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Archive for April, 2012

Premier Wall answers critics on the death of the Film Tax Credit

On this blog ( Roger Currie Storyteller ), on the Talk of the Town program which I host on Access 7 in Regina, and throughout the mainstream media in Saskatchewan, Premier Brad Wall has come under heavy criticism over his government’s handling of the Film Tax Credit issue.

Today ( Friday April 13th ) I received the following letter from the Premier.

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pcu-regina
April 13, 2012
Hello,
Thank you for writing regarding the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit (SFETC).
Our government has committed to Saskatchewan people that we will work to keep our budget balanced and our economy strong. As the only province in Canada with a balanced budget so far this year, Saskatchewan has been able to avoid the drastic cuts we see other governments being forced to make in order to rein in their huge budget deficits. To maintain our balanced budget and strong fiscal position, however, we must focus taxpayers’ dollars on core programs that provide growth and sustainability for our economy and fairness for Saskatchewan taxpayers.
We are always faced with a great number of competing priorities, and consequently, with some tough choices to make. While it is called a “tax credit”, the SFETC is effectively a government grant to one particular industry that is not available to other sectors of our economy. This simply was not justifiable in the long run both in terms of cost and in terms of fairness to other industries and Saskatchewan taxpayers. After much consideration, we made the decision to discontinue the SFETC in this year’s provincial budget.
Following this announcement in the budget, I met with and listened to the concerns raised by the film and television industry. Our government has agreed with their request to extend the deadline for applications under this year’s program from March 31, 2012 to June 30, 2012. This will allow the industry to take advantage of the spring production marketing season and conclude business within the existing program.
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April 13, 2012
pcu-regina
We are prepared to look at other measures to support the industry but we remain committed to ending the tax grant program. During our meeting with film industry representatives we discussed several possible opportunities, including the industry taking over the Sound Stage in Regina with an offer for operating support. We talked about the possibility of a new tax credit for film producers based on reducing actual taxes paid in the province. And we discussed possible research and development incentives that may help the industry take advantage of digital media and production.
Some have incorrectly argued that similar grants occur in other industries such as oil and potash. Oil gets no subsidy. Potash companies receive a temporary decrease in royalties during major capital expansions like the construction of a new mine. This is significantly different for two reasons. One, this is a tax reduction applied against taxes payable in Saskatchewan, and the potash companies still wind up paying a significant amount of taxes and royalties in our province. Two, it is not a permanent tax reduction. The incentive ends after the capital investment ends, and when it ends, Saskatchewan potash producers pay the highest royalties in the world.
Both the oil and potash industries are huge net payers of taxes. On the other hand, 98 per cent of SFETC money paid was in the form of a grant, often to companies that set up only temporarily in Saskatchewan, while only two per cent was an actual credit against taxes paid in the province.
Our government has also moved away from ad hoc payments to farmers in this budget. We have advised agricultural producers to buy crop insurance and that no assistance will be available in the event of a crop failure unless they have crop insurance.
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April 13, 2012
pcu-regina
We recognize the benefit of seeing the film industry grow more substantively in the province and to shift the focus of our policy to Saskatchewan-based companies. The industry representatives I have spoken with share this objective. Our government will consider a non-refundable tax credit that would benefit companies permanently located here in Saskatchewan and paying taxes here in Saskatchewan. This would encourage the growth of the industry in our province in a way that is better for our economy and fairer to Saskatchewan taxpayers.
Our government continues to support arts and culture through investments to the Saskatchewan Arts Board, SaskFilm, SaskCulture, and the Community Vitality Program, guided by Pride of Saskatchewan, our province’s culture policy. In fact, our government has increased funding to the arts by over 30 per cent. And we will continue to work on innovative solutions to support the industry and provide incentives for investment in Saskatchewan. However, we will not compete in a bidding war with other provinces and U.S. states using taxpayer dollars.
I have forwarded your email to the Honourable Bill Hutchinson, Minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport, for his consideration.
Thank you for writing.
Brad Wall
Premier
cc Honourable Bill Hutchinson
Minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport

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Death of a thousand cold cuts, part 2

It has been a bad few weeks for democracy in Canada, and the prairies have gotten the short end even more than usual.

The devil is in the details when it comes to the Harper government’s recent budget.

Some of the nastier details did not emerge until members of parliament had left Ottawa for their two week Easter break.

Agriculture spending is being cut by more than $300 million dollars.

Against the backdrop of a noisy debate over Billions of dollars for new fighter planes, such a cut doesn’t seem like much.

But some of the moves affect programs that began as prairie farmers struggled to survive during the dust bowl that coincided with the Great Depression of the 1930’s.


