Question re: Film industry - April 21, 2016

Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development about a letter that he received this week from the president of the Screen Production Yukon Association. It was regarding a review of the Yukon government’s film funding programs. According to the letter, these programs are in desperate need of revision and reflection of the recent evolution in the industry. Digital media, in particular, is in dire need of incorporation into the Yukon film funding programs. The government has identified the requirement to review and update the current funding programs to address digital media, as well as other funding gaps, but it has not delivered on providing any solid process, timelines, road maps or otherwise to have such a task completed on time soon.

The government began its review a year ago and said programming will be updated in January of 2016. Mr. Speaker, why has the government missed its own deadline?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: The Department of Economic Development is undertaking a review of the funding programs offered by the Film and Sound Commission. There have been significant changes in technology and the possible distribution mechanisms in the film industry in recent years. The department is currently meeting with stakeholders who have an interest in Yukon’s film industry in order to obtain input on how they see these changes impacting our film programs.

Currently, the department has met with 10 groups and individuals representing over 100 members who have an interest in an economically viable film and sound industry here in the Yukon.

Mr. Silver: I appreciate the update from the minister, but preliminary input was requested over 12 months ago but, to date, there has been no follow-up and the members of the Yukon industry are completely in the dark as to what the next steps, if any, are and when they will take place.

It is crucial for Yukon government to address the current issue of film funding program inadequacies and deliver a firm plan for the revision in an expedient manner. Given the past year of limited progress in the film funding review process, it is even more imperative for the Yukon government to take a leadership role to review the film funding programs and to gather information from those stakeholders.

We heard an update today on the floor, but when does the minister anticipate this will happen and when will it actually be completed?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: Of course it’s important that we take the time to do the good work and to talk to all the people involved, so we don’t have to go through this process again next year or the year after. It’s important to try to do it once and do it right.

 Mr. Speaker, industry meetings are showing that there are a multitude of different funding models that people are interested in, and department officials are meeting with officials from the Arts branch of Tourism and Culture to discuss funding opportunities for film and sound within the Yukon government. Film and Sound Commission officials have completed face-to-face stakeholder consultation meetings within the territory and provided each group with the meeting minutes for their approval.

We do realize this is an important issue and we will continue to do the good work to try and move forward in the best way possible.

Mr. Silver: I do appreciate from the minister that he and his department want to get it done right. The general tone of the letter is to get on with it. It speaks to the lack of urgency that the government has taken in its approach to this funding review. There’s a great deal of interest in the Yukon right now, Mr. Speaker. We need to be ready to meet that demand.

Instead, the government is stuck in a review that is now months past its deadline for reporting. When your GDP drops for three years in a row, the government should be working to grow new industries and to diversify our economy. Why has completing this review not become a priority?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: I think it’s important to realize that we have $710,000 in the budget this year for film and sound incentive programs. That does show that we are interested in diversifying the economy and helping this film and sound sector of our economy.

We heard just the other day an official from film and sound talking about how Dawson had so much interest in it this year — the Yukon in general. There are great things happening in the film and sound industry here in the Yukon, and we’re very happy to see that. The work that the department is doing helps that work continue, helps those film production crews come to the Yukon, helps those productions take place, and in turn puts Yukoners to work.