I can’t thank Natalie Chavarie, Jeff White, El Jones, Rachel Ward and (especially) Russell Gragg enough for standing in for me while I took some much-needed time off. I really enjoyed the range and diversity of voices.
The flight on my first leg back to Halifax disappeared yesterday — “there’s no plane,” said one of the airline reps — so I’m actually writing this from an overpriced airport bar (yes, redundant) at Dulles, and then from a Boston hotel room. I won’t be back in Halifax until late this afternoon.
Now resumes your regularly scheduled crappy Morning File.
1. DHX wins
When it released the provincial budget for this year, the Liberal government gutted the film tax credit. In the wake of a storm of protest from the film industry, the Liberals tweaked their proposal. The changes can be tracked as follows:
The former system included a completely refundable credit (in essence, a grant) for 50 percent of labour costs for all film and television productions, including animation. Productions filmed in rural areas could get an additional 10 percent credit, while repeat productions could get another 5 percent.
Labour costs are usually about half of film production costs. Total cost to the treasury this year, according to the Liberals, would be $24 million.
The former system was an automatic credit, meaning that all production companies who met the criteria would be eligible for the credit. It was administered by the Finance Department, as part of the tax system.
Because it was fully refundable, production companies could “bank” on the tax credit — that is, they could take out loans to cover production costs, using the tax credit as collateral, then pay the loans back when they received the credit post-production.
With the budget announcement, the Liberals changed the film tax credit such that it was no longer fully refundable, but merely 25 percent refundable. In practical terms, that meant that there would have been only a 12.5 percent credit against wages.
The Liberals said they made the change in order to control costs. But film industry reps said that the Liberals did not consider other benefits to the province.
If the change had no effect on the number of film productions, then the $24 million would have been reduced to $6 million. Additionally, the Liberals announced another $6 million in the form of a Creative Economy Fund, which would have been administered by Nova Scotia Business Inc. The Creative Economy Fund would have provided grants to various cultural endeavours, including the “film, animation, music/sound recording and publishing industries.”
Film industry reps said the lower amount effectively destroyed the local film industry because the credit was no longer bankable — the effective 12.5 percent credit against wage costs was not enough collateral to secure loans for production costs.
After the Liberals announced the changes to the film tax credit, thousands of people demonstrated outside Province House and Screen Nova Scotia mounted a well-orchestrated media campaign against the changes. Two weeks later, the Liberals announced a revised film support system called the Film and Television Production Incentive Fund, which I’m calling FAT PIF.
Under the FAT PIF system, tax credits will be replaced with a grant system based roughly on the Alberta government’s system. That in itself is not a huge change, as despite its name, the old tax credit system was effectively a grant system. FAT PIF also changed the credit from 50 percent of labour costs to 25 percent of total costs of production. But again, as labour costs are about half production costs, there’s no substantial difference.
The problem with FAT PIF is that unlike the former tax credit, it is not an automatic payment to production companies. The newly created fund will not be administered by the Department of Finance as part of the tax system, but rather by Nova Scotia Business Inc. The Liberals say that this will allow for greater budget certainty — it’s not an open-ended reimbursement, but rather a specific budget line item.
And that specific budget line item is capped at $10 million. The Liberals didn’t put it this way, but that $10 million figure was arrived at by taking the $6 million reduced film tax credit as announced in the budget and adding it to $4 million of the $6 million Creative Economy Fund, which was scrapped. FAT PIF will be administered by Nova Scotia Business Inc, which will somehow vet applications to the fund.
Obviously, $10 million is a lot less than $24 million, so that means lots of productions will lose out. On the plus side, film industry reps say FAT PIF is bankable — assuming they win out in the vetting system, production companies will be able to use the grants to secure loans.
The change also leaves just $2 million for all other artistic endeavours that may have been funded by the Creative Economy Fund.
Importantly, FAT PIF will not fund animation productions, which for the most part meant the children’s TV shows produced by DHX Media. At the FAT PIF announcement, it was explained that the government would take a couple of more weeks to decide how to deal with DHX. Yesterday, the details of that arrangement were released, reports the CBC’s Jean Laroche:
Animation companies will be able to recover 50 per cent of eligible labour costs or 25 per cent of total production costs, whichever is lower.
On top of that, the salaries of the animators will be eligible for an additional 25 per cent rebate. There’s also an additional two per cent bonus for home-grown productions.
That’s a more generous package than the one available to traditional filmmakers who will have to vie for 25 per cent funding from a newly created Nova Scotia Film and Television Production Incentive Fund.
