituency offices. They write us letters. They call us. We run into them at community events. There are many, many people who wonder about an $11 billion budget and wonder why they are not feeling the love, Mr. Speaker, as it were.
So despite all that, I want to take a moment to give credit where credit is due. And the one thing I’d like to commend the government on is the child and youth agenda. I think it’s . . . Having worked in government before and having worked in community organizations as well, I think one of the problems that happens is people do sometimes work in silos. And there’s nothing good or nothing positive about organizations that each have an impact on an individual not doing their work together. It’s important that government ministries are in fact working in concert with each other to try to make sure that people have the support and the resources to live the best possible lives. And the reality is we don’t live in silos and government shouldn’t work in silos. So I think I would commend the government. I don’t think . . . I would commend the government last year for developing that strategy and continuing to support it. That’ll provide for better outcomes for families which is investing in children and youth.
I’m not quite sure why the members opposite are quite so noisy here. They’ve been the ones calling for some positive talk here so perhaps they should sit back and listen for a moment, Mr. Speaker. I’m saying positive things and I’m the subject of many heckles here, Mr. Speaker. Anyway there’s so much anger coming across tonight here, Mr. Speaker, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what they had for supper over there, Mr. Speaker, but it clearly didn’t sit very well with them. The bottom line, the bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is not . . . When government is working together and investing in young people, the outcomes for all of us down the road will be much better.
I also have to commend the government on the Saskatchewan assured
income for disability program. This is something that I’ve
. . . I worked in the disability community many years ago, Mr. Speaker,
and I know that this was something people were very optimistic about.
And the government implemented and put about 3,000 people who are
now on it a few, a couple of years ago, and they have the second
intake happening right now. I know people in the community have
been very eager and anxious to hear about it. I’ve heard for
the last several months people want information, want to know how
it’s going to roll out, and they’re happy to be getting
that information now.
So the SAID [Saskatchewan assured income for disability] program, what it is, it’s for people who have profound and enduring disabilities. So I know many advocates in the community are very happy about it and there will be about 7,000 more people enrolled in this program in the next little while. One of the best things about the program, people mention that it’s an opportunity to, it’s a benefit program that has a little bit more dignity. And come July, new folks on it will have greater benefits, which is absolutely fabulous, Mr. Speaker.
I do have some reservations and some concerns though. I have been told there are about 12,000 people on social assistance who have a disability flag on their charts, which means that they have a disability, Mr. Speaker. So I understand that in this next intake there’ll be about 7,000 people, which means there’ll be about 5,000 people who will not be enrolled in this program yet. So what we’ll have is we’ve got the SAID program and then we’ve got the traditional social assistance program. So we will be leaving people on traditional social assistance program living on the same rates as they were now. So you’ll have one group who has an increased benefit compared to the other.
And I worry about those people on the edge, Mr. Speaker, and quite frankly even the people without disabilities who are on social assistance because social assistance is not . . . You’re living in poverty, Mr. Speaker, when you live on social assistance. It’s not a pleasant existence. It’s not an existence that people aspire to. And I think that there are few people, Mr. Speaker, if any, who make a choice to live that kind of life.
Just for the record here, Mr. Speaker, a single individual, what you get to live on social assistance, your living allowance, is $255 a month, Mr. Speaker, $255 a month for food, clothing, travel, personal, and household items . . . [inaudible interjection] . . . which actually the member from Estevan, the member from Estevan is yelling from her seat that it’s a lot more the NDP gave . . . My apologies. My apologies to the member from Estevan. My apologies to the member from Estevan. It was the Minister of Education.
Well in fact it was the NDP who increased that rate and it has not increased since that last . . . This government has not touched the living allowance despite the fact we’ve had increased cost of living here in Saskatchewan, Mr. Speaker. People, a single individual on social assistance has to live off $255, Mr. Speaker, which is not enough, Mr. Speaker, which is not enough.
I’d like to say that the government — again, giving credit where credit is due — the government has increased the housing allowance, but this hasn’t kept pace, this has not kept pace with the reality of the rental market, especially in places like Regina where there’s such a tight vacancy rate. Such a tight vacancy rate, Mr. Speaker.
