News
Views
Government
On campus
Noticed
In the harbour
Footnotes


News

1. Film tax credit cut fallout

“Filmmakers are suddenly facing problems acquiring permits, scouting locations and applying for funding, after Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia suddenly shut its doors last Thursday,” reports the CBC.

The problem is that the duties of Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia were abruptly shifted over to Nova Scotia Business Inc., but there appears to have been no transition plan in place:

James Nicholson with the Directors Guild of Canada says the effects of the office’s closure are far-reaching. 

“To have an office that’s so critical to the existence of an industry to be open one day and closed the next without any real alternative is, I would say, unprofessional at least,” said Nicholson.

He said at least two producers have contacted him to complain that emails to the office were not being returned and that the phone would go straight to voicemail.

“It’s essentially closed for business at this time,” Nicholson said.

Mark Furey, the minister overseeing NSBI, made the rather lame suggestion that out-of-province filmmakers needing assistance should google around and find the NSBI website:

“We have contact information for NSBI. That information would be available on the website and we certainly encourage those who continue with interest in the film and creative sector to reach out through those contact points,” he said.

Meanwhile, Premier Stephen McNeil says cutting the film tax credit was “bold.”

Also, Jonathan Torrens compares the film industry to Frank Magazine (at the 2:00 mark).

It occurred to me yesterday that no matter what you think of the film tax credit issue, the Liberals are doing what the previous NDP government failed to do: using the power they hold.

2. Examineradio Episode #8

Cathy Jones, from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, spoke at the rally. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Cathy Jones, from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, spoke at the rally. Photo: Halifax Examiner

This week, an enormous rally surrounded Province House in Halifax to protest cuts to the Film Tax Credit program. Post-secondary students also staged a “study-in” at Finance Minister Diana Whalen’s office in opposition to the suspension of the tuition cap.

Also, Halifax’s top cop unveiled a new structure for the senior brass at the Police Department, and is there a slim silver lining for the Khyber Centre for the Arts?

Listen to Episode #8 of Examineradio below, or subscribe to the Examineradio podcast via iTunes. Examineradio also broadcasts on CKDU, 88.1 FM, Fridays at 4:30–5pm.

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3. Prayer

Ifty Illyas, the executive director of the Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia, tells Metro that in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling against prayers at the Saguenay, Quebec town council meetings, his organization wants to further water down the prayer said at Halifax council meetings:

Citing the growing demographic of atheists and agnostics, Illyas said Halifax’s prayer is inclusive of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but exclusionary to other world views and philosophies.

He has offered the association’s help in drafting a new invocation because, religious differences aside, he sees the ritual as important to unify the council “as one voice” in their governance.

There’s a certain kind of religious person who wants to force religion on the rest of us, whether we want it or not, even to their own detriment.

A word of advice from this atheist: stop watering down your prayers! Believe what you want to believe, and believe it strongly, proudly. Just keep it out of my government.

4. Bullshitter of the day

Matt Hebb, world-leading bullshitter
Matt Hebb, world-class bullshitter

Dalhousie University is talking about creating a “Ocean Frontier Institute,” reports the Chronicle Herald. And what the heck is that? Well, Dal prez Richard Florizone says a “private donation” of $25 million from an unnamed source would be matched by federal money to fund the $140 million institute. OK, but still, what the heck would an Ocean Frontier Institute do?

Buried way down at the end of the article, Matt Hebb, the assistant vice-president of government relations at Dal, starts getting specific, but first a bunch of buzzwords to lull us to sleep:

“The Ocean Frontier Institute will bring world-leading ocean science technology with disruptive technologies and the best international partners together to develop the R&D needed for sustainable economic growth in this area.”

The poobahs have evidently replaced “world-class” with “world-leading,” which is its own kind of ridiculous. But we’ve got “world-leading,” “disruptive technologies,” “best international partners,” and “sustainable economic growth” all in one sentence, so Hebb wins the Bullshitter Of The Day award. Congratulations! Let’s pin a gold star on his finely tailored lapel. Don’t forget your mitts.

