Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bill C-10

This is old news by now. Part of the new Income Tax Bill contains a provision that would allow the Heritage Minister to deny key tax credits to films that the government deems offensive or 'not in the public interest.' I was wondering what exactly these tax credits are that everyone is concerned about losing. There's a little something about them here; apparently, it's a refundable credit of sixteen percent of wages paid to Canadians or Canadian companies in making a movie. If the government doesn't like what your movie has to say, though, it will soon have the power to deny you this credit, and it would seem that for a lot of films, that is effectively a death sentence.

Now, the strangest part of the whole Bill C-10 is that people who could care less about s.13 of the Human Rights Act are suddenly crying 'censorship' when it comes to funding movies. I have had people argue to me that the bill is actually worse than s. 13, because at least a respondent before the Human Rights Tribunal has a chance to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, while the filmmaker denied his credit gets no such review. Someone actually quoted Madam Justice McLachlin's (as she then was) argument from the Keegstra case, that any drawing a line between acceptable and unacceptable speech catches not only the speech that crosses the line, but anything that would be close - because no one will want to take a chance. I would have no problem with people making these points if they would apply them equally to instances of real censorship - the kind involving government commissions investigating and charging citizens for the offence of sharing ideas.

This is not to make apologies for Bill C-10. The best the Heritage Ministry can say about it is that they would not enforce it very strictly, and so we shouldn't worry that the next Crash will lose its tax credit. If Canada is going to be in the business of funding movies, that doesn't mean it should be sitting in the MPAA chair, combing through our scripts looking for salaciousness, wielding their red pens. All I mean to say is: Some perspective, please. Let's get the state out of its increasingly comfortable position between the writer's pen and the page.