By Hilary White

OTTAWA, March 4, 2008 ( – The Conservative government today announced changes to the Income Tax Act that would allow the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits to film and television projects deemed offensive or not in the public’s best interest.

Canadian film and television producers can claim expenses on their tax returns when their material meets certain criteria. Already disallowed are programmes deemed to be outright pornographic.

Charles Drouin, spokesman for Canadian Heritage said in a statement that Bill C-10, currently at third reading in the Senate, contains an amendment to the Income Tax Act “which would allow the Minister of Canadian Heritage to deny eligibility to tax credits of productions determined to be contrary to public policy.”

Drouin said the “Department of Canadian Heritage plans to update the eligibility requirements for the [Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit] programme.”

The criteria for deciding what productions can receive a tax credit for their expenses will be “expanding slightly” to include gratuitous violence, significant sexual content that lacks an educational purpose, or denigration of an identifiable group. Canadian Heritage promised more details next week.

Film director David Cronenberg, known for sexually explicit and extremely violent content in his films, complained that the move would create a “chill” and called it an assault on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The irony is that it is the Canadian films that have given us an international reputation [that] would be most at risk because they are the edgy, relatively low-budget films made by people like me and others that will be targeted by this panel,” Cronenberg said.

His comment was backed up in Parliament by New Democrat MP Libby Davies, who accused the government of attempting to “suit their friends in the religious right”.

But while some are crying censorship, Brian Rushfeldt Executive Director of Canada Family Action Coalition said the initiative is a lesson in the Canadian “entitlement mentality” that assumes that the Charter guarantees the right to government funding.

Rushfeldt said, “Let them argue this one before the public, ask the taxpayer in the next election, if they want to spend 1.5 million dollars for a film called ‘Young People F***’ – a pornographic film that even some Toronto Film Festival people thought questionable. Cronenberg and his friends will lose that argument and the one about their Charter right to be funded.”
“Accusations that this is about censorship are ludicrous. There is no law that says they cannot produce whatever perverted movie they want to. They have been doing that. But this is about asking families to take money out their budget so David Cronenberg and other ‘artists’ can have a paycheck,” said Rushfeldt.

Even more bluntly, the popular conservative blogger, Kathy Shaidle, wrote that even “liberal American” entertainers possess a sense of self-reliance most Canadian ‘artists’ deem unseemly.”

She quipped, “If David Cronenberg’s movies are ‘low budget’, why does he have to steal my money to make them?”