Pierre DesRoches has unexpectedly resigned as executive director of Telefilm Canada, the country’s most influential film and TV funder. DesRoches, who has helmed Montreal-based Telefilm for the past six years, announced Thursday he will be leaving the job June 1. He notified Michel Dupuy, the minister of Canadian heritage, by letter earlier in the week.

DesRoches’ surprise decision comes just days before the new Liberal government’s first budget, which will be unveiled in the federal Parliament on Feb. 22. The government revealed this week that the budget will contain up to $ C1 billion ($ 743 million) of spending cuts.

DesRoches insisted his decision “has nothing to do with the budget,” saying he made up his mind about resigning a few months ago. But Telefilm has already been hit hard by substantial budget cuts over the past two years, and DesRoches is on record as stating that any further cuts would radically alter the way Telefilm funds the Canadian industry. Telefilm’s 1993-94 budget was slashed by $ C22 million ($ 16.3 million).

This is the second time in six months that the head of a federally funded cultural corporation has stepped down amidst speculation that the resignation was a reaction to severe cutbacks. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. prexy Gerard Veilleux resigned in the fall, one year before the end of his term at the head of the cash-strapped pubcaster.

Last summer, DesRoches’ Telefilm contract was renewed by the federal government for two more years. DesRoches says he’s leaving early because there are complex, long-term challenges facing Telefilm that cannot be dealt with before the end of his current term.

“There’s quite a bit of work that the corporation will have to do in the next few years, and my mandate only has one year left,” said DesRoches.

The outgoing Telefilm boss admits his colleagues were “flabbergasted” by his decision. Telefilm Canada pumped $ C150 million ($ 111.4 million) into the Canadian industry last year, and the federal funder is a financial partner in 75 % of all Canadian feature films and TV programs.

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