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Blizzard of bizzers backs breaks

Group wants more incentives for foreign producers

TORONTO — More than 1,000 film-and-TV industryites converged on Ontario’s provincial legislature in downtown Toronto Wednesday to urge politicians to help their ailing business with increased tax breaks.

The group wants incentives for foreign producers upped from 11% to compete with other locales that have been pulling work away from Ontario, including the province of Manitoba, where incentives top out at 40%, and U.S. states such as Louisiana.

The provincial government promised to raise the incentives to 18% before its election, but has not yet delivered on its commitment.

The Toronto industry is also miffed that those who do lense in Ontario are given extra incentives to shoot outside Toronto.

The crew of “The West Wing” is today arriving in Dundas, Ontario, for a week’s shoot in which Dundas poses as a New Hampshire town. Ironically, a TV movie about the SARS scare in Toronto is being lensed in nearby Hamilton. “A lot of people are suffering and out of work,” said producer Don Carmody. “When the dollar was low two years ago, and more movies-of-the-week were being made, people could rest on their laurels. Now that the dollar’s high and everyone’s playing the game that Ontario and B.C. invented, we have to decide if we want to stay in it.”

The demonstrators included actors, directors and those in support professions such as lawyers, accountants, drivers and caterers. They brandished effigies of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and provincial finance minister Greg Sorbara.

While neither pol appeared at the demonstration, McGuinty did tell reporters that his government is aware of the matter’s urgency. Sorbara has a meeting scheduled with the industry coalition FilmOntario on Dec. 8.

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