So even if you get the full rental supplement, the reality is even if you get the full rental supplement, there are not apartments available in the same, in the price range that you’re allowed to rent for, Mr. Speaker. So what’s happening is people are using their full shelter allowance and then tapping into their $255 or plus living allowance, and living off of even less than that, Mr. Speaker. So again I would like to make sure that the members opposite know that we don’t think that everything they do is bad. There are some good things. But you know what? Our job is to make sure that the government is aware of the shortfalls or the people who are being left out, Mr. Speaker.
So speaking of people who are living on fixed incomes, I’d like to talk a little bit about the children’s and seniors’ drug plan. This government, Mr. Speaker, is increasing prescription drug costs by $5 a prescription. Well if you take a senior citizen who averages three to four prescriptions, it’s $240 a year, Mr. Speaker. And when you’re on a fixed income, that makes a very real difference. And yes, they have indexed the seniors’ income plan, which I would have said is a very . . . increased, which this government has in this budget. I would have commended this government for a modest increase, for a modest increase. I would have commended this government for a modest increase in the seniors’ income plan, but when you give with one hand and take away with another, Mr. Speaker, I don’t think that that something should be commended, Mr. Speaker.
My parents, Mr. Speaker, my own parents are both almost 80 years old. My mother will be 80 years old this summer, and my father just turned 79, Mr. Speaker. I know that they’re very concerned about people they know who this will be a very real issue, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to read an email from a constituent, Mr. Speaker. I can get up here, Mr. Speaker, and say everything that I want, and what I need to do though is make sure that the voices of the people in Saskatoon Riversdale and elsewhere are heard by this government, Mr. Speaker. Because their voice, I think, carries far more weight than mine, Mr. Speaker. So this is from a constituent of Saskatoon Riversdale:
I think the Brad Wall government should be ashamed of itself. In a time of prosperity and growth, they are increasing the cost of living for our seniors, the people who built this province! On the cost of their medication yet! Not luxury items they can do without — but the very things they need to live. I don’t suppose any of their parents are lower income, or they might see what a disgraceful thing they have done — literally taking food out of all the mouths of some. I feel any senior with an income under $50,000 should not have to pay AT ALL for their prescription drugs. What is wrong with these people? Have they no shame [Mr. Speaker]?
This is a resident of Saskatoon Riversdale who started the message, Mr. Speaker, by saying, “I have nowhere else to go with this anger except to my representative in government — so that’s you Danielle.”
So this is a letter from someone I received today here in Saskatoon Riversdale, Mr. Speaker, some grave concerns about the increases to the seniors’ drug plan.
I think another thing we need to talk about, Mr. Speaker, is another grab from seniors — $240 a year, Mr. Speaker, for hygienic supplies for seniors in long-term care. So is this the best place to get more money, from the seniors who have worked so hard to build this province to where it is today?
I heard the member from Lloydminster saying, well where would they cut? What are their priorities? What are their priorities? Well you know what, Mr. Speaker? I would perhaps start with cutting in Executive Council, making sure that we have our priorities right. I would be cutting in Executive Council. I would not be adding three more politicians. The members on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, would not be adding three more politicians at millions of dollars, Mr. Speaker. So they were very curious about where we would cut, Mr. Speaker, and those are two places we could start: the folks in Executive Council and the three politicians that the Sask Party government is planning to add, Mr. Speaker.
Another thing in this budget that I have some grave concerns about, again representing Saskatoon Riversdale, much of the casework that comes into our office, Mr. Speaker, is about social assistance. This government, if you look at the budget plans, have 100 fewer people working in the Department of Social Services. Again, so this government is willing to fully staff to its absolute complement Executive Council but not willing to staff the people providing front-line services and social services, Mr. Speaker.
I can tell you what this’ll look like in Saskatoon Riversdale. Already, even without the loss of these 100 people, there is a hard and difficult, it’s a difficult experience getting services for our constituents, Mr. Speaker. At one time, just a month ago actually, my constituency noted for me that there is only one supervisor in the Saskatoon Social Services office, that there were several caseworkers who were no longer in the employ of the ministry. We couldn’t, as much as we were trying to get responses from people in Social Services to get pressing, pressing matters — people who are living so, so close to the line, Mr. Speaker, who are desperate — and we are unable to get quick, prompt answers because of staffing, Mr. Speaker. So we have some grave concerns about 100 fewer positions in Social Services. These are the people providing the front-line work to our citizens, Mr. Speaker. And that is a real problem.
