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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bill Me: Passionately fighting Bill C-10

This is the letter I ended up sending to, well, everybody. I hope someone actually reads it.

Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

Normally it would be hard for me to write a letter like this without feeling contrite because my patriotism and deep respect for this country are important parts of who I am. But, in this case, it would appear that you have struck the first blow and I have to say that it caught me quite off guard. Please forgive me in advance if my tone is less than jovial but it's hard for me to maintain pleasantries. You see, I've been helping to thwart blatant attacks on my country and my culture from my own government for the last 8 months.

I am a young, aspiring writer here in this country, a proud Canadian and an avid promoter of my homeland. Frankly, I am shocked and appalled by the amendment being proposed to the Income Tax Act in Bill C-10. An amendment that would allow for the Heritage Minister to pull the tax credits from any production that they deem to be "offensive". Tax credits that, due to the nature of the Canadian Film and TV industry, would've been spent the moment they were approved.

"The Conservative government has drafted guidelines that would allow it to pull financial aid for any film or television show that it deems offensive or not in the public's best interest – even if government agencies have invested in them.

The proposed changes to the Income Tax Act would allow the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits to projects deemed offensive, effectively killing the productions. Representatives from Heritage and the Department of Justice will determine which shows or films pass the test."
- Gayle Macdonald, "Tories plan to withhold funding for 'offensive' productions", The Globe and Mail

Now, I'm not going to spend my precious free time to write in and complain about censorship - that is an argument that goes without saying. I am writing in today to fight for the very life of an industry that this government seems dedicated to stamping out.

I've been actively following the developments at the CRTC since last July in regards to the whole CTF (Canadian Television Fund) Task Force fiasco. I call it so because - since Jim Shaw threw his now-famous hissy fit - the CRTC has been working to rip the backbone out of the Canadian Film and Television industry. Their original timetable quietly planned on having their laundry list of changes made and into effect for January of this year but thanks to passionate letters from Canadians all over the country, that timetable was stalled.

The changes they were looking to implement were far too numerous to mention in this letter but I've read the CTF's report and, in layman's terms, it essentially called for the utter disembowelment of the Fund; its organs to be harvested and used to benefit our ever-suffering Cable providers - in the form of a Broadcast Development Undertakings fund, no less. It's an action that would allow them the good grace to govern themselves in what they believe Canadian Television should look like (hint: it has less Canadians involved in it).

Now your first thought might be that I'm being a tad over-dramatic, that I'm caught up in the heat of the moment, but I've put lots of my free time into tracking down and following these events over the last 8 months. I watched live on CPAC over the course of a week as wave after wave of brave Canadian writers, directors, actors and producers stood before CRTC Commissioners Arpin, Morin and Cugini. I watched as they spoke, one after the other, for hours on end - passionately - about the blow that splitting the CTF would be to our industry. And I watched in disbelief as the commissioners belittled their powerful speeches with playful terms like M. Arpin's favourite: "playing Devil's Advocate"; Dismissing their countless suggestions and ideas with barely a glance in their direction.

And now this.

An amendment to the Income Tax Act that essentially gives a few people the power to determine what is 'okay' for us to see. A person or panel with the authority to CRUSH any production that they feel is not 'in the public's best interests'. This is a slippery slope at best, for who gets to make these decisions? And how do we know that they are truly acting in our own best interests? For it has already been proven today - this morning, in fact - that the government is not above being swayed by a group that wishes to censor what we, as free Canadian citizens, are allowed to be exposed to.

"Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said his lobbying efforts included discussions with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and "numerous" meetings with officials in the Prime Minister's Office.

"We're thankful that someone's finally listening," he said yesterday. "It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government."
Mr. McVety said films promoting homosexuality, graphic sex or violence should not receive tax dollars, and backbench Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers support his campaign."

- Bill Curry and Gayle MacDonald, "Evangelist takes credit for film crackdown", Globe And Mail

So, please, tell me how I can support a Government that tries to stab our own culture and an entire industry - an industry I've been working all of my short life to be a part of - in the back based off the lobbying of a special interest group? In a sneaky, underhanded tactic no less - an amendment slipped in on the second reading of a bill already in the senate? How can I maintain my trust in a system, or you as a Prime Minister, when I know that you and your cabinet are beholden to people who are have only their own agendas at heart? You may think you're 'helping' us but you are, with a stroke of a pen, silencing us - potentially forever - at the behest of someone whom I did NOT vote for, or even have a say in their role in my government.

