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Opposition vows to ‘shed light’ on C-10

Commons and Senate keep pressure on Tories

Opposition parties kept the heat on the Harper government over Bill C-10 Mar 5, vowing to stop the bill from becoming a tool to censor film and video productions.

A clause in the Conservative’s Bill C-10 has drawn fire because it would allow the government to revoke tax credits from film and video productions that contain ‘offensive’ content. The bill is currently in the Senate, between second and third reading.

“We are concerned that if Bill C-10 is allowed to pass in its current form, the way will be paved for the use of Canada’s tax system as a de facto censor of film and video production in Canada,” says Liberal Senate leader Céline Hervieux-Payette.

“If necessary, we will not hesitate to offer amendments to ensure the tax code is not abused in this manner,” she adds.

But a Bloc motion urging the government to remove the controversial clause failed in the House of Commons yesterday, as Liberal MPs voted with the Conservatives against it, 206-74.

“Even if the Bloc motion were adopted, the government has no intention of withdrawing this section from the bill,” said Liberal MP and heritage critic Mauril Bélanger. He said the Senate should be given a chance to “shed some light” on the bill.

If the Liberal-dominated Senate Banking committee decides to amend C-10, the bill will be sent back to the House of Commons for approval.

In the Commons yesterday, NDP MP Bill Siksay accused the Harper government of asserting conservative moral values on Canadians through C-10.

Siksay pointed to comments made by Conservative MPs in a recent Commons committee meeting. On Jan 31, Tory MP Dave Batters said that Telefilm Canada’s purpose is to make “films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families in living rooms.”

At the same meeting, Conservative MP Ed Fast spoke about a subsidized film that “focussed more on recreational sexual activity than loving relationships.” Fast said the film “was not redeeming.”

Siksay says these remarks are clear cause for concern.

“Why should anyone in the government have the ability to tell a filmmaker that the story the filmmaker wants to tell is odious and unacceptable and repugnant?” he asked.

Heritage Minister Josée Verner pledged to hold public consultations on new tax credit eligibility guidelines, but only after the bill is passed. She says “C-10 is no way a form of censorship.”

Siksay later shot back at those comments.

“That kind of attitude severely devalues the importance of the Canadian film and video tax credit system,” he said. “Anyone who has worked in film and video production in Canada will explain how important this provision is and how it allows Canada to have a film and video production industry.”

C-10 passed through the Commons last fall with unanimous support — a fact some Conservative MPs are now rubbing in the faces of the opposition parties.

But it seems most MPs were unaware that C-10 contained a censorship clause until a media report broke the story at the end of February. Shortly after, evangelical crusader Charles McVety claimed he influenced the Conservative government to revoke tax credits for films that “promote homosexuality.”

Siksay says nobody expected a cultural censorship clause in a “600-page finance bill.

“It never occurred to me to look for a censorship measure, or a measure that could be used for censorship in legislation to deal with tax loopholes and tax havens,” said Siksay.