Another thing that, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to talk about, Mr. Speaker. I would like to chat a little bit about child care spaces. I know that everybody in this Assembly knows that that’s near and dear to my heart as a mom of young children, who has many friends who have young children. Child care is front and centre in our lives, Mr. Speaker, whether we choose to be at home with our kids, making sure that they’re well cared for, or whether or not we decide that we, whether we choose to or have to go out into the paid labour force to provide for our family, child care is front and centre.
So this government has committed to creating 500 more spaces. Is that good, Mr. Speaker? Yes. Yes, Mr. Speaker, 500 spaces is good. But I can tell you that the francophone child care in Saskatchewan right now, just in the francophone community, just in the francophone community, Mr. Speaker, there’s a wait-list of 300 spaces across the province that they need that will eat this right up, Mr. Speaker.
The other thing that we heard about just a week and a half ago from the people who are on the front lines of child care here in Saskatchewan, is you can create as many spaces as you want, Mr. Speaker, but if you don’t have the staff to support those spaces, what’s the point? The reality is recruitment and retention is a huge, huge issue. And when you are making as much money working in child care as you are at working at Tim Hortons or Wal-Mart, that is a problem. The people we are entrusting our children to earning barely above minimum wage, who often have families themselves, Mr. Speaker, that is unacceptable.
So again I need to point to our neighbours to the east, Mr. Speaker. Manitoba has close to 30,000 child care spaces. How did they, how did they get there, Mr. Speaker? How did they get there, Mr. Speaker? They got there by having a plan. Actually they’re in the middle of their second five-year plan, Mr. Speaker. They didn’t just target creating more spaces. They targeted creating a sustainable system that worked for families and worked for people who worked in the industry, Mr. Speaker. That’s what they did. So right now, here in Saskatchewan, we are working with an outdated subsidy system. We don’t have enough money for families. There’s far too much bureaucracy.
I don’t know if the members opposite have any clue how child care works, with the exception of perhaps the minister. They’re laughing, Mr. Speaker. This is a very serious issue for many, many people here in this province, Mr. Speaker, who want to be employed, who want to get an education but can’t, don’t have the confidence in the child care system. They are relying on care that people shouldn’t have to rely on, Mr. Speaker. They need to know that when they are going to school or to work that their children are in the best possible hands, Mr. Speaker, and that creates better employees, Mr. Speaker.
So just to give these government, these members opposite a little lesson in how it works in terms of the bureaucracy. So every child care centre has a list, Mr. Speaker, of its families. Every month there is a director who fills out an attendance card for every day that that family has a subsidy and doesn’t have a subsidy. There’s an attendance card, Mr. Speaker, that gets manually filled out that gets shipped off to Regina where the subsidy worker then has to input that somewhere. There is a huge amount of bureaucracy, Mr. Speaker.
We need to . . . this child care system doesn’t need to be tinkered with, it needs to be completely overhauled, Mr. Speaker. Again, we have workers whose wages and working conditions aren’t enough to keep them in the field, Mr. Speaker. So again, there is no point increasing spaces if you don’t have the staff to support them — the trained, qualified staff to do that.
So when you’ve got subsidy workers who are supporting, I’ve been told up to 400 families, the subsidy workers, an individual subsidy worker is responsible for about 400 families. There is no wonder that it takes months, Mr. Speaker, sometimes to find out if you’re eligible for a subsidy. And then what ends up happening is child care centres end up carrying debt when a family finds out that they don’t get the subsidy and they’ve just had their child in the child care for a month, and then they pull their child out of child care because they can’t pay the bill. It is hugely problematic.
So for this government to not acknowledge that there are some very real issues with the child care system, and I urge them to talk to parents, to talk to families, to talk to the people who work in the industry and come up with a real made-in-Saskatchewan plan reflecting our Saskatchewan values that service Saskatchewan families the way they deserve to be, the kind of services they need and deserve to have, Mr. Speaker.
