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 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)

3 replies
  1. Monika Slack
    Monika Slack says:

    I have been shaking my head for days over this, it so insane. These policy makers just don’t stop to think…A band comes to our country, people spend money on gas, dinner, hotel and miscellaneous to go to the show. Bands are helping to feed the economy! I may not have a PHD but I do know that if we don’t stop this insanity now we will all lose part of our culture.

  2. Paul James
    Paul James says:

    Replying to
    An open letter to Jason Kenney
    It ain’t easy for Canadian Musicians to play outside Canada either…why not make it an open playing field for the arts… I like a door that opens both ways! Fairness please…Canadians always get the short end of the stick…I wish I could just book some dates in the USA or Europe without having to jump through hoops…I usually don’t even bother because of all the red tape…how about our MP’s bargaining on our behalf to make an open playing field…Have Guitar Will Travel…Live & Let Live…Play & Let Play… Instead of making it more difficult for American Musicians to play in Canada…bargain to make it easier for Canadians to play in USA and abroad…

  3. Tom Gray
    Tom Gray says:

    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.


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