Documentary looks at BC's film tax subsidies

An American documentary series takes a look at the Hollywood visual effects industry and BC's film tax subsidies. 

'Hollywood's Greatest Trick' is produced for the McClatchy newspaper chain.

Jordan Bateman, BC Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, who was interviewed for the series - says billions of taxpayer dollars are handed out in corporate welfare to US film studios.

Bateman says the BC film industry's 'dirty little secret' is provincial taxpayers are paying over half of the wages that go to people working in the industry.

"And when you add it to the way the Canadian dollar has slumped in recent years, it's really a way that American studios double dip - once through currency and once through taxation in order to get these projects done," says Bateman.

He also says Canadians are not necessarily being hired.

"You talk to the Americans who work in the industry, who are worried about their jobs and their future, they'll tell you a lot of these jobs are going to temporary foreign workers who move here ( to BC) for these jobs," he says. 

But what about those who say all that money ends up back in the economy.

"The problem is economic activity is different than getting that money back into the provincial treasury," says Bateman. "Just because there's economic activity doesn't mean that money is flowing back to the provincial government in taxes."  

Bateman says from 2010 to 2014, taxpayers paid for $38.3 million of the $65.6 million dollars Sony Pictures spent on wages in BC - and only half of the money spent by taxpayers is ever recouped by the provincial treasury.

He says the subsidies are huge, and the CTF didn't realize how much it was for individual projects until the big Sony email hack when he says "a bunch of these financial statements and documents came out on WikiLeaks and we saw how much BC was paying."  

Bateman says last month, a Fraser Institute study found film subsidies took up one-third of the money brought in by the province's so-called revenue neutral carbon tax. The practice has since been halted, but he says last year, British Columbians paid 2.7 cents on every litre of gasoline to prop up movie studios.