New Foreign Labour Laws Put Canadian Music Venues in Jeopardy

New Foreign Labour Laws Put Canadian Music Venues in Jeopardy
Earlier this summer, the Harper government instituted changes to our country's Temporary Foreign Worker Program as a means to ensure that Canadians have first access to jobs here at home. Unfortunately, the new laws may have an adverse effect on the music industry.

According to the new rules, an employer must pay a $275 processing fee each time it applies for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) for a temporary foreign worker. This is apparently to ensure that the cost to process these LMOs is paid by employers rather than taxpayers. The law came into effect on July 31 of this year.

So how does this affect music venues? Well, the Calgary Herald points out that venues which don't list music as their primarily business (many bars, coffee shops and clubs, for example) must pay the aforementioned $275 application fee for each musician, in addition to each member of the crew (such as the tour manager, sound engineer or roadies).

Making matters worse, if the LMO is refused, the cost is non-refundable, and must be paid again if the venue chooses to reapply. Furthermore, following the application process, there's apparently an additional $150 for each approved permit, meaning that each approved application costs $425. In other words, it's basically impossible for a venue to break even in this situation.

Previously, there was a charge of $150 to process each successful permit; according to the Herald, this maxed out at $450. This was a one-time fee to enter the country, meaning that venues across Canada could share the cost. If a band were already approved, additional venues could book them for no extra charge.

A press release about the changes makes no mention of music, so the government may not have fully considered the ill effect this might have on small venues that host mid-level touring bands — not to mention the impact this may have on music fans.

Read more about the laws here.

UPDATE: Following this story, a petition has been launched here at Change.org urging for the Conservative government to change its decision. As of press time, it's already collected more than 13,000 signatures.