Representatives from the film and TV industry say Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has given them his personal assurance that new rules for temporary foreign workers won't discourage foreign actors and directors from doing business in Canada.
As CBC News reported on Wednesday, Alexander met with industry representatives to discuss recent changes to Canada’s work permit rules which they say has lumped them into the same category as employers who hire low-skilled workers following an overhaul to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in June.
Foreign actors and directors who want to film in Canada have to pay a $1,000 fee per worker and submit to a 15-day waiting period to obtain a work permit. But film and TV producers say the new rules are scaring away U.S. actors and directors, along with hundreds of Canadian jobs that come with those contracts.
David Bouck, the executive producer of Means Of Production, a television commercial and print service production company, told CBC News on Thursday that Alexander was open to correcting the problem.
"The minister was extremely receptive and encouraged us to feel we were going to have an even better processing system for bringing in our directors, directors of photography and other key crew and actors for the industry."
While the minister did not commit to reducing the wait time for work permits by a specific number of days, it appears he indicated he would personally see to it that they are issued in a timely fashion.
According to Bouck, the minister told the group if they have any trouble obtaining a work permit in the time required to secure a contract, they could contact him or his principal secretary directly.
"If we ever have any issues we can contact them directly and they would help expedite the application."
'A less competitive' Canada
The $1,000 fee for a Labour Market Impact Assessment, which employers need to pass to prove the need to hire a foreign worker over a Canadian one, went up with the new reforms from $275. There was no fee prior to April 2013.
Bouck said that in a highly competitive industry, the new $1,000 fee is by-and-large seen as "a go-away tax."
A letter sent out earlier this week by Talent Partners, a U.S. TV production support services company, warned its clients that Canada's new rules will have "a dramatic impact" on the cost of film and TV production, "making Canada a less competitive production location."
The U.S. company urged its clients to sign a petition posted on Change.org calling on the Canadian government to make an exemption for foreign workers in the film production industry.
Christian Allen, the chair of the Commercial Production Association of Western Canada, has been calling on the government to give the film and TV industry the same exemption it recently gave musicians.
"The meeting was incredibly positive. The government is very aware of the issues and is responding by working with us to correct the problems as quickly as possible."
A spokesperson for Alexander would not say what action the minister agreed to take but said he acknowledged the economic contribution the film and TV industry brings to the Canadian economy.
"Minister Alexander met with representatives from the television and film industry in Vancouver yesterday [Wednesday] because he understands the sector creates jobs and economic opportunity for Canadians.
It was clear that some of their concerns predate our government’s reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program," Codie Taylor told CBC News in an email Thursday.