The removal of a regulation requiring international musicians to obtain work permits for some venues has been met with “a big sigh of relief” from B.C.’s music industry association.
Bob D’Eith, the executive director of Music BC, said a new processing fee for work permits brought in by the federal government last year was causing “a huge amount of chaos in the system”.
“What happened is the smaller venues and clubs, there was sort of this new tariff for foreign artists to come in, so that’s very difficult for local, smaller venues,” D’Eith told the Straight by phone.
“They just couldn’t do it. So this is actually a really great thing for the industry, because with strong small venues, that means there’s more work for Canadian artists.”
Last year, the federal government implemented new application fees under Canada’s temporary foreign worker program that required bars and restaurants to pay $275 for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for each international performer, on top of a $150 work permit fee.
A regulatory change was made on June 20 that exempts international artists entering Canada to perform at a bar, restaurant or similar establishment from the requirement to obtain a work permit and LMIA.
“The regulatory amendment provides consistent treatment toward foreign artists performing in Canada for time-limited engagements, irrespective of venue,” an operational bulletin issued by the federal government on June 23 reads.
The work permit requirement will still apply for international artists working on film and television production, and musicians hired for a permanent position.
D’Eith said there was a “massive lobby” from music industry associations across the country in response to the new fees brought in last year.
“We sent the message to them and they responded, so that’s really great, that the feds actually listened to us and made the change,” he said.
Larger performance venues were unaffected by the regulation brought in last year. D’Eith noted that small venues are already facing enough challenges to stay afloat.
“It’s hard enough for live venues to keep going—the last thing they need is yet another tough thing to deal with,” he stated.
“It’s kind of a win for us—a win for the foreign artists, it’s a win for the industry, a win for the venues, so we’re all very happy.”