Bringing clarity to Canada’s international performer policy confusion

Concert crowd

Canadians can breathe a sigh of relief as the reality of the new international performer policy comes to light.

When new regulations for Canada’s international performer policy quietly came into effect in July, those in the live music industry were up in arms.

It was feared the new hike in booking fees was going to cost bar owners, booking agents and promoters anywhere from double to quadruple the cost for international acts. This was going to be a crippling blow to Canada’s live music scene at a club level. Petitions quickly followed and news outlets across the nation questioned the decision made by Jason Kenney, the federal minister for employment, social development and multiculturalism. Skeptics from coast to coast believed it would result in the imminent death of Canada’s music scene.

Four months later, the dust has settled and the new regulations remain intact. Media coverage has tapered off and Kenney remains a free man.

Where did the cause lose its steam? According to David Hawkes, Live Entertainment Director for Vancouver’s Blueprint Events, the outcry was due to a kneejerk reaction and a misunderstanding of the new regulations.

“It was a bunch of emotional people, who formed opinions before they started digging through what the alternatives were,” said Hawkes. “It was then blown up by the media. They were being sympathetic to the cause but no one was actually following it through. And, initially, I was really upset because I thought, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting screwed like this.'”

Before the policy changes, concert promoters had to pay a fee to apply for the Labour Market Opinion (LMO). Mandated by the Temporary Foreign Workers program, this was a one-time charge at $150 per musician and crew member but would max out at $450. The new policy charges $275 per person as well as an additional $150 per person who is granted the LMO. There is no maximum.

But those in the industry now know that as long as you’re diligent with your paperwork, the new exorbitant fees can be avoided. With tickets for shows generally on sale for anywhere between six months to six weeks before the event, a four-week grace period for paperwork under the new regulations is ample time for anyone to submit the necessary documents for international performers.

The revised policy was put in place to combat the cost of administering the applications. This resulted in the costs shifting from the taxpayer to the employer and ticketholder. But due to the poor execution, confusion ensued.

“The Canadian government didn’t go ahead with this to try to dissuade artists from coming to Canada to perform,” Hawkes said. “It was just the way it was rolled out without enough information for people to get upset about.”

Hawkes doesn’t blame people for their initial outcry.

“Music is dear to people, so it’s an emotional thing. So when people say you’re not going to see your favourite bands because of new regulations from the Canadian government, that kind of reaction was to be expected.”

As far as Hawkes is concerned, there are bigger fish to fry.

“There will always be challenges with our business and the government will always be grabbing money from here and there. But I’m not going to stop my business because the government tells me that I have to pay certain taxes or charges. I’ve got to figure out a way to make it work with my business model.”

Kait Huziak

Meet Kait! She is trapped in a student's body as a third year Journalism student and she perpetually finds herself referring to third person context when it comes to bios. When Kait isn't menacing the streets of Vancouver, hopping from show to show, you can also find her scouring the web for sources of inspiration to facilitate her obsessive compulsive baking needs.

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