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Speaking of the Canadian film industry, it seems the wrath of a conservative government might soon be having its day. The Globe and Mail is reporting that the Harper government has drafted guidelines that would allow it to pull financial aid for any film or television show that it deems offensive or not in the public’s best interest – even if government agencies have invested in them.

Says The Globe:

The proposed changes to the Income Tax Act would allow the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits to projects deemed offensive, effectively killing the productions. Representatives from Heritage and the Department of Justice will determine which shows or films pass the test.

Game and talk shows, news, sports, reality television and pornography are already excluded from access to the tax credits. The proposed prohibition would cover a sweeping range of material, such as anything of an explicit sexual nature, that denigrates a group or is excessively violent without an educational value.

A “sweeping range”? This is not good. We might seem innocent, but Canadians have built their film industry on explorations of violence and sexuality (David Cronenberg, anyone? Do you think Crash would have made it through these censors? Or Exotica? And Bruce La Bruce better kiss his tax credits goodbye.)

The government provides refundable tax credits to productions that are certified as having Canadian content. Producers shoot the film or TV show, finish post-production, pay their bills and then file a corporate tax return. The tax credit is included in the production company’s tax refund.

Toronto lawyer David Zitzerman of Goodmans LLP says the government’s plans smack of “closet censorship.” He tells the Globe:

The proposed new initiative, if not properly crafted, could potentially violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and lead to possible legal challenges against the Minister of Canadian Heritage,” Mr. Zitzerman said Wednesday. “Such a provision could potentially lead to the government acting as ‘morality police.’ The existing definitions of pornography and obscenity in the Criminal Code should be sufficient for the government’s purposes.

If you want to send a message to the Minister of Culture, Josee Verner, you may do so here.

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