And never mind the fact that our already ailing Film and Television industry will crumble, never mind the fact that the talented artistic individuals in this country will be forced out to find work in another - YOU, a government without a decisive mandate, a government without a unified Canadian voice, a government without even 50% of the country's support - YOU are putting the final nail in the coffin of independent, original Canadian content.

For what bank in their right mind would ever support a project where a massive chunk of its funding could disappear overnight? Or at ANY time afterward - taken back as an after-thought by someone with an axe to grind? Who would take the chance that their idea of what is "in the public's best interest" is not the same as whoever happens to be in power? Who would ever greenlight a production where they could be left holding the bag and thus responsible for repaying hundreds of thousands of dollars?

It is nothing but sheer lunacy to enact something like this at a time like this - just when we're getting it right, just when shows like Little Mosque on the Prairie and The Border and Sophie and Jpod are taking off. Just when gritty Canadian directed films like Cronenberg's Eastern Promises are recieving Oscar nominations - literally, international recognition.

So I am here, right now, telling you NO.

As a tax-paying citizen of this country, as a proud Canadian and as an emerging writer who will be ultimately and intimately affected by your arbitrary decision, I am telling you NO.

NO you may not cleave our CTF in twain, offering the largest parts on silver platters to our already well-protected cable providers.

NO you may not appoint a person or a 'panel' to determine for Canadians what is okay for us to see.

NO you may not offer me tax incentives with one hand and rip out my heart with the other.

Because that is what you are doing.

You are standing there beneath my flag, in an office that I respect, and telling me that you're looking out for my best interests while handing off my hard-earned money and my culture to people who care about the former but not the latter. Or to people who have a desire to remould our great, diverse country into their own image. That is not why you were given the limited power that you were. You have been trusted to look after the running of this country, the health and safety and FREEDOM of the people in it.

By enacting Bill C-10 in its current form you are single-handedly killing an entire industry and subjecting the remnants to rule by a committee of partisan politicals with their ears already bent.

And for what?

With Regards,
Brandon Laraby

CC:
Dion, Stephane
Layton, Jack
Duceppe, Giles
Bennett, Carolyn
Adams, Willie
Andreychuk, Raynell
Angus, W. David
Atkins, Norman K.
Bacon, Lise
Baker, George
Banks, Tommy
Biron, Michel
Brown, Bert
Bryden, John G.
Callbeck, Catherine S.
Campbell, Larry W.
Carstairs, Sharon
Champagne, Andrée
Chaput, Maria
Cochrane, Ethel M.
Comeau, Gerald J.
Cook, Joan
Cools, Anne C.
Cordy, Jane
Cowan, James
Dallaire, Roméo
Dawson, Dennis
Day, Joseph A.
De Bané, Pierre
Di Nino, Consiglio
Downe, Percy E.
Dyck, Lillian Eva
Eggleton, Art
Eyton, John Trevor
Fairbairn, Joyce
Fortier, Michael
Fraser, Joan
Furey, George
Gill, Aurélien
Goldstein, Yoine
Grafstein, Jerahmiel S.
Gustafson, Leonard J.
Harb, Mac
Hervieux-Payette, Céline
Hubley, Elizabeth
Jaffer, Mobina S.B.
Johnson, Janis G.
Joyal, Serge
Kenny, Colin
Kinsella, Noël A.
Lapointe, Jean
Lavigne, Raymond
LeBreton, Marjory
Losier-Cool, Rose-Marie
Lovelace Nicholas, Sandra M.
Mahovlich, Frank W.
Massicotte, Paul J.
McCoy, Elaine
Meighen, Michael A.
Mercer, Terry M.
Merchant, Pana
Milne, Lorna
Mitchell, Grant
Moore, Wilfred P.
Munson, Jim
Murray, Lowell
Nancy Ruth
Nolin, Pierre Claude
Oliver, Donald H.
Pépin, Lucie
Peterson, Robert W.
Phalen, Gerard A.
Pitfield, P. Michael
Poulin (Charette), Marie-P.
Poy, Vivienne
Prud'homme, Marcel
Ringuette, Pierrette
Rivest, Jean-Claude
Robichaud, Fernand
Rompkey, William
Segal, Hugh
Sibbeston, Nick G.
Smith, David P.
Spivak, Mira
St. Germain, Gerry
Stollery, Peter A.
Stratton, Terry
Tardif, Claudette
Tkachuk, David
Watt, Charlie
Zimmer, Rod A. A.

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