I would be remiss, Mr. Speaker, if we didn’t talk about the film employment tax credit tonight. This has been something that we’ve been raising since the budget last week, the cut to the film employment tax credit which will see, Mr. Speaker, many, many people in this community who make their living off the film employment . . . off of the film and television industry, having to go to places like Manitoba, BC [British Columbia], Toronto, other jurisdictions who are willing to participate in the world market of the film industry, Mr. Speaker.
I think the best quote I heard today, or yesterday, was in order to be competitive, if you want to be competitive, Mr. Speaker . . . I shouldn’t, I actually am not going to quote that quote because I don’t have it in front of me and I wouldn’t want to do an injustice to Norm Bolen. So I don’t have it in front of me and I don’t want to do his quote injustice, but the bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is this government has decided it doesn’t want to be competitive, Mr. Speaker. The reality is, the film and television industry, 70 per cent of money in the film and television industry comes from out of province, Mr. Speaker. These are new dollars, money that’s not here in Saskatchewan. And those companies that come to Saskatchewan invest in Saskatchewan employees who pay taxes here, Mr. Speaker. The people who work in the film and television industry here in Saskatchewan pay taxes here in Saskatchewan. They buy houses, Mr. Speaker. They work and volunteer on community boards. They’re members of this community, and they deserve to have this support, Mr. Speaker.
So this is very much about economic development. It’s about positive benefit for the people of Saskatchewan. It’s about jobs, economic spinoff, pride of places. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I think it feels pretty good for all of us when we see our landscapes, when we see Saskatchewan on the screen or we see our neighbours or the Premier making a cameo on Corner Gas. It’s kind of cool, Mr. Speaker, and not only when we see that ourselves but when we have a chance to share that on the world stage, Mr. Speaker.
The film industry, Mr. Speaker, is about . . . This tax credit
that this government is cutting, for every dollar this government
spends, it gets six back in production value. And that doesn’t
even include spinoff, whether it’s the lumberyards, the gas
that people are buying at gas stations, the money that’s being
spent on accommodations, and food, Mr. Speaker, at restaurants,
catering companies. The spinoff benefits are enormous, Mr. Speaker.
But you know what? I can say all these words, and it doesn’t seem to ring true for the members opposite. But I’d like to read a few stories into the record, Mr. Speaker, that perhaps would. These are people who are residents and voters of Saskatchewan, Mr. Speaker, and are citizens and deserve to be treated with respect, Mr. Speaker. So I’d like to read a few things here, Mr. Speaker.
So this is from the petition that this morning was at more than
7,000 signatures, Mr. Speaker. The petition started up on Friday
afternoon. As of about noon today, there were more than 7,000 speakers.
So we have Greg Wensel, Sask Party supporter and business teacher: “This decision does not hold water.” Amelia Rogers supported the Sask Party: “feels like you slapped our family in the face.” Ian Rogers:
Remember me Premier Wall? The guy that shot your Christmas Message. Thanks to the SFETC, I’ve had a successful 25 yr. career in the province of my birth, the province I love. Raised a family here. Hoped to retire here. Now I will be forced to follow the producers that leave if I want to continue working on the world-class documentaries that I’ve been so lucky to be a part of. Merry Christmas to you too.
Mr. Speaker, Shane Chapman, Sask Party supporter: “very disappointing, please reconsider.” Meet Doug Russell, dad, volunteer, editor, TV spots for Riders, Rawlco, and you. Now what? So those are just a few little snippets, Mr. Speaker, from the petition, but I do have some letters, Mr. Speaker. I do have some letters that I’d like to read into the record, Mr. Speaker, that I think are quite important.
This comes from Andrea Menard, which I think many of us are familiar with and quite proud of here in Saskatchewan, Mr. Speaker. So I won’t read entire letters here because they are quite lengthy, but some excerpts, Mr. Speaker. So this is from Andrea Menard:
I don’t understand how the government can justify cutting
a program that has generated over $500 million of production in
our province and has fuelled not just the film communities, creative
and technical trades, but the wider community as well. I am a proud
Métis actor, singer, and screenwriter whose national and
international reputation have done Saskatchewan proud. I’ve
been an ambassador for Saskatchewan because of the very fact that
my creations could be produced here, my voice could be nurtured,
developed, and produced here. Many people across this country and
abroad are now aware of the existence of my culture and our Prairie
world view because my province invested in its film and television
community, who in turn invested in me.