Finance Minister Diana Whalen told reporters Wednesday the digital media tax credit isn’t capped.
“This is a tax credit which means if you meet the criteria, you get to draw on or receive that funding.”
But McNeil offered a different answer [to] that question.
“We will adjust that number, but that number will not be going back to where we were before, which was $24 million total,” he said.
Clearly, the Liberal government had not clearly thought out its film and television strategy before gutting the old film tax credit and is now making things up as it goes along,
As I read it today, the support for the animation industry is in the form of the former tax credit, meaning that it doesn’t achieve the goal of budget certainty that the Liberals had established for themselves.
This looks like a huge win for DHX.
The Halifax Port Authority has spent $315,000 on travel costs over two years, according to documents obtained by MP Megan Leslie’s office. “The port authority has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel, with nothing to show for it,” Leslie told the Chronicle Herald:
In particular, Leslie has questions regarding about $20,000 that board chairwoman Karen Oldfield expensed for travel not related to her job.
Oldfield expensed over $16,000 in travel to the International Women’s Forum, which she is national vice-chairwoman of, and over $3,000 to attend Public Policy Forum events in Toronto.
Business at the port has stalled over the past five years. The port handled 3.8 million tonnes of cargo volume in 2014, down slightly from four million tonnes in 2010.
3. Brave Sir Buddy
“Peter Stoffer has been made a knight by the king of the Netherlands,” reports Paul McLeod:
The longtime NDP MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore was named a knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau on Wednesday, during a surprise ceremony at the Dutch embassy.
Stoffer received a scroll signed by King Willem-Alexander, a medal and a pin, but he does not get a “sir” in front of his name.
“You can call me buddy,” he told reporters. “Sir buddy.”
4. Reunion tour
The Suspicious Packages played the law courts Tuesday:
At 11:39 a.m., an employee at the Law Courts at 1815 Upper Water Street contacted police after receiving two suspicious envelopes by regular mail. The envelopes were kept in the reception area of the building where they stayed until the arrival of emergency personnel. The building was evacuated as a precaution. Officer assigned to the Forensic Identification Section attended the scene and safely removed the envelopes from the building. The envelopes did not contain any harmful substances. Officers are continuing to examine the contents and are attempting to determine the origin of the envelopes.
Look, people have gotta start being smarter about this stuff. The response to the law courts envelopes was reasoned and proportional. I understand that the building was briefly evacuated and life returned to normal. The courts attract disturbed people, after all, and other courts have gotten similar envelopes. But ISIS or whoever isn’t going to blow up a planter on George Street. Obviously, someone just forgot a bag. Here’s what you do when you see something like that: you open the bag and look for ID, then call the owner and tell them you’ve got the bag.
Sure, it’s probably not a great idea to get blind drunk on airplanes and then have sex in front of other passengers. But certain media outlets’ obsession with the case (and no, I won’t link to them), including a detailed description of the sex act, different treatment for the woman and man involved — the woman is named high in the stories, the man not until the end — and video and pictures of the woman hiding her face from the cameras as she enters and leaves the courtroom, amount to slut-shaming.
There are real stories out there, worthy of coverage. This isn’t one of them.
I (mostly) kept my promise to stay off the internet while on vacation, so I may be late to this, but Claire McIlveen tells me this morning that:
Following a meeting a few weeks ago with deputy minister Dr. Peter Vaughan, [obstetrician-gynecologist Robyn] MacQuarrie told reporters, [Peter] Bragg, [executive assistant to Health Minister Leo Glavine,] asked her into his office, produced a file that included photos of MacQuarrie from her Facebook page and slowly flipped through it. He intimated that if she wanted to see improved access to abortion in the province, she should stop schmoozing with the PCs, and, says MacQuarrie, tried to intimidate her.
“I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my 12 years in office. It’s so laughable I can’t take it serious, and you know how serious a person I am,” [Health Minister Leo] Glavine said when asked about MacQuarrie’s allegations. Both he and Premier Stephen McNeil scoffed at the report of intimidation.
Faced with an allegation that an aide has tried to intimidate a medical specialist (not an individual it would be smart to bully in the first place), a wise politician would take the allegation seriously and mount an investigation.
Glavine may well have confidence in Bragg, but to fail to investigate criticism of an aide from a credible source smacks of a too-big sense of entitlement.
MacQuarrie noted the premier’s and Glavine’s attitudes also reflect an old-boys-club, sexist attitude toward women. Would their response have been different had a prominent male physician called out Bragg?