The article continues:

Partnering with government, private sector and international players, the institute would focus on research in the northwest Atlantic, Hebb said. 

He said there are “massive economic opportunities” in that part of the ocean, from aquaculture and fisheries to offshore hydrocarbons and geosciences.

Oh yes, the “sustainable” economy of hydrocarbons. I guess the “private donation” is coming from an oil company.

And so the corporatization of the university continues, the planet be damned.


Views

1. Film tax credit #1

Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Graham Steele lays out the crisis Stephen McNeil has created for himself:

This is real bull-in-a-china-shop stuff. McNeil has charged into an industry he plainly doesn’t understand, turned around a few times and then told the shopkeepers that we couldn’t afford all that broken china anyway.

[…]

If a transition to a different system is warranted, it should be done slowly, carefully and thoughtfully. Not like this.

Film industry workers are real people with real jobs. They’re all over the province. There’s no us and them. They are us.

Now those film industry workers are suffering sleepless nights. Their future is in doubt. Their stress is through the roof. Should we stay? Can we stay? What’s left for us? The suddenness of the change is more than breathtaking. It’s cruel.

Stephen McNeil is supposed to get all this. He’s a politician with considerable people skills. If he didn’t understand regular, middle-class folks with mortgages and a few dreams, he wouldn’t be where he is.

Instead, on this issue he’s coming across as distant, callous and stubborn.

This is  Steele’s best argued and best written column to date.

I’ve been ambivalent about the film tax credit. I do think it’s too high, and I worry about a culture that argues anyone who “creates jobs” deserves a tax cut/subsidy/back rub. But, as Steele says, the change to the film tax credit is too radical, too steep, too quick. I could’ve gone along with a change that reduced the FTC over time, with consultation to provide the best mechanisms, etc…. but the change McNeil has brought is stupid governance, and stupid politics.

2. Film tax credit #2

Lezlie Lowe wants numbers for the film tax credit:

Finance Minister Diana Whalen
Finance Minister Diana Whalen

The math is clear, even though CBC Radio’s Jerry West figured out that the Finance Department muffed the calculations on its own fact sheet. The nut: $6 million back in personal, consumption and corporate taxes against $26 million paid out isn’t a winning return. It’s a $20-million hole.

But there’s a far bigger gap in this plot.

The rest of the decision is invisible: The value of tourism and stemming outmigration. The spinoff of thousands making workable wages at jobs they love. The countless other benefits from this industry, which, until last week, the Liberals seemed ready to use their dying breaths defending.

I asked the Finance Department for those numbers. I requested any documents the province used to make its choice — economic impact analyses, internal breakdowns, options reports. Anything. Anything to show the decision trail or the bigger picture. All I got was the tax-in/credit-out hole.

3. Film tax credit #3

Susanna Fuller, one of the authors of the Ivany Report, is against the cuts introduced last week.

4. Film tax credit #4

Roger Taylor, who is the personal PR rep for developer Joe Ramia but who is paid by the Chronicle Herald, interviews Ramia about the film tax credit because we all want to know what the saviour of Halifax thinks. But watch this pivot in the middle of Taylor’s column:

The government is looking at the film tax credit as a cost and the film industry sees it from another angle, [Ramia] says, but it might be possible to reach a compromise with an open mind and honest discussion.

Ramia has in the past talked about how maintaining Nova Scotia’s rich cultural heritage is important to the provincial economy, including the success of the Nova Centre. Right now, he is concentrating on keeping the $500-million, one-million-square-foot project on schedule for its September 2016 opening.

It’s fascinating how Taylor can dance around the elephant in the room — the ginormous public subsidy going into the Nova Centre — and not make the comparison between that and the film tax credit.

5. Titanic

The sinking of the Titanic was “a tragic event but it does not hold any enduring interest for me,” writes Stephen Archibald.

