McGuinty defends tax credits for controversial films
Published Wednesday, June 11, 2008 4:22PM EDT
TORONTO - Politicians should not engage in censorship of movies, art, literature or architecture, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday as he defended the use of provincial tax credits to help fund a controversial new movie about the sex lives of young singles.
"Young People F---ing,'' which is described as a romantic comedy, had its debut at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival and will be released Friday in theatres across Canada.
The film's producer, Steve Hoban, said the small-budget movie, a $1.4-million production, received $80,000 in federal tax credits and $120,000 in provincial tax credits.
Hoban said that was far less than the income tax paid on the film crew's estimated $1 million in salaries, and said the federal tax credits were designed as a labour incentive and really have little to do with culture.
"It's a funny thing because it's really become the lightning rod for this issue,'' he said. "The way I look at it, that $80,000 in federal tax credits could destroy the multi-billion dollar film industry (in Canada).''
While the federal Conservative government looks to eliminate tax credits from movies it considers offensive, McGuinty said artistic decisions are best left to artists, not politicians or government bureaucrats.
"I'm not familiar with the movie, and I'm not particularly in favour of getting involved in censoring various artistic endeavours,'' McGuinty told reporters.
"I just think there's trouble down that path if we start making those calls as elected officials when it comes to what has and does not have artistic merit.''
The film has frequently been cited in the debate over the federal Conservative government's proposed Bill C-10, which would allow Ottawa to retroactively strip tax credits from films that the heritage minister deems are "offensive or not in the public interest.''
A special screening in Ottawa was well-attended by opposition MPs, although no Conservative members showed up. A staffer for Cambridge Conservative MP Gary Goodyear was fired for reserving a ticket in his name without permission.
McGuinty said he doesn't agree with the federal legislation, and he doesn't think politicians should have a say in artistic matters, despite the fact that governments often fund such enterprises with taxpayers' money.
"There are a lot of people who commented on the Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum, to say they don't like it,'' McGuinty said, referring to the Toronto museum's futuristic new addition. "I think it's fantastic and provocative.''
"I just don't think we politicians should be getting into lending a shape to building designs, what poetry is acceptable and not, and what movies are acceptable and not,'' he added.
Ontario's Progressive Conservatives expressed support for the federal legislation and said the province should be careful about putting taxpayers' money into movies that many would say have too much sexual content.
"I don't know what the contents of the movie are, but certainly the title would suggest that it's something that generally taxpayers would not be too damned enthused about having their money put into its production,'' said Opposition Leader Bob Runciman.
"I think there should be a clear demarcation in terms of what's suitable for tax dollars to support.''
But Culture Minister Aileen Carroll said she is "very comfortable'' with the work of the Ontario Movie Development Corp., the agency that decides which movies will receive provincial tax credits.
"I think they apply the Criminal Code and existing case law, and in so doing they're dispensing public funds in a very responsible and standard manner,'' she said.