Reinstate The Film Tax Credit

MS. LENORE ZANN « » :

Mr. Speaker, the film and television industry is not one to take a hit lying down. When the Liberal Finance and Treasury Board Minister hinted at changes to their tax credit a few weeks ago, many in the industry voiced concern, including some of my famous constituents, Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles. When the McNeil Government officially cut the Film Tax Credit beyond recognition last week, hundreds of people took to social media to voice their outrage. The hashtag #SupportNSFilm and #SaveSunnyvale have been retweeted thousands of times and The Coast'sonline poll asks, "Should the Liberals have eliminated the film tax credit?" Currently 93 per cent of the public have said no. In the words of Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire, I'd say it's time for this Liberal Government to show me the money and agree to give the Film Tax Credit back its nature. Thank you.


» : The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River.


MS. LENORE ZANN « » : Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's an honour to rise in my seat today and address the budget that has just been introduced in the House by the Finance and Treasury Board Minister last Thursday.
I have to say that on moving back here to Nova Scotia in 2007, the reason why I moved home to Nova Scotia was because I believed in the future of this little province. As a professional actor, writer, producer, director, for 33 years of my adult life I've travelled the world, I have travelled across North America, I've lived in many cities, I've done many film, television, and theatre productions, and I was lucky enough in my early 30s to discover that I had a voice for animation. I didn't know that before. I had never really thought about it. But suddenly, as an actress who was now no longer 21 years old and playing leading roles, at a time when a lot of my friends were starving and were losing their agents who represented them because they were no longer viable in the system - which is quite sexist as it is anyway - they were now no longer able to get the kinds of roles that would pay for their mortgages and their lives, so a lot of them were dropping out of the business. It's very sad, Mr. Speaker, because this industry - the creative industry and the creative arts - is something that infiltrates our society from the roots right up to the flowers that are growing on top of the trees. A lot of us don't really notice it. We take it for granted. Those of us who actually live and work in that industry as if it's our life and breath - which it is - we know different. We know all the work that goes into creating incredibly beautiful products for the public to enjoy.
Pretty well everything that you can look around and see that has been created by man was created by somebody who is actually talented and creative, who is imaginative. First of all, you have to think it before you make it. Most people do not necessarily have the creative skills to be able to make a living at doing such a thing. It's pretty tough. All of us can say, oh, I could be an actor, I could do this, I could write this, whatever. We've all got stories to tell and that's what makes this world so interesting. But the people who actually go out there and put their lives on the line and try to make a living at it - believe me, it is not an easy slog. It's tough. You have to spend many months and many weeks in anxiety, wondering how you are going to pay your mortgage, how you are going to pay your rent, whether you are going to be able to put food on the table. You go from having a lot of money sometimes, while you are doing a film or television or a dramatic performance, to literally starving and eating tuna fish out of cans and eating spaghetti and Kraft Dinner, just like students. I think that's what keeps us young in some ways - we can relate to students on so many levels.


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I was in my 30s in New York, where I was living on tuna fish and spaghetti out of my apartment. At one point, I had $2 in my pocket. I was in New York because I had just written a play about Marilyn Monroe. I wanted to produce it off-Broadway and I went there. I didn't have an agent; I just thought, I'm going to bite the bullet. I'm going to go there. I'm going to start my life all over again. I've written a play which I want the public to hear and see. So I got an apartment, which was very expensive. But I thought, if I'm going to do it, I have to be there. I have to take a chance.
That's the thing about this industry. We're so used to taking chances. We don't play it safe. We don't have a steady income. We don't even get employment insurance. When we're out of work, we're out of work. You can go for months with no work. That's why many of them have to take jobs as waiters or anything else they can get their hands on just to make a living. I was lucky; I never had to. I would prefer to starve for a couple of weeks than go and do a dead-end job, because I wanted to keep creating and keep writing and keep producing and keep going to as many shows as I could and making as many friends as I could, so that I could get my stories out into the world. At one point, I found myself in New York with $2 in my pocket. I finally did get an agent and I had an audition uptown in New York. I had to decide, would I spend that $2 on the subway to get all the way uptown - because I was downtown - and then walk home, or would I get a coffee for that $2 and walk all the way up uptown and walk all the way back downtown? Well, I got the coffee. I got the coffee and I walked all the way uptown and I did the audition, and then I walked all the way downtown. For me, I remember what that was like. I remember the Salvation Army sent out a thing in the mail that if you were starving and you didn't have a Thanksgiving dinner - it was Thanksgiving in November in the United States - you could come to the Salvation Army and they would feed you. I thought, isn't that interesting. For the first time in my life, I am thinking about going to the Salvation Army and getting a Thanksgiving dinner. In the end, I didn't have to because I got a job. You live on fumes and hope. You live on coffee and hope. You are waiting and hoping against hope that you get that next job and you never know if you're going to. In my case, I did get that next job, but I remembered, so I started paying money to the Salvation Army so it would help pay other people to be able to have the turkey dinner that I knew how desperately I needed at that one point in time. That is the beauty and the sadness of this industry. We have a lot of young people full of hope and vinegar, you know, ready to just give their lives, to devote their lives to the betterment of society so that society can enjoy their stories, their work, and the beauty that they create. We don't do it for the money; I never did it for the money. You do it for the money in that you need to pay your bills, but you don't do it to get rich and famous. You do it because you love it. I did so many things for free because I loved it, and many of us do.