This is a bit of a tangent from the Titanic, I admit, but perhaps the greatest science fiction short story ever written was Arthur C. Clarke’s The Star. The story involves a spaceship full of scientists that travels to the Phoenix Nebula. Among them is the narrator, an unnamed astrophysicist and Jesuit priest, who explains:

We knew, of course, what the Phoenix Nebula was. Every year, in our Galaxy alone, more than a hundred stars explode, blazing for a few hours or days with hundreds of times their normal brilliance until they sink back into death and obscurity. Such are the ordinary novas—the commonplace disasters of the Universe…

But three or four times in every thousand years occurs something beside which even a nova pales into total insignificance.

When a star becomes a supernova, it may for a little while outshine all the massed suns of the Galaxy.

[…]

Our mission was to visit the remnants of such a catastrophe, to reconstruct the events that led up to it, and, if possible, to learn its cause.

Bear with me here, there’s a point to this. The priest continues:

No one seriously expected to find planets. If there had been any before the explosion, they would have been boiled into puffs of vapor, and their substance lost in the greater wreckage of the star itself. But we made the automatic search, as we always do when approaching an unknown sun, and presently we found a single small world circling the star at an immense distance. It must have been the Pluto of this vanished Solar System, orbiting on the frontiers of the night. Too far from the central sun ever to have known life, its remoteness had saved it from the fate of all its lost companions.

Arthur C. Clarke predicted Stephen Archibald's house.
Arthur C. Clarke predicted Stephen Archibald’s house.
Arthur C. Clarke predicted Stephen Archibald’s house.

The passing fires had seared its rocks and burned away the mantle of frozen gas that must have covered it in the days before the disaster. We landed, and we found the Vault.

[…]

A civilization that knew it was about to die had made its last bid for immortality….They had plenty of time to prepare, for their sun must have given its first warnings many years before the final detonation. Everything that they wished to preserve, all the fruits of their genius, they brought here to this distant world in the days before the end, hoping that some other race would find it and that they would not be utterly forgotten. 

Which brings us back to Archibald.

If four thousand years from now some alien civilization happens upon our burned out planet and wonders who we were, they’ll know to visit Archibald’s house, the Earth equivalent of the Phoenix Nebula Vault — the repository of all human knowledge.

So even though the Titanic doesn’t hold any enduring interest for Archibald himself, “we have a couple of representations of Titanic, acquired in the late 1970s.”

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

Of the Titanic representations, he’s got some whacked out stuff, including:

[A] painting by a Southwest Nova artist named G. Sampson (Gerald?). He shows Titanic steaming through the night while passengers wave at the viewer. The iceberg is off screen, as they say in the film world. We know what will happen so there is a gripping tension.

And isn’t this precisely what we would want future aliens to know about us? Our defiance in the face of certain death and meaninglessness — the kiss good night to a lover we may not wake in the morning to see, the child packed off to a school that’s about to be sold off to a Brilliant Lab scam, the wave from the deck of a doomed ocean liner.

I mean it: The Star is the perfect short story, so go read it yourself and contemplate the denouement for the rest of your sad and wonderful life. Then look at those folks waving from the deck of the Titanic.

6. Weed

Hilary Beaumont, dope-smoking fiend.
Hilary Beaumont, dope fiend.

Hilary Beaumont buys some weed.

7. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

I am of the opinion that the restaurateur who had a problem with “screaming children” should not be apologizing for labelling them as such.

The parents of those unruly children should offer an apology to him.

Unfortunately, there are parents who are unaware that when they have children, they are automatically responsible for teaching those children how to conduct themselves properly in public and at home.

A child comes into this world a blank slate. We, the parents, must teach them what they need to know.

They look to us for guidance at all times and they model their behaviour on the actions of the adults around them.

No parent is interfering with a child’s development when they correct their behaviour, provided it is done with love. We produce them. We owe it to them to help them become competent adults.

Vic Foster, Sydney


Government

City

No public meetings.

