By Jasminee Sahoye
Promoters across Canada who bring in artists to perform at bars or restaurants are crying out over recent changes that have been made to the temporary foreign workers program, saying it could hurt the local entertainment industry.
Thousands of Canadians have signed a petition calling on the federal government to repeal the changes which would see increased fees for bringing in international artists to perform at venues across Canada.
The changes came into effect July 31. Prior to the changes, a fee of $150 had to be paid to bring performers into the country – $150 for each band member to a maximum of $450. The fee was a one-time arrangement that could be split among the venues where the band would be playing.
Now, the changes state that venues must pay a non-refundable $275 application fee for each musician and crew member in addition to the original $150 fee.
However, there are some exceptions to the changes. Musicians in a band performing several concerts in Canada and musicians performing in festivals are exempted from the costs. But those artists cannot perform in bars or restaurants.
The performing artists include musicians in a band performing several tour dates in Canada; guest conductors and artists performing with Canadian productions or groups for a few performances; actors in foreign touring theatrical productions; professional wrestlers and circus performers in foreign touring productions; musicians and buskers coming to Canada to perform in festivals; support crew and other workers who are integral to a live production and disc jockeys coming to Canada to work at private events, festivals, concerts and fairs.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney has been defending the changes against a barrage of criticism on Twitter as the petition gains popularity. Kenney said the changes save taxpayers money and claimed they ensure Canadian musicians get the first chance at gigs.
The changes do not affect the seasonal agricultural workers program or the agricultural stream and the live-in caregiver program.
Prior to the changes, the government would cover the majority of the cost of the applications, or Labour Market Opinions which are administered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. The changes, according to Conservative MP Candice Bergen, simply shift that cost away from the taxpayer and onto the employer.