The Canadian Minister of Employment, Social Development & Multiculturalism has really done it this time.
According to the Calgary Herald, new regulations “could deal a crippling blow to live music at the club level.” Large concerts and music festivals, thank goodness, are not affected. But the new rules hit touring bands like Delta Moon where we live.
The way it works is this: temporary foreign workers in Canada (that’s us) have to apply for a document called a Labour Market Opinion. In the past we would file one application to cover the whole band and the whole tour, and once the government decides we’re not taking jobs away from Canadians, and once the guard dogs finish sniffing our van, we get to pay $150 each for work permits and come on in. But according to the Ottawa Citizen, “Taxpayers are footing the bill for the cost of processing those HRSDC labour market opinions…. Those costs should instead be borne by employers, the government says, since they benefit directly from the service provided.”
So now employers have to pay for separate applications for each band member, and in our case that’s often six different employers a week. For a four-piece band, that makes 24 applications at $275 a pop – $6,600 a week the venues would have to pony up for Delta Moon to do another Canadian nightclub tour, before they pay us the first dime. We’re scratching already to break even on these tours, and so are the clubowners. I can tell you right now this kills the whole deal.
Delta Moon has been playing festivals and clubs in Canada for several years now. We’ve made friends from Halifax to Banff. We’ve driven the Canadian Shield, around the north side of the Great Lakes, where the highway dwindles to two lanes through the woods with little stone men by the roadside to remind you that other humans have passed that way. Though we still haven’t seen a moose, on the Icefields Parkway we met a herd of bighorn sheep and a pack of silver wolves. We hope to continue playing music festivals in Canada, but without the bread-and-butter club gigs we’ll be flying short stabs in and out. No more driving to Sarnia or Sault Ste. Marie or Saskatoon. That’s our loss, and it’s everybody’s loss.
I’m sure the new rules weren’t written to punish small venues and touring bands, to say nothing of music fans. Perhaps (I’m always the optimist) the Canadian government can put some thought into rewriting the regulations. They’ve already made an exception for agricultural workers. Why not musicians? But, please, US Immigration, don’t you start.
(Photo by Vincent Tseng)