What other voices are waiting in the wings? Whose valuable world view will be silenced if this government chooses to cut the lifeline that brings valuable work to our province? The cut to this program will devastate the livelihood of thousands of film industry employees as well as a booming industry.
This letter, Mr. Speaker, is from Dawn Bird:
Last year after receiving the response I got from Hon. Bill Hutchinson, I was mostly satisfied and went on to have a very fruitful year. I was one of the fortunate who managed to work a good 9 months out of the year. This was very rewarding for me and my family and I was convinced the following year would be just as rewarding, if not better. Having said that, my husband and I decided to try for another baby and we planned the pregnancy around the film industry. I planned to be in my third trimester during the slowest time of the film season so that I would not miss much work and figured by the time I had the baby, things would only just be picking up. Our beautiful baby girl was born just three weeks ago.
My husband (God bless him) is currently taking paternity leave from his place of employment (RCMP Depot) so that I can continue to work within the film industry. Also, I am set to produce a full length feature film in the fall and have been in collaboration with a local writer to try and get another television series off the ground. On top of all this, I am also in the process of acquiring a local office space for my expanding production company, B.E.ZEE. PRODUCTIONS.
I am only one person, but think of how pulling the tax credit
is going to drastically affect just MY family! Clearly, without
the tax credit . . . I will not be working in the film industry
like I had hoped and my husband basically took a cut in wages and
took paternity leave for nothing. Secondly, there will be no point
in establishing a business location for my Company; and please tell
me who exactly is going to be working on the film and television
series I have planned when everyone in the industry will have basically
moved out of Province???
PLEASE . . . think of the thousands of people this is affecting. It’s NOT just the film industry people . . . it’s the people that support the film industry too. Restaurants, gas stations, hotels, truck rentals, clothing stores & dozens more!
Mr. Speaker, this is a letter, and I know this is lengthy, Mr. Speaker, but I think it’s important to have this on the record. These are the folks who have been in the galleries, who have been a part of the action here to help the government see that they’ve made a grave mistake, and I think their voices speak louder and more clearly than mine, Mr. Speaker.
This, Mr. Speaker, is from Ell McEachern. She says here:
I am writing to you to resign my position within the Saskatchewan
film and television industry.
I was born and raised in rural Saskatchewan. I suppose I never gave up on my career aspirations, in part, because of my farm background and the rural work ethic that we are all so proud of. After receiving my B.Comm from the U of S, I chose to stay in Saskatchewan even though the majority of my fellow graduates were heading to Ontario and Alberta to work for Proctor and Gamble and other large multinationals. As luck would have it, I found a career in an industry that allowed me to use both my strength with numbers and my creativity — film and television production and finance. I got this lucky break in 1999. Turns out that the introduction of the Saskatchewan film employment tax credit created a boom in the film and television industry in Saskatchewan. Not only was I able to stay in Saskatchewan, but I was able to remain in Saskatoon.
I’ve been employed full-time in this industry for over a decade. I’ve gotten married, had a son, bought a house, bought another property, sent my son to school. Unfortunately the marriage didn’t work out — that’s not really the point of this letter, but it does matter to me that I am a single income household with a young child to raise. In my decade in the film industry, I’ve built up some expertise in film and television financing and tax credit programs. I find some of the statistics being posted in your press releases to be a bit curious, and not accurately reflecting my experiences in this industry. For example, I know that tax credit dollars are only paid out based on the amount of money that we bring in to the province and spend here. There are actually guidelines around it, minimums in place to ensure that enough money is coming in to offset whatever dollars are going out. I know very well that we, as producers, carry the cost of financing the tax credits for 18 to 24 months at a minimum. That is because the tax credits are only paid out long after we have brought the money into the province and spent it here. It’s unfortunate, because this lag makes it appear as though the tax credits are not directly linked to production revenues. For example, tax credits on the production year 2008-09 are probably paid out in 2011-12 [Mr. Speaker]. You have the tax credits from a good year being paid out in a year when production is declining. That is a skewed picture, if the facts are not accurately presented.
