New Canadian Rules May End Club Tours by US Bands

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)

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Tags: Canada, Delta Moon, club tours, international musicians, labour market opinion, new fees, new regulations, new rules, touring bands, touring musicians

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on August 29, 2013 at 10:54am

My facebook feed has lit up with posts about these new regulations.  Unless Canadians only want to see Canadian artists perform it will kill the club show scene. Perhaps they just didn't think it through or understand the impact it would have. Hopefully they will hear from enough club owners, artists, and music fans and make a change.  Who's going to buy all those overpriced drinks if they force music venues out of business?

Comment by Will James on August 30, 2013 at 11:42am

When I saw The Band at Kleinhan's in Buffalo in '69, they didn't say a word. When someone shouted, "Say something!" I believe it was Robbie who just said, "We used to come down here [from Toronto] all the time to hear real rock 'n roll." (And that was all they said for the entire show.) Buffalo's own Stan Szelest was an unofficial member of the Hawks (Band). Anyway, seemed like there was a whole lot of cross pollination up and down the QEW back then. One band I know recently traveled from NYC going to a show in Ottawa and was turned away at the border. These new rules are not going to help the situation. As an American promoter who has a seven-band event in three weeks in Toronto with all Canadian bands, I would like say that there is a lot of talent in Canada that I think we should pay more attention to, and that just the opposite should be the case for musicians at the border: a free and easy passage if they have a show on one side or the other. It's called cultural exchange, and between two close friends.

Comment by Kathy Sands-Boehmer on August 30, 2013 at 2:26pm

I totally agree with you, Will.  It should be easy for our musical ambassadors to travel freely across the border. I know that it was difficult for some musicians to get up to Toronto for Folk Alliance this year.  Very troubling.  What can we do?

Comment by Robert Mathieson on August 31, 2013 at 9:48am

Our (unofficial) "King" Stephen Harper. and his fellow Conservatives are screwing up everything they touch these days. they just don't get how to get along with others while saving money. Shortsighted and backwards thinking on this and many other issues King Stephen. Grow up.

Comment by Tom Gray on August 31, 2013 at 10:29am

I keep thinking I must have  these numbers wrong, but the Calgary Herald's numbers are even scarier. They seem to be saying a separate work permit is required for each show. Even if there are ways to work around the redundancy, it will still cost $1700 in government fees just to start a tour. That's a big hole on the first step.

Comment by David Shaw on August 31, 2013 at 4:46pm

I haven't discussed this with my nephew yet whose band has been known to open for artists like Richard Buckner ... if Buckner hadn't been there it might have been a considerably reduced audience ...if the club were even still booking live acts. Totally insane ... who does our government think they are protecting?

Comment by David Keith Johnson on September 5, 2013 at 11:37am

Worried about the Weber Brothers. Just hope being residents of Toronto let them off the hook. 


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.