Regina city council voted in favour of reducing the city's amusement tax on theatres from 10 per cent to five per cent at its Wednesday meeting.
Last Wednesday, the city's executive committee voted in favour of reducing the tax. It recommended that council approve a reduction effective Oct. 1, with one-tenth of the total tax being retained by the theatre operators to cover their costs of collecting the amusement tax on behalf of the city.
Michael Paris, a Movie Theatre Association of Canada representative, addressed council this Wednesday.
He said the tax only applies to movie theatres and that keeping it as-is would mean Regina is the highest tax jurisdiction for movie tickets in North America. This is in part due to the Saskatchewan government raising the cost for people who want to attend sporting events, concerts, movie theatres or trade shows in the province.
The PST changes come into effect Oct. 1 and will see people paying an extra six per cent on ticket prices.
Paris said the cinema industry is in crisis, pointing to Rainbow Cinemas' recent closure on Sunday. And he asked the council to remove the entertainment tax, citing it as a relic of the silent film area.
"It's a discriminatory revenue tool," he said.
Many councillors agreed that the high tax rate was outdated and needed to end.
"It doesn't look good when we choose one industry and charge an amusement tax," Ward 4 Councillor Lori Bresciani said.
Mayor Sandra Masters agreed.
"Once upon a time, way back in the day, amusement tax, which is one of the only additional tax levers that municipalities are granted within the Cities Act, was levered against the Riders and the Brandt Centre," Masters told reporters following the council meeting.
"And over the course of decades, exemptions have been granted and so the last one standing are the theatres."
Some councillors voiced their concern over where the revenue gathered by the entertainment tax would come from in the future. But ultimately council voted to reduce the amusement tax to five per cent, effective Oct. 12, with a vote of eight to two. It also voted to eliminate the amusement tax altogether in 2024.
Regina city council also discussed an administration report on the following suburban parking scenarios:
Maintaining current minimum parking requirements – 1.0 stalls per dwelling unit.
Eliminating minimum parking requirements – provision of parking would be optional.
Increasing minimum parking requirements – from 1.0 to 1.5 stalls per dwelling unit.
The report stated that a general trend among cities in North America is to reduce their parking requirements.
Parking spaces are expensive to build, Ward 8 Councillor Shanon Zachidniak said, adding that requiring extra spots will drive up housing costs.
Ward 3 Councillor Andrew Stevens argued that the city should obliterate parking minimums.
But Ward 4 Councillor Lori Bresciani argued that for suburban councillors, the lack of parking is a major issue.
Council ultimately voted in favour of ordering a report on how to increase parking minimums.
"I like the idea of having no minimum, no maximum," Masters said.
"But then that's not the intention for developers to use the street-scape as their parking answer. That's not fair to the citizens that live there. So there has to be a balance there. How do you solve the congestion of parking?"