Liberals to eliminate controversy in Bill C-10

Liberal senators proclaim they will amend the sections of Bill C-10 relating to federal tax credits for film and television, removing the power from the Heritage Minister to deny funding to productions she deems offensive.

At a press conference Wednesday, Senators Francis Fox and Wilfred Moore announced three amendments Liberal Senators intend to introduce when the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce proceeds to the clause-by-clause examination of the bill.

“The plan is to get [the amendments] out to the industry and see what feedback we get from the industry. And I would say we will introduce them when we return in the fall,” said Moore.

Most importantly, the amendment would take away the Heritage Minister’s ability to refuse tax credits based on “public policy” or issue guidelines for film content; instead, funding could only be denied if the film or television content violates the Criminal Code.

The proposed changes would also provide producers an avenue for appeal if the minister prevents or delays funding. Finally, they would ensure the government continues to block tax credits from being granted to materials that are pornographic or hate propaganda.

“These changes, which are a direct result of the testimony before our committee, will add certainty and stability to the film industry while continuing to ensure that pornography, child pornography, and hate propaganda do not receive government funding,” said Moore.

The testimonies mentioned were protests by various filmmakers and industry professionals, including actress Sarah Polley, director David Cronenberg, and metropolitan mayors. They argued the detrimental effect the legislation would have on the economy, industry and quality of Canadian films, since it would be nearly impossible to convince banks to fund Canadian projects if tax credits could be withdrawn after the fact.

Heritage Minister Josée Verner did not dismiss the proposed changes, commenting in an email via a communication assistant, “We look forward to seeing the amendments.”

Key defender of Bill C-10, Conservative Senator David Tkachuk, did not reject the amendments either. “I am glad we've finally seen amendments. I am kind of hoping that we've stirred the pot a little bit and that we've got something on paper.” He added that he’d like to see it dealt with during the first week of the fall rather than dragging out the process.

Stephen Waddell, national executive director of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) said his organization will examine the Liberals’ proposal but are pleased to know someone is listening. "These amendments show that the Senators have listened to ACTRA and the film and television industry, by responding to united calls to fix the bill," said Waddell.

ACTRA National President Richard Hardacre added, "At a glance, these amendments appear to address our concerns about censoring artists by removing the now-famous wording, 'contrary to public policy.' The Minister of Heritage will still be able to deny tax credits to productions that contravene the Criminal Code, a clarification many in the industry recommended.”

In the end, Fox provided an uncomplicated classification: “What we are proposing are amendments that will protect this vital industry as well as the principle of artistic freedom.”

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