The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration began in the dirty 30’s.

Over the decades it has quietly done some amazing work that has allowed farming to prosper.

Across much of the prairie region farming has always been marginally risky because of too much moisture as we saw last year, but more often too little moisture.

The community of Indian Head, east of Regina, has been home to PFRA.

It has seen the development of the shelterbelt tree program which has helped farmers right across the region.

Indeed most of the trees that prevent soil erosion and beautify the prairie landscape were carefully planted decades ago.

And the lessons that Canada learned by developing such programs have been quietly shared with farmers in other parts of the world.

Once the budget cuts are implemented, much of the work of PFRA will simply die.

Dozens of researchers will be cut loose.

Elsewhere in the infrastructure that has helped Canada become a leader in the job of feeding a hungry world, there are renewed concerns about the safety of the food we buy in the grocery store.

The details are still being announced in regional offices across the country, but it appears the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will lose more than 300 inspectors.

The inspection process will become more and more random, and Ottawa will be relying more on the meatpacking industry to do its own quality control.

All of this comes under the watch of Gerry Ritz, the minister of Agriculture.

He was the guy in charge when more than twenty Canadians died in 2008 after consuming meat products that were tainted with lysteria.

It happened on the brink of an election, and the government promised to dramatically increase inspections to prevent another such tragedy. Ritz is generally the only member of Stephen Harper’s large prairie caucus who is allowed to open his mouth. When he does, the media doesn’t exactly subject him to a blistering cross examination.

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The Public Service Alliance and other groups who are affected by these cuts will huff and puff and sound the alarm bells for a while.

But back in Ottawa it will be business as usual.

The roar of jet planes with much higher price tags will drown out the concerns of farming and food production.

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Roger Currie is a Regina writer, broadcaster and blogger.

He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7.

He will be relocating to Winnipeg at the end of April.

He can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

‘Move along folks .. nothing to see here’

This week in the month of April is notable for two very grim anniversaries. We had the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. 3600 Canadians died in an event which historians point to as one of the events that forged this country into a nation.

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I will always have difficulty with that concept somehow.

Five years before the horror of Vimy Ridge, many Canadians were among the 1500 people who perished when the Titanic sank to the ocean floor off the coast of Newfoundland.

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More than  a hundred of the victims are buried on Canadian soil, in a cemetery in Halifax.

This week, the saga of the unsinkable ship is reaching a climax as a century has passed since that fateful night. We should have known that in the digital age, this landmark anniversary would become a major hilight of the reality TV world.

We have commemorative cruises sailing from either side of the Atlantic. There are Titanic parties with guests decked out in expensive period costumes. Chefs are preparing the same food that passengers ate at what turned out to be the last meal for so many of them. It’s a huge merchandising opportunity.

Excuse me but does anyone else besides me find it all rather disrespectful and inappropriate? I mean, do we have 9/11 parties in September? More than a thousand people died a century ago because of the reckless negligence of the White Star Line, an arrogant shipping company which refused to pay enough attention to safeguarding the lives of its customers.

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Robert Ballard must shoulder some of the blame. He’s the American oceanographer who found the wreck of the ship on the floor of the Atlantic in 1985. Since then, the wreckage has been plundered rather shamelessly. Ballard has wanted no part of it. He knew that what he discovered was basically a burial site which should have been left alone.

I guess we must also hang some of this on that most untypical Canadian named James Cameron. It was his blockbuster movie, released in 1997 that fueled the tragic story for a whole new generation.

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Now he’s milking it for millions more as a 3D adaptation is up on the giant screens. A much more respectful telling of the story was the 1958 British movie “A Night to Remember”.

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All in all it makes one wish that we could wave the attention away and move on.

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Roger Currie is a Regina writer, broadcaster and blogger.

 

He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7.

He will be relocating to Winnipeg at the end of April.

He can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

 

Moments of inspiration .. with microphones

Less than three weeks now until I close the book on my second Regina life and return to Winnipeg. It is a move being made for very personal and positive reasons, and the timing is proving to be very interesting.

The weekend of May 25th and 26th will mark the 100th anniversary of Winnipeg’s Kelvin High School from which I graduated Magna Cum Nothing in 1965. I am very honoured to have been asked to co-EMCEE the gala dinner, along with Fiona Odlum, CJOB’s Eye in the morning sky, who graduated in 1990.

Kelvin Reunion, latest info

This past Saturday I was asked to help promote the event by appearing on CJNU, Winnipeg’s home of Nostalgia Radio

Nostalgia Radio

This intriguing operation has been around for more than a decade in a few different forms, and it has proven to remarkably popular. Programs are hosted by a variety of people, including a number of veteran broadcasters like myself. In May of 2005 I was part of the group that did programming from Winnipeg’s Deer Lodge Centre, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VE Day.