Province

Legislature sits (9am–6pm, Province House)

On this date in 1879, proceedings at the legislature included members speaking in English, Gaelic, French, and Dutch. Online Hansard records only go back to 1995, alas, so I can’t tell you want they were going on about. Dutch is an interesting one.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thesis Defense, Earth Sciences (9am, Room 429/430, Goldberg Computer Science Building)—PhD candidate Annina Margreth will defend her thesis “Climate Sensitivities of Polythermal Ice Sheet, Ice Cap, and Alpine Ice Dynamics and Related Episodic Erosion on Cumberland Peninsula, Baffin Island, Nunavut.”

Cancer (1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building)—Jürgen Rohr, from the University of Kentucky, will talk about the “Evolution of Natural Products for Cancer Chemotherapy.”


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8am Friday. Map: marinetraffic.com
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8am Friday. Map: marinetraffic.com

Atlantic Companion, container ship, Norfolk to Fairview Cove West, then sails to sea
Fusion, cargo ship, Saint-Pierre to Pier 36, then sails back to Saint-Pierre
Johanna C, cargo ship, Panama City to anchor for bunkers, then sails to sea
Genmar Geogre T, oil tanker, Dalian, China to anchor for bunkers, then sails to sea


Footnotes

I am impossibly behind on email. Luckily, April 30 is Email Debt Forgiveness Day.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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10 Comments

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  1. I’m a bit confused on the whole purpose of this new Ocean Frontier Institute. Don’t we already have BIO? Aren’t their mandates similar?

    From the BIO website: “BIO is a modern oceanographic research facility… Canada’s largest centre for ocean research. The Institute performs targeted research… on a broad range of ocean issues, including sovereignty, safety and security, environmental protection, the health of the oceans, safe and accessible waterways, the sustainable use of natural resources (fisheries, minerals, oil & gas) and the integrated management large ocean management areas.”

  2. Praising the grammatically creative Mr. Hebb for the sentence:
    “The Ocean Frontier Institute will bring world-leading ocean science technology with disruptive technologies and the best international partners together to develop the R&D needed for sustainable economic growth in this area.”
    is completely justified. It is equally comforting to learn that an “elevator pitch” has preoccupied the finest minds in the Province. And we thought hard work, study, discipline and sound research were the key to academic success.

  3. One aspect of the cut to the film tax credit not mentioned is that these are primarily unionized jobs–well paid with good benefits. Following on the attack on the Health care unions, Grifter Risely and the neoliberal Liberal gov’t would much prefer to have a vulnerable workforce that can be more easily bullied.

  4. That is a weird remark about the NDP government not using the power and the Liberals are. Did you mean that in some sort of sardonic, ironic, or generally mocking way? Whatever I say- totally unnecessary!

    1. I mean whatever you think about the core NDP and Liberal values, the NDP failed to implement them, but the Liberals are. The NDP did not institute provincial auto insurance, did not increase social spending meaningfully, did not bring back rent control, etc. Howard Epstein lists 13 specific examples of legislation the NDP presented in opposition that it did not pass when it had a majority government. Apparently the lacklustre agenda pushing was a misguided attempt to remain popular.

      The Liberals, on the other hand, are implementing their full agenda, public opinion be damned.

  5. Re Tim’s comment “using the power they hold’: Excellent point, and one pursued in detail by Epstein in ‘Rise Again.’ However, when that power is directed towards cuts to the arts and the most vulnerable among us (see today’s announcements of cuts to CNIB and other orgs of equal significance) the gloss surrounding ultimate power fades.

  6. Tim: A bit unfair to accuse the NDP of not using the power they held when they were in government. Have you forgotten their $300 million gift to the Irvings? Now that was socialism — for the rich.

      1. Not forgetting their expropriation of the 3rd generation Christmas tree farm (sustainable, green, local) in favour of the Australian gold mining company (exploitive, toxic, foreign).

    1. And the convention centre, and the open pen fish farming and the biomass power plant and the Yarmouth ferry. Maybe Muskrat Falls on balance is positive, but none of those other things. Where the Dexter government failed was in not bringing in any of the things that really would have benefited “ordinary folk.” like a more secure health care system as one example, or cancelling their involvement in the convention centre thus saving some money perhaps for social services.