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New Nova Scotia film fund will go ahead despite objections: premier

The Nova Scotia legislature is pictured in Halifax in this March 26, 2013 file photo. Police say about 200 people rallied at the legislature today to push for a last-minute amendment to the Financial Measures Act which is scheduled to be passed soon.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

A last-minute appeal to delay the implementation date for Nova Scotia's new $10 million film production fund was categorically shot down Monday by Premier Stephen McNeil.

About 200 members of the province's film and television industry rallied in front of the legislature over the noon hour to push for an amendment to legislation that would replace the current $24 million film tax credit.

Those in attendance said they wanted a delay to the change in the current tax credit, saying the July 1 deadline doesn't provide enough time to adjust given there are still no details about the new fund or how it will actually work.

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But McNeil later said there would be no delay, despite an amendment motion introduced by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives to extend the deadline to March 31.

McNeil said the province typically knows how many productions it will fund for the fiscal year by July 1 and so it has decided that applications received after that date will be assessed under the new funding program.

He said the deadline has been clear ever since the original changes were announced in his government's spring budget.

"We all know those rules are changing," said McNeil. "It's going to be under the fund model."

McNeil said he believed there would be ample time to adjust to the new fund and also said he had confidence it would be administered properly by Nova Scotia Business Inc., although he didn't specify the reasons for his conviction on either point, when pressed.

He also took the opportunity to again question the industry's tax value when compared to the money spent in incentives by the province.

"We know the global spend and we know the benefit to the province and quite frankly we don't believe it's there," McNeil said.

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He also said the government didn't know any specific tax information on productions because it is protected under tax law.

Industry group Screen Nova Scotia says the refundable tax credit generated $139 million in production spending in 2013-14, supporting 2,700 jobs.

That conflicts with a Finance Department analysis that says the value of production amounted to only $66.8 million in 2013-14, generating $39.4 million in salaries and wages.

Scott Simpson, Screen Nova Scotia vice-chairman, said it's clear the government has chosen a narrow definition of a return on tax benefit to the province.

"Nova Scotians deserve a broader definition of return in the form of jobs and wealth and redistribution and economic benefits to other businesses," said Simpson.

He also pointed out that the Finance Department knows exactly how and where the money is spent because audited cost reports were submitted as part of the tax credit application process.

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"Every item that we spend money on is itemized there," he said. "The paperwork is all there."

The last comprehensive study on the overall impact of the film industry on the province's economy was completed in 2004. Last month a Finance Department official said the study showed the province broke even getting as much money from revenues as it invested in the tax credit.

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