It's a tad bit complicated to explain, even if you're a Canadian. But let's just say that the future of television production in Vancouver has a big question mark hanging over it right now.
Voters in British Columbia have eliminated what is known as harmonized sales tax. The tax, which is used in five provinces, is a combination of the goods and services tax as well as provincial sales tax. It has been the lifeblood of foreign studios -- like those in Hollywood -- setting up shop in Vancouver and creating a number of shows, including quite a few in the science-fiction genre.
The harmonized tax will be phased out in British Columbia over the next 18 months. While producers will still have a chance to collect provincial and federal tax credits, it might not be enough for studios that have enjoyed having Vancouver just due north of Hollywood. Instead, they could be picking up and moving to Toronto.
Just a few years ago, many of Syfy's primary scripted shows, for example, were filmed in Vancouver. Both "Battlestar Galactica" and "Caprica" shot there, as did "Eureka," "Sanctuary," "Stargate SG-1," "Stargate: Atlantis," "Stargate: Universe" and others.
Yet, even Syfy productions have been slowly making their way to Toronto, where just 15 years ago, genre programs like "Earth: Final Conflict" were filmed. "Warehouse 13" has always shot there, while the new show "Alphas" has also set up shop in the eastern city. "Haven," the popular series based on the short story by Stephen King, has filmed in Nova Scotia.
Despite how well the Canadian dollar is doing compared to the American dollar, Hollywood is staying put in Canada in one form or another. Ontario (where Toronto is located) has introduced a 25 percent "all-spend" film credit, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This should be more than enough to lure studios who will miss the harmonized sales tax to make their way back to Toronto.
That might even mean the eventual move of "Fringe" yet again, if it were to be picked up for another season. The Fox series actually filmed its pilot in Toronto before moving production to New York. When that state's film incentive ran out, production then moved to Vancouver, where it has been ever since.
A number of series still film in Vancouver, which also was the original home to "The X-Files" before David Duchovny wielded enough power to move production to Los Angeles midway through the series run.
It's not that Canadians don't want Hollywood productions filmed in their country. The repeal of the harmonized sales tax was more for financial reasons for many families. Studies had showed that anyone making more than $10,000 a year were paying more in taxes under the harmonized system than they did through the original provincial system.
Although the original sales tax will return in 2013, it does not seem that the incentives to keep foreign producers in British Columbia are coming back with it. The province had kicked up its film incentive, but it covers only labor costs.
Now that other provinces like Ontario are getting aggressive in bringing production back to its territory -- by covering everything with its incentive -- the lean years that plagued Toronto in the early 2000s could be on Vancouver's doorstep next.
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