#66 – The Job Fairy, Part Four: Interactive Digital Media

English Canadians in Ontario really need to think before they create laws.

Ontario has been run by the Liberal Party for over a decade now. Despite the Liberal Party being unduly credited with every accomplishment in the country, they have managed to make a few teensy mistakes. About a decade ago, Ontario fired up a program called the Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit. The goal was to subsidize the video-game industry; delusional dreams of Toronto being the Hollywood of video games rang through the empty skullcases of Ontario policy-makers. Apparently nobody behind this was big into games – if they were, they’d know that Tokyo is home to two of the three major console competitors. Torondo what Nintendon’t, indeed.

Another small, insignificant problem with the tax credit is the term “interactive digital media”. While this impossibly-broad definition does include video games, it also includes things like filing your taxes online, or literally using a website. Armed with a definition of such majestic uselessness, Ontario opted to pump this dubious balloon so full of hot air that it became lucrative to the literally everyone with an interest in creating a digital presence for themselves. At current, it costs $100 million a year to maintain what is effectively a public subsidy on corporate webpages, tax filing programs, and other clearly-desperate industries. The subsidy can be as huge as 40% of labor costs, too. Canadian businesses love how willing Canadians are to just give them money. Such visionary game designers as the Globe and Mail are receiving this credit.

There are so many baffling problems with this that it’s hard to unravel all at once. If you intend to bolster the video-game industry, why not use the term “video game” or somesuch in the language of the subsidy? This makes no sense to me. Would I call a tax credit for growing peanuts “Legume and Shelled Produce Agricultural Tax Credit”? Wouldn’t someone think to check on that before they fired off the subsidy? Regardless of the merits of using potential public money to fund private interests, it must be a basic expectation that subsidies should be clear as to what it is that they’re subsidizing.

Naturally, leeching English Canadian businesses have taken advantage of what we will charitably refer to as an oversight to the point that the video game designers for whom this was originally intended now fear public bashlash and thus losing what support they had, rendering the entire thing moot at a stroke. Stupidity has backed Ontario into a corner wherein it either continues to offer refunds to the undeserving or stops, rendering the point of all of that lost income moot.

I’m sure glad lawmakers consider the consequences of their actions before passing things into law.

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