HEY YOU DUMB ARTIST: A Little Note on Bias & #NSFilmJobs


Let’s imagine that the Nova Scotia Liberal Government decided to reduce a tax credit for a (fictional) Nova Scotia Science and Technology Industry from 50% for Nova Scotian labour to 12.5%. Let’s pretend that this Industry existed most places in the World and that scientists from all over could do their highly skilled work anywhere, but when they chose to work in a particular city, enticed by that city’s tax credit, it generated millions of dollars of revenue for that city. It did this because, as they were researching, they were also spending a lot of money, money that they had raised themselves, pouring it into businesses in the chosen city. Imagine that Nova Scotia had once been a province of chosen cities and towns, but now, because of this reduced tax credit, it was not, and therefore, it wouldn’t be making this additional revenue from the spending scientists. To be clear: the tax credit reduction doesn’t make it “more difficult” for the Scientists to research, it just makes them choose somewhere else to go- so 12.5% of the Scientists aren’t now coming to Nova Scotia, 0% of the Scientists are coming.

The biggest losers in this scenario, obviously, are the Nova Scotian businesses who are losing the business of the Spending Scientists, and therefore also the GDP of Nova Scotia. Let’s say that in 2012 current Finance Minister Diana Whelan herself estimated that this Nova Scotia Science and Technology Industry contributed roughly $100 million a year to the provincial GDP and now that $100 million dollars will be completely erased. Now, Scientists come to Nova Scotia from all over the world to do their research, but since there are so many other places just as nice to go, they’re not devastated or outraged by this loss of Nova Scotia en masse. Yet, let’s imagine that there is a small sector of this large, international industry, who live in Nova Scotia. For these people, now that Nova Scotia isn’t filled with chosen cities and towns, they have to leave and go to other chosen cities and towns to do their research. They have to take their money and spend it somewhere else. These people don’t want to leave their home, so they begin to lobby to retain the tax credit so that it continues to make Nova Scotia a chosen place for their Industry to go to do research. They know it benefits Nova Scotia the most, but it also benefits them, because they like Nova Scotia.

Now, I want you to imagine that there is a Fishing Baron, and this Fishing Baron knows about his fishing industry and the business model that has made him a millionaire, but he is not a scientist and he doesn’t know anything about how the Science and Technology Industry works. This Fishing Baron assumes that the Scientist’s business model is the same as his own. He assumes that the Science and Technology Industry mirrors the Fishing Industry. Yet, as you can see from the depiction of how this Science and Technology Industry is laid out, it has a very unique business model, and it is not specific to Nova Scotia, it is set up so that it is compatible with the entire worldwide industry. Unlike the Fishing Baron’s local business, the Nova Scotia Science and Technology Industry isn’t independent or built around natural resources only found in Nova Scotia, it is a functioning part of a much larger infrastructure.

Yet, say the Fishing Baron is sure that the Liberal Government is showing prudence and fiscal responsibility in banishing the Spending Scientists from Nova Scotia and so he goes and tells The Chronicle Herald so. Now, I would like you to imagine that the Fishing Baron, a businessman, not only claims to know and understand the Science and Technology Industry better than the Scientists, but also tries to explain basic math and economics to them. This is the part of the story that is the most far-fetched, because it’s unlikely that a businessman, even a millionaire Fishing Baron, would assume that scientists don’t understand math. It is much more likely that when the Scientists explained how their Industry worked to this Fishing Baron, that he would at LEAST listen, likely even respectfully, and he might even give them the benefit of the doubt that they were telling the truth and that they understood the logistics of their own industry. He probably wouldn’t continue to debate with them based solely on his knowledge of fish. More importantly, even if this one Fishing Baron was still adamant that the Scientists were idiots, it is very likely that the majority of people, of all political stripes, in Nova Scotia, would tend to trust scientists to understand the way their own industry works before believing the opinions of people from other industries, regardless of how rich or powerful they purport themselves to be.

Why is it, then, that when the Industry is not one of Scientists, but of filmmakers, that it suddenly becomes acceptable to assume that they don’t understand how business works? That they don’t understand how politics works and that when they try to explain that the perception of what this tax credit is, the perception of the way their industry works, that is being perpetuated by the media and the government, and by people like John Risley, is wrong, they are ignored? The filmmakers have a loud voice when it comes to expressing their passion, the rally at Province House they staged has made that very clear, but as soon as it comes to examining the economics (which we know is what sways the politicians and the public), the filmmakers’ entirely valid, entirely factual, entirely knowledgable expertise of THEIR OWN industry gets shoved aside and drowned out. There are so many people in Nova Scotia who have formulated opinions, strong opinions, about this Tax Credit, who are assuming that the Film Industry and a business like Clearwater operate the exact same way— or that they SHOULD operate the same way- and they are completely oblivious to the fact that they have made this huge, and game-changing, assumption.

We are all entitled to our opinions, sure, but that doesn’t mean that I am going to have the audacity to tell someone what it’s like to be black, or to be raped, or to be homeless, or to pontificate about government grants that Clearwater has received, when I (I admit freely) don’t know how Clearwater’s business model works. It’s not okay to make assumptions based on gender or race or sexual orientation… and it’s also not okay to make assumptions based on people’s careers. If you assume that artists are dumber than businesspeople, perhaps you should examine your own bias.

If you would listen with a genuine open mind to an award winning, highly trained, intelligent scientist in the above scenario then you should be listening to the award winning, highly trained, intelligent film industry entrepreneurs now.