2. Cranky letter of the day
I attended the concert featuring Sammy Kershaw and Georgette Jones at Centre 200 in Sydney on April 28.
The show was terrific.
But audience members were asked nicely not to use their cellphones and not to take pictures. But many ignored that request.
And one young woman, who appeared drunk, was causing a scene, whistling and heckling.
Why they have to sell beer at these concerts is beyond me. But they should at least stop serving alcohol to someone who’s obviously already had too much.
And Centre 200 should have its security officers on the floor, enforcing the rules.
Most of the audience members were seniors who paid good money to enjoy the concert. It only takes a couple of people to ruin a good night.
Beverly Joseph, River Ryan
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (4:30pm, Office and Maintenance Building in the park)—here’s the agenda.
Legislature sits (1:30pm–midnight, Province House)
On this day in 1945, the V.E. Day riots broke out in Halifax. The Canadian Encyclopedia explains:
Victory in Europe was announced the morning of 7 May 1945 on civilian radio in Halifax, and residents were given the rest of the day off. Armed Services personnel continued to work through the day. However, trouble started that evening during a fireworks display. “Open gangway” (i.e., a holiday) was declared for Navy personnel for reasons that remain unclear.
General drunkenness and rowdy behaviour ensued, but violence soon erupted. Sailors and civilians began to snatch flags from their poles and smash windows, before sailors took over the driver’s seat of a tramcar, smashed its windows and set it on fire. When firemen came to put out the fire, sailors disconnected their hose before cutting it completely.
After three men were caught breaking into a liquor store and fled, the police called to protect the shop. However, a mob of sailors hurling projectiles overcame the police and looted the store along with civilians. Two more liquor stores were ransacked late into the night, with looters making off with over 2,000 cases of beer, wine and spirits.
Open gangway continued the next day. Though sailors had access to “wet canteens,” they emptied them of beer by 1 p.m. and went out looking for more. Along with civilians, they overpowered guards at Alexander Keith’s brewery and passed out cases to passersby. As crowds spilled downtown, window displays and store interiors were either vandalized, looted or both. People took whatever they could — including mannequins, with which they danced in the streets — but mainly clothes, jewellery and shoes (perhaps the most popular item).
Vandalism and theft aside, the general atmosphere in Halifax was described as convivial rather than criminal.
In many instances, sailors reinforced police and shore patrol by holding back crowds at liquor stores and department stores. In the end, downtown Halifax descended to mob rule. By 5 p.m., the mayor declared VE-Day over; however, as rioting subsided in that city, it was taken up to a lesser scale across the harbour in Dartmouth. A military curfew was in force by 11 p.m. and the streets cleared.
Three people died in the rioting. One hundred and seventeen civilians, 41 soldiers, 34 sailors and 19 airmen were arrested. Five hundred and sixty-four businesses were damaged, 207 shops looted and 2,624 windows smashed. The federal government subsequently provided $1 million in compensation to business, including $178,924 to the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission.
I spent a day walking around Washington, DC, admiring the architecture and monuments in and around the National Mall. I was sorting out my thoughts on it all and by mid-afternoon realized the city was built for grandeur — the buildings loom large and permanent, on a scale far beyond the comprehension of any person walking among them, or at least beyond my comprehension. This was reassuring. The stupidity of governments, the corruption and misbehaviour of politicians, the lost causes and absurd obsessions of the populace are nothing compared to the permanence of the ship of state, which will sail on to tolerate future stupid governments, corrupting and misbehaving politicians, and absurd citizenries.
Then I stepped into the National Museum of Natural History and saw fossils of weird creatures made extinct by a series of asteroids hitting the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, and rocks found on the moon and in Antarctica that are billions of years old, maybe even older than the Earth itself, and realized that even the most permanent human institutions, the grandest states, the wisest citizens, are but a blink of the eye in the scheme of things.
Then a bazillion screaming kids interrupted my train of thought so I found a tavern and had a drink.
In the harbour
Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove this morning
ZIM New York, container ship, New York to Pier 41
CSAV Rio Aysen, car carrier, Emden, Germany to Autoport
Clear Sky, bunker, sails to Baie Comeau
The cruise ship Silver Whisper arrived at Pier 22 last night, and will sail for Cobh, Ireland today. The Silver Whisper is an “ultra luxury” liner that accommodates just 382 passengers served by 302 crew. The 10-day cruises that come through Halifax typically cost just over US $6,000 per person, plus booze.
“There’s no plane.”
I walked on three different beaches the last few days. I have a tan.