That’s all a bit technical though. I guess this is the real point. If Saskatchewan becomes the only province in Canada to be without a film tax credit, the industry here will die. It doesn’t matter that you are still putting money into the Soundstage. No business person in their right mind would bring a production to a province that is more expensive to shoot in than its neighbours (in fact, it reminds me of oil and gas royalties and tax structures — all you have to do to encourage investment in oil and gas in Saskatchewan is to be more competitive than Alberta. We did that, right?) It will become prohibitively expensive for production companies to exist here if all their production is happening in another province. So on that note, it is with much regret that I must tender my resignation as a Saskatchewan resident, and a tax-paying member of the film and television industry, if you insist on standing behind your decision to eliminate the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit.
Mr. Speaker, I have many, many more. Actually I’m sure the Sask Party government members also have many because I’ve been cc’d on many, many, many, many, many emails, Mr. Speaker, and letters. Many, many, many speakers . . . I’m sure the Minister of the Environment could tell us all about the many letters that he’s also received. He’s the former Culture minister, Mr. Speaker, and I’m sure he made a valiant effort around the cabinet table. Well I don’t actually believe that, Mr. Speaker, but you never know.
What I do know is the current minister, by his responses in question period, clearly didn’t make a very strong argument at the cabinet table, Mr. Speaker, for his own ministry, Mr. Speaker.
So there are, there are a number . . . You know what? I’m going to read one more into the record here, Mr. Speaker. I would like to read them all, but we would be here for a couple days, I think. So sadly I don’t have quite enough time to do that. So this is from Daniel, Mr. Speaker:
I am born and raised in Saskatchewan and went to the University of Saskatchewan in order to get my BFA in Acting. I’ve been a supporter of the arts every since. My family comes from a business/farming background so they were at first unsure that I had a future as an artist in the province. I proved them wrong by getting involved in the Sask film industry and working hard to get to the top of my field in Stunt Coordination. It was very possible to make a good living in the film industry for me. Now, sadly, I may have to give up this career path. Without the tax credit, production dollars will go to other provinces. I am unable/unwilling to leave this province because of my roots and other businesses, and am therefore unable to pursue the career I’ve always dreamed of. I will have a VERY hard time working in other provinces, as they STILL have their tax credits which encourages them to hire people from THEIR provinces. Many artists and technicians will have to leave the province permanently to work, or stay here and switch careers. I care about this industry and my province.
Mr. Speaker, you know what? I’m going to read one more into the record just because I know these members opposite are perhaps learning a whole bunch about the film employment tax credit, Mr. Speaker. And they’re understanding, I hope, and seeing that perhaps they can find a clear path to ensuring that this industry grows and thrives, Mr. Speaker. Quote . . . This is, pardon me, this is from Mark:
In addition to being a taxpayer, home owner, and father of three,
I am an actor. I’ve never expected to earn a full-time living
in Saskatchewan’s film and television industry, so I’ve
continue to take on other work so that I can pay my bills, look
after my kids, and live as a responsible citizen in a province I
have come to love and call home.
I respect the importance of a balanced budget and, for the most part, I have been very impressed with your government’s work in areas such as health care. I am not a partisan thinker and I appreciate good government carried out by any political party.
However, I am writing to you today because, like the hundreds and thousands of other Saskatchewan residents who work full-time or part-time in film and television, I feel betrayed and utterly disregarded by your government. And I would suggest that if you really want to lead Saskatchewan toward becoming a prosperous, cosmopolitan 21st century province, you might want to stop beating up on the film and television Industry and the Saskatchewan people who work in it. Your policies in this area are chasing people out of the province — creative, talented people who love Saskatchewan, love their Saskatchewan families and friends, and really don’t want to move. People who contribute to the life of this province every bit as much as the farmer, miner, driller, and health care worker.
The short-term budget saving achieved by killing the tax credit will be far outweighed by the price of killing off an entire industry and the price of trying to rebuild it if and when your government finally comes to its senses. It’s not too late to change this decision.
Good government is about so much more than money,
Pardon me. That’s in a quote. I can say that, can’t I?
Good government is about so much more than money . . . It’s
about ensuring a quality of life and an abundance of opportunity
for the people who call Saskatchewan home. It’s about having
an open, inclusive spirit that values our province’s culture,
stories, and talent. I’m not asking you to jeopardize the
province’s finances or triple its investment in film and television.
