Today in the legislature I rose to question the government about the unfortunate consequences of amendments to legislation that were passed in the spring of 2016. One company, Bardel Entertainment Inc, was affected to the tune of $5 million because of the retroactive application of these amendments to June 2015. This comes at a critical time when industry leaders are partnering with Okanagan College, UBC Okanagan, school district 23 , and the Vancouver Film School to develop a hands-on training program to position Kelowna as a leader in the new economy.
Below I reproduce the video and text of the Question Period exchange.
A. Weaver: In 2012, Bardel Entertainment, one of the world’s leading animation service providers, opened a small regional office in Kelowna.
In doing so, they took advantage of regional and distant location tax credits brought in by the B.C. Liberals in 2003 and 2008 respectively.
After growing to 50 employees and securing a number of major foreign contracts, Bardel opened its new state-of-the-art animation studio in downtown Kelowna on October 1, 2015.
On March 1, 2016, government introduced amendments to Bill 10, Budget Measures Implementation Act. The amendments made substantive changes to the calculation of the regional and distant location tax credit. The changes were retroactive to June 26, 2015. Remarkably, during committee stage, the then Minister of Finance said this was: “Rather technical amendment that refers to the deletion of a couple of words that, frankly, were the result of a drafting error.” Well, the substantive changes had the effect of singling out Bardel and costing them $5 million.
My question to the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology is this: will the minister take steps to remedy the B.C. Liberal mismanagement of the digital entertainment interactive media sector and ensure that Bardel is not penalized for being caught by a retroactive change in this legislation?
Hon. B. Ralston: I want to thank the Leader of the Third Party for his question and for his interest in the digital entertainment and interactive media sector. For too long, the former government, the old government, ignored this sector while they focused pretty well exclusively on LNG. This sector creates good jobs while attracting investment to our province, and our government wants to build this sector.
Mr. Speaker: Members, if we may hear the response.
Hon. B. Ralston: Bardel Entertainment, which the Leader of the Third Party has referred to, has shared their concerns with me, and I will be meeting with them shortly — very, very soon. I look forward to discussing this issue and any concerns they want to raise, and I would be happy keep the member updated.
A. Weaver: For the first time, Okanagan College launched its two-year animation diploma program this fall. It’s but the first step in establishing the Okanagan as a hub for training and accreditation in the digital entertainment and interactive media industry. Industry leaders like Bardel Entertainment, Yeti Farm Creative, Hyper Hippo and Disney Interactive are partnering with Okanagan College, UBC Okanagan, school district 23 — that’s Central Okanagan — and the Vancouver Film School to develop a hands-on training program to position Kelowna as a leader in the new economy.
In particular, Bardel wants to commit up to $1 million to kick-start and pilot an open badge accreditation for digital media skills training program working with these partners, but the $5 million punitive, retroactive surprise they got from the B.C. Liberals has brought tough times to Bardel in Kelowna.
My question to the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology is this: will he commit to working with the Ministers of Education and Advanced Education as well as local industry and educational partners to ensure that the Okanagan emerges as a go-to destination for training and accreditation in the digital entertainment and interactive media industry?
Hon. B. Ralston: This…. Kelowna as a centre for technology is a growing one. I’ve met recently with Raghwa Gopal, who’s the CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. In a round table, many of the companies that have been referenced were present and expressed their views about the great potential of the technology sector in Kelowna.
I really appreciate the fact that the Leader of the Third Party is raising this issue. I’m hard at work with my colleague the Minister of Advanced Education to deal with those very issues of training. Certainly in Kelowna, Prince George, Vancouver Island and throughout the province, there is huge potential for this sector. We look forward to building this industry in our quest to build a prosperous British Columbia for everyone.