We need to act.
On August 7th the Canadian Federal Government announced changes to their temporary foreign workers program that will essentially kibosh small to mid-size American bands coming to Canada. The changes were made to the entire foreign workers program for a variety of reasons, however artists that plan on playing any coffeehouses, bars, restaurants, etc. have no exemptions.
For those of you who are not familiar with the process:
Previously whenever foreign bands come into Canada they need to receive a temporary foreign workers permit, this is done by getting a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). The permits cost $150 each to a maximum of $450 for a band and are payable at the border. The LMO itself cost nothing and was in place to ensure you weren’t stealing jobs from Canadians.
With the changes the employer (Promoter, venue, tour operator, etc.) will need to pay a $275 fee (per band member) just to apply for the LMO and then the band will still pay the $150 fee per person for the permit (they have also announced this will go up) with no cap.
What That Means For The Arts:
To give you a real life example: Previously I brought Luke Dowler and his band (4 piece) up into Canada 1 or 2 times a year. Whenever the band crossed the border we paid $450 and had to make that up on tour, it was a big cost for us but Luke has lots of Canadian fans so we booked the right dates and made it work. With these changes we would not be looking at $450, we would need to raise at least $1700 before even entering the country. The reality is this is not a fee we can afford. We will NOT be able to tour Canada with these changes.
Now I can assure you that Luke Dowler (like MANY other acts who tour Canada) has not stolen one Canadian job. In fact he has provided opportunity for countless bands to open for him and be exposed to new audiences, he has held workshops for Candian musicians to better learn their craft, he also brought patrons to coffee shops, restaurants, bars, fundraisers and other venues across Western Canada.
Bringing in small to mid-size American bands does not hurt the Canadian economy or music scene, it boosts it!
Bringing in these bands inspires our youth to play, creates more opportunity for our local acts, continues the sharing of ideas.
What You Can Do:
EDIT: I have spoken again with several government officials and MP’s offices an have updated the action steps, please read, they are more current than the ones below: Just wrote an updated blog post with some updates after more talking with several MPs and government folks: http://www.checkeredowl.com/politics-community-change-lets-make-it-happen/
I spent the morning on the phone with government officials and they have instructed me on the best ways to reverse this terrible move. Please help make this change. Here they are:
1. Call the “Office For Client Satisfaction”: 1-866-506-6806 explain to them that we need “Exemptions for the arts in regards to the recent changes to the LMO and Temporary Foreign Workers Permits”
2. Go to: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ocs/complaint_form.shtml and submit a complain under the program “Labour Market Opinion”
3. Call your local MP
4. Share this with your friends. Both government officials I talked to said the more calls they get, the more seriously they will take this issue…Let’s blow up their phone lines.
5. Go Sign! There are two petitions floating around currently.
- First an Online petition. This is good for generating press, over 100,000 people have already signed and it has put a big spotlight on this issue. However, the government can/will not officially recognize or respond to it.
- Second an official parliamentary petition. This will be taken to the House of Parliament in Canada. They are legally required to officially respond. You need to download, print and collect real signatures. Then mail it to the address on the link.
This would be a huge blow to many Canadian venues, bands and fans as well as to our friends in America. Let’s fix it before we have to start canceling tours.
For more reading & education I suggest:
An interview with my friend Spencer Brown who books for the Palomino in Calgary: http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/fees+international+touring+musicians+threaten+smaller/8842759/story.html
Or for a more general overview (not music specific):