Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program in Canada are hitting a sour note with music promoters and small club owners who book American bands.
They say increases to the fees imposed on each band member will make it impossible for many groups to play here and result in the loss in revenue for the venue owners.
Changes to federal regulations surrounding foreign workers entering Canada flew under the radar of music lovers July 31.
Previously, the fee for U.S. performers was $150 per band member and maxed out at $450 for entire band. It was a one-time fee paid to enter and work in Canada. They could play any venue in the country under the old rules and fees.
Those fees, in some cases, have now as much as quadrupled.
New regulations state that any venue, where music is not the primary business, must pay a $275 application fee per musician and those touring with the band when it applies for a Labour Market Opinion to allow them to perform and work at the venue.
An additional $150 work permit must also be paid for per musician and crew member.
A six-person band with a four-member crew will now cost a venue more than $4,000 in fees per show. That's on top of the performance fees bands charge.
Small clubs worried
Small venues, like the Dominion House in west Windsor, can't cover the fees.
"They won't get booked and as far as ticket prices and cover charges for events, the prices will go up astronomically and people I don't think will pay it," Dominion House owner Chris Mickle said.
Mark McKenzie is the booking agent for a brand new club about to open next month. It will feature all live music. He says the changes will hurt bar owners
"We're just trying to focus on live music and we can have a band from Windsor open up for a big act, a big [U.S.] act and that's how they can maybe break," McKenzie said. "It's just another tax grab obviously from the conservative government."
Trev McKendry of Windsor is a band manager who also runs an online heavy metal radio station. He said if American bands don't come to Canada, music festivals could fold. That, he said, is a loss of tourism dollars.
"Our Canadians go and pay for those t-shirts at the shows, we buy their merchandise. That's tax revenue that they're losing," McKendry said. "It sucks. It really sucks.
"I don't think the federal government cares too much..I don't think they did any research into this either."
Several venue owners claim if this fee structure continues, it will have a devastating impact on Windsor's cultural tourism.
"We get a lot of these artists, poets and musicians that just, unfortunately, won't hit here anymore. They'll be staying in the States," McKendry said.
McKendry is encouraging everyone to call their MP to complain and is pointing to the website change.org to sign an online petition.
By Friday mooring, nearly 90,000 supporters had signed. Administrators were looking for 70,000 signatures.
The NDP released a statement on just that today, saying the regulations will "turn away talented performers and threaten the survival of venues, bars and restaurants."
"Why the Conservatives would put up such high barriers for foreign musicians is beyond me," NDP multiculturalism critic, Andrew Cash (Davenport), was quoted in the statement. "This is a real attack on the country's vibrant music scene and the small businesses that help make it thrive."
According to the Calgary Herald, Employment and Social Development Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials said in an email that the department consulted "a wide range of stakeholders across the country," before making the changes.
"Governments have no idea how damaging this is, on both sides of the border," Phog Lounge owner Tom Lucier posted on his Facebook page. "It's really awful stuff. Shameful."