Danielle Chartier’s Member's Statement

75 Minute Debate Responding to the Speech from the Throne
Thursday November 8, 2012

Ms. Chartier: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to enter the debate on the government’s self-congratulatory motion that reads as follows:

That this Assembly commend the government for delivering the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth, which sets out a road map for population growth and an improved quality of life in this province.

Unfortunately there are some serious potholes on the Sask Party road to growth that I cannot speak in favour of this motion.

Let’s talk about population growth, Mr. Speaker. This is a government who continues to boast about population growth which, contrary to popular belief on that side of the House, did not start to increase on November 7th, 2007. No, there actually weren’t hordes of people waiting at the border for a Sask Party victory, Mr. Speaker. For the record, for all those on the government benches who have not taken the time to actually look at the numbers and instead are content to listen to the rhetoric and spin, we began to see net population increases in October of 2006, a year before the Sask Party came to power. And we crossed the magic million mark on July 1st, 2007, again before this party was elected. The strong foundation for population growth had been laid out and was starting to reap benefits before the Sask Party sat on that side of the House. I am willing to concede that yes, the population has continued to increase under this government.

That is a fact, but yesterday in this House I had 90 seconds to deliver a very sad member’s statement that only mentioned a small sampling of the folks in the film and television industry who have had to leave this province in the last six to eight months to earn a living. Why? Because this government, without consultation, cut the film employment tax credit, a key program for an entire industry. This decision to cut the tax credit has sent talented people and their families packing. Instead of attracting investment opportunity and new people in the film industry to Saskatchewan, this government is chasing all this away with short-sighted decision to kill this important program.

I honestly don’t know what’s worse, thinking the government did not understand the industry and how the tax credit actually worked to leverage new dollars, new dollars into our province, Mr. Speaker, or that the government knew what the ramifications of the cut would be to the industry and did it anyway. Neither of these scenarios are very pleasant and don’t fit with the government whose mantra is all about attracting and retaining young people.

What worries me though, Mr. Speaker, is I had a chance this morning to listen to the Premier’s scrum yesterday, months after the tax credit was cut. After all the public outrage, you’d think that this Premier would be well briefed on the ins and outs of the tax credit. But you know what he said yesterday, Mr. Speaker? He said, “It’s a cheque you get whether you spend the money or not.” This could not be more false. I’m worried that a Premier and a government are embarking upon creative consultations and still have no idea what they’re talking about.

The Sask Party booklet, which it chose to first release at a $100-a-plate luncheon rather then directly to the people of Saskatchewan through the legislature, had this to say: “My government is committed to ensuring this growth continues because growth has been good for our province. It means a strong economy and more opportunities for our young people.” Well some of the people in the film industry who have managed to hang on in the hopes that the government will recognize its error and do something to correct it happened to be here for that Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker. They found it hard not to laugh out loud at this line, more opportunities for young people — not in their industry.

We have a wonderful media production and studies program at the University of Regina. The U of R is the only university between Vancouver and Toronto to offer a B.F.A. [Bachelor of Fine Arts] in film and video production and a B.A. [Bachelor of Arts] and a B.A. Honours in film study, as well as a M.F.A. [Master of Fine Arts] and M.A. [Master of Arts] degree programs. It is awful that instead of keeping these graduates here, they will have to leave Saskatchewan to earn a living in their chosen profession. How has this government created opportunities for these young people? Not at all. The recent chamber of commerce-SaskFilm study on the net cost of the tax credit discusses return on investment. One of the benefits of the tax credit, according to the study, was youth engagement and retention. Derek Murray Consulting and Associates had this to say:

On average, employees in the media sector are younger than other sectors such as mining and agriculture. As well, having a film industry boosts the attraction to youth outside of the film industry as it adds to the cosmopolitan image of the city directly through film industry activity as well as indirectly through support to the broader cultural sector.

So, Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the words in this booklet do not match the recent actions of this government. This is not a government working to create opportunities for young people who want to work in the creative industries. I know the minister has spoken about the supposed injustice of film and television receiving a benefit that none of the other creative industries do. But I can tell you, I’ve heard from people across these industries who feel that the film tax credit worked for them. I spoke to a musician two weeks ago who told me obviously she didn’t derive benefit directly from the film tax credit but she certainly benefited from a thriving film industry.

I have a letter signed by a ceramic artist who has this to say: “We in the other creative industries are not asking for a subsidy which would be comparable to the film tax credit. We support the film tax credits.”

She goes on to write:

Because film is the most interdisciplinary of the arts, many artists are needed to make a film — filmmakers, actors, writers, musicians, artists, graphic designers, costume makers, makeup artists, and more. Many artists work in the film industry to subsidize their own art practice, thus reducing the need for grants, but the added benefit is that we create a distinctive Saskatchewan film.

The chamber of commerce study agrees with the musician and the ceramic artist I mentioned. Again, speaking of return on investment, the study has this to say:

Film and video is a significant economic force within the cultural economy. The employment created in the cross-pollination of creative content within sectors makes the film and video sector critical to the cultural economy. As well, film and video demands a significant amount of goods and services from other cultural sectors injecting capital into sectors such as sound recording. Without the film and video sector government grants to the remaining cultural sectors would have to be higher in order to maintain the same level of cultural activity.

The reality is, Mr. Speaker, a film industry is good for our economy and a good way to create opportunities for our young people. I am hopeful that with a new minister who says he is committed to a plan that works for the creative industries that this government will come to its senses sooner than later and fix the mess that it has created in the film industry for all our sakes, but especially for our young people.

I also want to talk about this motion arguing that this government has a road map to an improved quality of life in the province. The ability to put food on your table and a roof over your head are so obviously important, Mr. Speaker. But we believe on this side of the House that arts and culture enhance our quality of life too. But don’t take my word for it. There is research that illustrates that employment is not all that we want out of life, and it is certainly not all that attracts people to a town, a city, or a province.

Richard Florida, in his book Cities and the Creative Class, points out that economic and lifestyle considerations both matter, and so do the mix of the two factors. Florida argues the highly skilled and educated people we want to attract to a province focused on innovation are looking for communities with “abundant high-quality experiences, an openness to diversity of all kinds and above all else, the opportunity to validate their identities as creative people.”

The CEO [chief executive officer] of the chamber of commerce puts the quality of life argument best, especially when quality of life and the opportunity serve to attract and retain educated and skilled people who help build our economy here, when he said:

I’m arguing that for us to be successful in the corporate world, we need to have a strong creative economy. We need to have people who are artists and musicians. We need to have actors here. We need to have a vibrancy in our communities. Otherwise, the accountants, the lawyers, and the engineers don’t want to move here. They don’t want to stay here. It makes for a better Saskatchewan.

I would contend this decision to cut the film employment tax credit has ripple effects throughout the creative industries and will lessen our opportunities for an improved quality of life.

But aside from the film tax credit, this government’s no-plan plan for growth also happens to mention funding for the arts in general — again, something that impacts our quality of life. I need to point out the blatantly misleading information in this plan when it comes to culture. I would like to quote one particular line where the truth has been stretched far beyond recognition:

My government will continue to support arts and culture. From 2007 to 2011, funding for arts and culture increased 35 per cent, compared to the previous four years.

This would leave the reader with the impression that this government has increased arts and culture funding tremendously. This is not the case. Between ’04-05 budget and ’07-08 budget, all NDP budgets, the government increased funding to the Arts Board by 26.1 per cent. But over the Sask Party’s first four budgets, the increase to the Arts Board was 5.6 per cent.

The reality is though, the Saskatchewan Arts Board is not the only place where the ministry spends money on arts and culture. Actual spending taken from public accounts in ’04-05 budget, the provincial NDP government spent on arts and culture $18.76 million, which happens to be more than the $16.183 million that the Sask Party spent in this last budget. So there is this government’s record on arts and culture, Mr. Speaker.

There are many things I could have discussed today, Mr. Speaker, but I’ve chosen to focus on arts and culture because this government hasn’t. I will not be supporting the motion.

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