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PAINFUL TRUTH: Cheap movies lead to cheap housing?

Why a tax credit to make horror, comedy, and sci-fi films could be just what we need
Director David Cronenberg poses for photographers upon arrival to receive his Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award at the 75th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth

We can sharply reduce housing market speculation here in Canada.

The cure? Cheap, violent, lurid movies.

Stay with me for a minute, and I’ll explain everything!

Back in the early 1970s, Canada did not have much of a film industry. The National Film Board made some interesting and worthy live action and animated short films, and the odd documentary, but almost every movie in theatres was produced and filmed in the U.S.

From 1975 to 1982, the federal government mandated a 100 per cent tax deduction for investment in films shot in Canada.

This created a can’t-lose proposition for investors. If you put your $50,000 into a movie, and it made money, you made money! And if it didn’t make any money at all, or even get released because the director was incompetent and the lead actors quit and the sets burned down, well, you still got the whole investment back from Ottawa on your taxes.

Now, some people will tell you that many of these films were bad. And that’s true.

But some of them are now considered genre classics.

The tax credit scheme launched the directing careers of Ivan Reitman and David Cronenberg, and it gave us movies like Black Christmas, Meatballs, and Scanners, and I think we can all agree our world would be a poorer one without the existence of the famous head-exploding scene in Scanners.

The scheme also helped lay the groundwork for the Canadian film and TV industry that flourished, even without tax incentives quite that generous, from the 1980s through to the present day.

So why do we need this tax break again now? Housing, that’s why!

We have a lot of problems in housing. Too little being built, too little rental construction, too few co-ops, too little supportive housing for the homeless, too little affordable housing, period.

Meanwhile, huge sums of money have poured into real estate speculation because, for more than 20 years, the housing market has functioned like a broken slot machine. It always paid off!

This was one factor that helped drive up prices, in a vicious cycle. It’s not the only factor in the bubble, but we need to deal with it.

With the money of investors flowing into making dirt-cheap movies again, we’d have a win-win situation.

On the one hand, less housing speculation, and a cooling in the market.

And on the other, Canada would be the undisputed world capital of cheap sci-fi, thriller, and comedy films. We could find a new generation of filmmakers, rising up from outside of the studio system!

Now, you may think that a plan to make housing affordable by giving tax breaks to cheap slasher movies is silly.

And it is.

But it’s not sillier than doing nothing, which is what multiple governments in Ottawa did for almost 20 years. So this year, tell your MP you want Scanners to save housing.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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