I did the morning show for a whole week, reuniting for a couple of days with my old CBC partner Lesley Hughes.

This month, CJNU is broadcasting from the 13th floor of Winnipeg’s tallest skyscraper, the Richardson Building. You gotta love a wealthy clan who thumb their noses at superstition, less than a week before Friday the 13th no less.

This one hour broadcast allowed me the privilege and pleasure of meeting a most remarkable fellow Kelvinite named Scott Best.

Scott graduated from Kelvin in 2007 and he’s now taking Creative Communications, a program which is shared by Red River College and the University of Winnipeg.

Did I mention that Scott is blind, mostly likely from birth it appears? Not surprisingly, he has always felt a very strong connection to the realm of radio, and CJNU in particular. He tells the story himself on the their website.

Since the age of four, I have loved Nostalgia music. Every day, my grandparents would bring me home from school, and on the way, they would entertain me with the music of Patsy Cline, Dean Martin, or Max Bygraves. While I enjoyed the normal children’s fare from Fred Penner and Raffi, there seemed to be something special about that Frank Sinatra guy my parents always listened to.

Radio was a large part of my life as well. I would wake up to Don Percy, Cliff Gardner or Jack Wells every morning and imagine what it would be like to be a broadcaster. My favourite spot on the dial was a little Nostalgia station called CKVN. I had been a loyal listener since I was seven, so I was somewhat disheartened when they went off the air.

In December 2006, I was thrilled to hear about the launch of CJNU. I noticed that they were looking for members to be a part of their cooperative. Sadly, I couldn’t be one, as I was not 18 yet. I had done some work for Kelvin High’s in-school radio station, but I never thought I had enough experience for them to give me a second look – or should that be listen. Thankfully, they did, and I am proud to be an announcer, board member, and member of the cooperative.

CJNU has given me the opportunity to combine my two passions – the magic of radio and the most magical music I’ve found anywhere. I have learned a lot from some top-notch broadcasters and met a lot of top-notch people too.

I quickly tossed aside any notion that Scott was somehow handicapped Without missing a beat he rattled off live commercials and weathercasts, reading them in braille.

I talked about my Kelvin years which coincided with the construction of the new building that replaced the original Kelvin, which opened in 1965. I told him how had the good fortune to be in the same room in grade 11 with this guy whom you might recognize.

With one of the most heartwarming smiles I’ve ever seen, and a splendid radio voice, Scott said “I hear that you are in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland” !

I replied “This is a story I’ve been dining out on for years. Neil’s display in Cleveland includes his 1964 Kelvin yearbook, and my picture is on the same page.

Then Scott played ” The Sultan” which Neil recorded with his band the Squires in 1963. I had not listened to that rare recording in more than 45 years. How sweet it was.

info about "The Sultan"

Lots more to says about those Kelvin years in the days to come.

How I glad I am to have met Scott Best. How I wish he had been born a few decades earlier, before the world of radio became so totally corporate More on that to come in the days ahead also.

Roger Currie is a Regina writer, broadcaster and blogger.


He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7. He will be relocating to Winnipeg at the end of April. He can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

Read all about it in Regina and Saskatoon ..

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 Newspaper readers in Regina and Saskatoon are finally catching up with the rest of the world. They now have not one but two – count em – two free papers to litter the streets with.

First came Verb more than a year ago, and now Metro News. Other prairie cities have been reading the Metro for more than a year. Transit riders in Toronto and Montreal have had the choice for longer than that.

The Regina launch has been fairly high profile, and not without at least one embarrassing gaffe. There has been radio and TV advertising marking the occasion. People with green vests have been standing by the Metro’s bright green street boxes handing out the product. And there was one infamous billboard that was briefly visible in Regina.

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So, in the immortal words of Butch Cassidy ..

whoare

Exactly ! “Who are those guys?”

The first issue I picked up was a 24 page tabloid, and much of the content was truly local. The front page included a photo of  Meka Okochi, the fifth candidate to join the race to succeed Pat Fiacco as our mayor.

The picture was taken by Alex Boutilier. He also turned out a very well written readable story in 13 paragraphs.

The Metro also has an impressive website which covers breaking local news.

adults-with-disabilities-being-left-behind-in-the-workforce

I was left to wonder how long they might keep up this level of service to readers, both in print and online? The cost must be quite substantial.

