Ross’ Rants: Tackling the new Temporary Foreign Worker Policy
New policy deters international groups from touring Canada
Welcome back to Mount Royal University, where we’ll have a whole new year to take a critical look at what’s really going down in the world of Arts despite the fact that there is barely any left.
A large part of me was dreading that I might have to discuss Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV VMAs, but with the accusations of slut-shaming and minstrelsy already stemming from that performance, it feels as though it has been done to death.
It has, and now it is time to move on and direct our attention more deservingly to a new law that will affect concerts and shows not just at Mount Royal or in Calgary, but all across Canada.
If you haven’t heard by now, the Canadian government – specifically Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development – unveiled a new policy on July 31st which will “apply to all aspects of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, except primary agriculture.”
The policy boils down to a $275 processing fee per position for employers. It is in response to the Royal Bank of Canada’s scandal involving their use of foreign workers. Largely contested by the NDP, this policy’s colossal impact on Canada’s music scene is starting to become common knowledge.
Under the new policy, venues hosting foreign bands would not only have to pay $275 per band member, but also for managers, tech crew and anyone else who is traveling and working with the band. This is a very steep increase from what used to be a one-time fee of $150 per band member, which could only go as high as $450 before capping off.
However, that shockingly isn’t what the worst addendum is. In a questionable effort to not target the music industry, there are exceptions for musicians and buskers who are either performing at several locations on a tour or at a festival – but only if the venue they are performing at is mainly for musical entertainment.
This does nothing less than absolutely slam any bar or restaurant across Canada, including the Hub here at Mount Royal. If MRU was hosting an American band for U-Fest – which isn’t the case with Torontonian, Lights, headlining with local acts – it probably would have very little chance of breaking even.
For a school already so cash-strapped by budget cuts, it isn’t unrealistic to imagine the event would get cancelled, if not limited to only Canadian performers. That kind of limitation is nowhere near the kind of atmosphere that Canadians want as their live scene — especially restaurant and bar owners, who are getting hit the worst.
This time last year, a very strong argument was being put forward that Canada’s music scene had become stagnant. If that wasn’t the truth, this new policy will help make it so. Direct consequences could be fewer shows in Canada, and less tours of bands from different countries, as foreign worker laws would just make it not worth the hassle.
It would be unthinkable to imagine how troubled Canadian bands would be if other countries practically shut their doors on bands who weren’t able to sell out enough seats to fill a designated music venue. For a law that came around very quietly and enacted changes before anyone was aware, it could be the last nail in a very quiet coffin for Canada.
For the interest of not shooting our culture in the foot as we seem so damned set on doing, I urge Jason Kenney and the Conservative government to rethink just what they are doing.