Lower wages, tax credits could cut prod'n costs by 25%

TORONTO — Canada has no intention of backpedaling on its generous tax credit and incentives for Americans shooting north of the border, Prime Minister Jean Chretien told a group of Hollywood mavens Friday in Los Angeles.

“There was some debate around the issue of tax credits,” said the prime minister’s spokesman, Duncan Fulton, “and we don’t apologize for it. It allows us to be competitive.”

Chretien took part in a roundtable discussion with Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti and reps from Columbia TriStar and the Film and Television Action Committee, a group formed specifically to tackle runaway production.

“The issue was raised with the Canadian delegation; it’s something that is on the minds of the California industry,” Fulton said. “The Canadian delegation explained their point of view, and there might have been an agreement to disagree.”

Chretien said that Canadian and provincial incentives are comparable to those offered in other territories, including some American states, Australia and New Zealand.

In addition to the low Canadian dollar, filmmakers coming to Canada enjoy lower wages and tax credits and incentives, which can cut a production’s costs by 25%.

L.A. was the last stop on the group’s four-day trade visit through the U.S. Accompanying Chretien were four Western premieres, three territorial leaders and more than 190 delegates traveling under the “Team Canada” banner.

Rally in Hollywood

About 200 supporters of the countervailing tariff petition attended a rally Sunday afternoon at the Hollywood Bowl as cold weather and a last-minute change of venue held down attendance. Speakers included SAG Secretary Elliott Gould, treasurer Kent McCord, cinematographer Haskell Wexler and L.A. city councilmen Eric Garcetti and Tom Labonge.

Supporters of the petition plan to deliver the formal filing at the U.S. Commerce Department in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

“There is a lot of support for this investigation among the working people in the unions,” McCord said.

(Dave McNary in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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