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I mean, if the fact be known, most artists make under $25,000 a year. That's why some of them have to go out and get other types of jobs, and if you want to have a family, it's tough. I really take my hat off for the people who actually have families in this industry and who buy houses and put down roots, because it's really hard. As I've said before, I basically lived out of a suitcase for 30 years because that was the only way I could keep performing. I had to follow the money. I had to follow the film tax credits, because that's where the work was. At first it was in Ontario, and I lived there and I worked there. I worked there for many years. It was great. Then changes were made. Out in Vancouver, they introduced better film tax credits for the industry. It was good for the industry because many of them were coming in from Los Angeles and doing American TV series shot in Vancouver. It was only a two-and-a-half-hour flight to L.A. for them, for the producers and for some of the actors that would come in, some of the name actors, and then the rest of the people that would get cast were Canadians who lived in Vancouver. I picked up roots, I left my house in Toronto, I took my cat, and I moved to Vancouver. I was there for the next 12 years doing film, television, and animation, and flying back and forth to L.A. and doing voiceovers and things there as well.


People think it's a glamorous life. They think that we all live to have these champagne parties where we all get dressed up in these fancy-dancy outfits and toast ourselves. I'm sorry, but that is not the life we live. It is a hard life. We work really hard. We put long hours into it. We are passionate about what we do. An 18-hour day is nothing for us, but do you know what? If you're doing a film or television production, you get paid for that. You do get paid more, you get paid overtime, but you get used to the long hours and the camaraderie. Here in Nova Scotia, when I moved back in 2007, dying to give back to this community and help to create a thriving creative economy and teach young people that you can be successful no matter where you come from. No matter what little rural district, little hamlet you come from, if you have the talent and the drive and you have the desire and the hard work - you have to work really hard and you have to be able to take no for an answer and find another route. The door will keep getting shut in your face, but you just say thank you very much and you go find another route. There will be a door that will always open. You just have to find it. You just don't give up before it's too late, before your time is over. You keep it up. You keep up the fight. That's where I've learned how to survive. It's a survivor's game. When I moved back to Nova Scotia, I was thrilled that we were starting to have thriving and burgeoning film and creative industries here in Nova Scotia. I was determined to give back to that and help it grow. When the NDP asked me to run for election in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, I thought, well, what better way to be able to give back to your community and to try to help grow the creative economy than to be a voice at the table inside government, rather than carrying a placard with a bullhorn on the outside?


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I thought, wow, what a great concept. I'll run and I'll talk about the creative economy. I'll talk ad nauseam until people get so sick of it that they actually start listening - and it worked. We started talking more and more about the creative economy. Every economic development meeting I went to, including when we did different studies, I'd say, don't forget about the creative economy, don't forget about the creative economy. I sounded like a parrot. This is important, and I think what we have seen in the last two weeks now is this creative economy and this creative community of Nova Scotia coming together to be heard, to make their voices heard, to make their passions known, to say enough is enough - we're sick and tired of being kicked around as if we are nothing. We don't need to take the back door anymore like we used to back hundreds of years ago, in Shakespeare's time. We are people too. We pay taxes too. We have jobs, we have families, and we want to live in Nova Scotia and we want to make our lives here because we believe in this province. We are young and we are proud and we don't want to have to leave here to go off to Ontario or further west. We want to stay right here, and you are making us go away. You are making us leave. You are showing us that we mean nothing to you and that you do not understand our industry. Well, I understand the industry, and I'm here to say, please, please, I beg of this Liberal Government - reconsider this disastrous choice. It's disastrous. It will not help you, it will not help our province, and it will teach many young people that this is not a province they want to come and live in. You couple that with what you've done now to the students in taking the cap off their tuitions and you have a double whammy. You have a triple whammy when you add in the rural districts. I come from Truro. It's a small town and it's close to Halifax, so it's almost becoming like a bedroom community for Halifax - many people do come back and forth - but it's still considered a rural community, and I'm proud of that. When I lived in New York, sometimes I would fly back and forth. I'd have a cappuccino at Grand Central Station in the morning while I was waiting for the bus to take me out to the airport, and then I'd come back and land at the airport 45 minutes away from Truro, come home, and watch a soccer game in the Tim Hortons Field in Truro and watch my little nephew play soccer, and I'd think, how lucky am I? How lucky am I? I live in a beautiful, pristine province where people are friendly, where people are kind. People need help. There's a lot of poverty in this province. Many people live and make under $35,000 a year. I'm sorry, but that is not acceptable in this day and age. That's not acceptable. We can do better. I didn't see anything in this budget - nothing in this budget - that will help these people. Nothing. As an MLA now, I see many people coming to my office who need help. They live on the $20 a week that I used to live on, and I look them in the eyes and I go, I know how it feels. I know that fear. I know that anxiety. Trust me, I'm going to do everything I can to help you. And that's what we do as MLAs: we try to help people.


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So, between the gutting of the tax credit, taking off the caps for the students, and then taking these productions out of rural Nova Scotia, it's really a triple whammy. In my business, we would say a triple threat. A triple threat is a good thing in my industry - it means you can sing, dance, and act, which means that you're going to work. Since I've moved back home, I've noticed how many great dance companies there are now, how many great dance classes and dance teachers there are. We didn't have that back when I was here. We had Halifax Dance and a couple of others, but in Truro we had nothing. I had to stop taking dance when we first moved to Nova Scotia because there were no classes. So I only got to sing and act.


I'm here to say today that the arts community would thank you, and all those carpenters and seamstresses and all the spinoff economies that are relying on this industry would thank you from the bottom of our hearts if you could talk to your leaders and please get them to reverse their decision about the film and television tax credit. Thank you.


MR. SPEAKER « » : Order, please.
The motion is carried.