Quebec is still part of Canada – for the moment. But the future of the largely French-Canadian province and its entertainment industry is up in the air, given growing popular support for the Quebec separatist movement, which is intent on taking the province out of Canada’s federal system.
Federalists eked out a narrow win in the referendum on sovereignty held here Oct. 30, but the secessionist Parti Quebecois government has made clear it plans to hold another referendum.
The specter of secession raises a host of issues for the Canadian and Quebec film and television sectors. The Canadian biz has always been a heavily subsidized industry, and federal funder Telefilm Canada, which has its head office in Montreal, is widely regarded as one of the key motors of production in the country. In 1994-95, Telefilm Canada handed out C$30 million ($22 million) in direct funding to film and TV productions in Quebec, and more than 40% of Telefilm’s $116 million budget is spent on direct and indirect support of the Quebec industry.
“Obviously, a large majority of the people in this field (in Quebec) are on the (pro-independence) yes side,” Alliance Releasing VP Pierre Brousseau says. “My analysis is that they don’t fully realize what could happen negatively after such a decision. How could they have the same support potential, after all the problems that will arise, that will have priority, like hospitals and unemployment? How do they think they could maintain the same amount of funding?”
The federal government spent about $660 million in the cultural sector in Quebec last year. The Heritage Department, the federal cultural ministry, spends more than $200 million in the province annually, and the federal film studio, the National Film Board of Canada based in Montreal, spends $67 million each year in Quebec. Radio-Canada, the French TV and radio networks of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), pumps another $330 million into the Quebec economy.