I’m only asking you not to take away the livelihoods of Saskatchewan
citizens and not to ensure that talented young filmmakers and actors
continue to be a prominent Saskatchewan export.
This is a short-sighted, misguided, and ill-informed decision. This is not good government. Please, reverse this decision.
Mr. Speaker, what I’d like to say, Mr. Speaker, is again every dollar invested in this film employment tax credit produced six in production value. We know that, Mr. Speaker, every dollar invested produced six in production value, and that doesn’t include all the spinoff as well, Mr. Speaker.
Film tax credits are not just the making of social democratic
governments, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to draw everyone’s
attention, Mr. Speaker, to what the British government did actually
less than a week ago. They introduced a tax credit for million dollar-plus
budgeted TV shows. I’m just going to actually read from an
article. I’m going to read from an article that appeared in
The Hollywood Reporter, Mr. Speaker. It says:
Disney and HBO were both name-checked as two major companies the British government hopes to lure to U.K. shores to shoot high-end television shows with the introduction of a tax credit.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, delivering his
annual budget speech, said the government aims to bring in a tax
credit to cover video games, animation and high-end TV program production.
The aim would be to stop British TV programs such as Birdsong, starring Eddie Redmayne, Matthew Goode, and Clemence Poesy and banked by NBCUniversal and Working Title TV from shooting abroad [Mr. Speaker].
So this, Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes this is about money in, not money out. This Premier today in a scrum basically has said, this Premier today in a scrum basically said, basically said, we don’t want your money from abroad, Mr. Speaker. They said, we don’t want your foreign investment here in Saskatchewan. We want local investment.
Local investment’s great, Mr. Speaker, but the reality is about 70 per cent of money in the film and television industry here in Saskatchewan comes from elsewhere, Mr. Speaker. So I think this government needs to do some rethinking about the film employment tax credit. Clearly they are offside on this one, and I hope that they can see their way clear in the next month or two, sooner than that, Mr. Speaker. There are people who are glad that the delay of the film employment tax credit or the cut has been extended until June, but the reality is that basically gives people time to pack, Mr. Speaker. They will get their season in this summer, but they will not have an opportunity to think about a future here, Mr. Speaker. They need to know that the home that they own, do they need to list now when more properties tend to sell? These are folks who may or may not have a career come, here in Saskatchewan, in a year from now, Mr. Speaker.
So this government needs to get to work and not tell them in three
months from now what’s going on but sit down . . . I’d
like to hear the minister or the Premier say that they’ve
scheduled a meeting for tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, to start ironing
this out. It’s absolutely imperative. Right now we’re
sending a message around the world. The film and television industry
is a global industry, Mr. Speaker, and we’re right now sending
a message around the world that we don’t want foreign investment,
Mr. Speaker. So this has to turn around.
Just on one other quick note around arts and culture, the reality is I know that being a part of the creative economy is a very good thing. It’s incredibly important, Mr. Speaker. Do we want to be a part of the creative economy here? I think we do. I think our natural resource extraction is great, but being diversified is absolutely imperative. The things that make . . . It’s not just about . . . The reality is culture is and should be a big part of who we are here in Saskatchewan.
We look at expenditures in the budget, whether it’s the Arts Board who has been capped at the same amount of funding here, Mr. Speaker, a lack of an increase is the same as a cut, Mr. Speaker. The reality is the lack of an increase is the same as a cut. When you have cost of living increases, you’ve got salaries to keep pace with and benefits. When you don’t get an increase, you are for all intents and purposes making a cut, Mr. Speaker.
We heard yesterday that the Western Development Museum again is
feeling the pinch and feels no, they didn’t get a decrease,
but they feel as if they’ve had a cut. And they’ve now
had to make some decisions about closing their facilities on Mondays
to Saskatchewan residents and people coming into Saskatchewan as
tourists who want to learn about our Saskatchewan story which the
Western Development Museums do very well, Mr. Speaker. So those
are just between the film employment tax credit, which has been
on the minds of all of us here for the last week, but there are
other areas in culture that have not been well supported either,
So with that, I could go on and on, Mr. Speaker. I have stacks of letters, but I know that my colleagues, I have colleagues who would like to wade into the debate here tonight. So with that, I will be supporting the amendment and I will not be supporting the budget.