The Metro is owned by a company based in Denmark it appears. Worldwide, they claim a readership of 17 million people a day. The Saskatchewan papers have lots of advertising, and they’re not at all shy about spelling out how they’re undercutting the Leader Post and the Star Phoenix when it comes to lineage rates.

Initially when these publications appeared in Montreal and Toronto, they were seen as transit reads , something to pass the time quickly on the subway or streetcar. It was thought that we might never see them in smaller cities on the prairies because the number of riders is a fraction of what it is in the ‘big smoke’.

The Verb does not appear to be a daily. It can sometimes be found in orange boxes on Regina streets, many of them right beside the green Metro boxes. I say ‘sometimes’ because the Verb boxes are most often empty when I come upon them.

They cover local news in a way that is somewhat similar to the Metro, with most of their stories being written by Alex J. McPherson. Can he really only be one person? They devote a lot of attention to the pub and club scene, clearly hoping to attract the Gen Y audience.

They have a very snazzy website. It almost seems to simulate the experience of reading a newspaper on a tablet.

Verb website

I wasn’t able to determine who owns the Verb, or where they’re based, but I wouldn’t be surprized if it’s somewhere in Europe or Asia. Both papers are a great example of how smart players in the global economy can re-invent the time-honoured lesson that ‘all news is local’, if you know how to give it the right packaging.

Again I ask, will they still be providing this level of service a year from now? It’s hard to picture it, but however long it lasts, I’m thinking the folks must be scrambing a bit more at the Leader Post and the Star Phoenix.

When he took over the leadership of Post Media a couple of years ago, Paul Godfrey came to Regina and preached the gospel of Digital First as their new mantra. In April 2012 the new kids on the block are making the old broadsheets look very much like yesterday’s news.

Roger Currie is a Regina writer and broadcaster. He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7.
 

Trudeau the younger, lord of the ring ..

Cue the music please ..

theme from "Rocky"

Pierre Trudeau was Canada’s Prime Minister when the first Rocky movie was released in 1976. We don’t remember Trudeau as a boxer, but I’m betting that he did step into more than the political ring during his adventurous journey on this planet.

The famous pirouette behind the Queen in London, 1977

His number one son Justin had just turned five when that movie hit the big screen and made Sly Stallone into a superstar. Do you think Pierre might have donned a disguise and taken young Justin to the movies? How else can you explain his determination and discipline to become a celebrity boxer in our nation’s capital? Justin is now 40 years old and a Liberal Member of Parliament. Saturday night in Ottawa he easily disposed of Senator Patrick Brazeau in the climax of a charity effort for cancer called Fight For the Cure.

The fight only lasted three rounds, but there was little doubt that Trudeau was the better boxer. In the days leading up to the fight, many pundits had suggested that if Justin were smart, he should get out of town rather than be embarrassed by tough guy Brazeau. If ever anyone deserved to hear the Rocky theme played when he enters a public place, it has to be Justin. Like Rocky Balboa in the movie, Brazeau is suggesting that he wants a rematch, but Trudeau may not have time.

He must be turning his thoughts towards stepping into the battle with Bob Rae to lead the Liberals. Such talk was first heard a dozen years ago when Justin gave that amazing eulogy at Papa’s funeral.

Pierre Trudeau's funeral, Oct. 3, 2000

He was 28 at the time, and he almost sounded convincing when he swore that he was NOT interested in a political career. In 2008, he took the plunge and got elected as the Honourable Member for the Montreal riding of Papineau. But it has not been an easy course for him, especially within the Liberal party. His father was a very polarizing figure in Canadian history, and it’s never easy for any person to emerge from living in such a formidable shadow. Justin has managed to make enemies of his own with his scrappy style in parliament, but the Liberals desperately need a winner as they try to rebuild from their lowest ebb since Confederation.

Bob Rae has been very impressive in his role as the party’s interim leader, but it’s doubtful that he will ever be able to rid himself of the baggage that resulted from his five years as the NDP Premier of Ontario. He is also 63, a year younger than yours truly by the way.

If Justin Trudeau puts his mind to it, like he did when it came to training as a boxer, he may well become the second Trudeau to lead the Liberal Party of Canada.

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Roger Currie
writer, broadcaster, storyteller, wordsmith
Regina and Winnipeg
http://rogercurrie.org

rogerc@mymts.net
C(306) 526-4783

Remember “How you get to Carnegie Hall” ?

The simple answer is “practise, practise”.

This is truly amazing ..

fulfilling one man's dream in a magical way

Welcome to April everyone.

Roger Currie
writer, broadcaster, storyteller, blogger
Regina and Winnipeg
http://rogercurrie.org

rogerc@mymts.net
C(306) 526-4783

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