Gee, you’d think that with Justin Trudeau breathing green smoke down their necks, our Conservative government wouldn’t wanna piss off a large portion of the population. But clearly, I forgot that our brave legislators only listen to bands like the Eagles and Supertramp. Cuz with their new amendments to the country’s labour laws, Stephen Harper and company are making it so that crusty classic rockers and pre-fabricated pop tarts could be the only artists to ever come to Canada.
As if crossing the border wasn’t already a bitch, the Calgary Herald is reporting “The regulations require that any venue with a primary business other than music but which also books bands or performers must now pay an application fee of $275 per musician and those travelling with the band.” Previously, it was a one-time payment of $150 per person, up to a maximum of $450. Now, with the additional cost of that buck-fifty work permit, we’d be looking at $425 a head. And that’s not a one-time fee, either: it would have to be paid by every single venue on the tour–unless they’re considered a concert hall.
With apologies for mentioning the feel-good hit of the summer (no, not that one), there are definitely some blurred lines here. From a Toronto perspective, it’s probably safe to say that The Opera House would be exempt from the application fee, but what about the similarly-sized Mod Club, which was primarily a dance hall before increasing its concert offerings in the past couple years? Likewise, Lee’s Palace in The Annex only opens for live shows, but what about The Wreck Room around the corner, which hosts dance nights just as often as touring bands?
That said, the impact could be felt even harder in smaller cities, where most, if not all the places for underground bands to play are basically bars/pubs. For instance, the Herald notes that in Cowtown, “such local venues for music lovers as The Palomino, Ironwood, Broken City, Blues Can, and the Ship & Anchor” would all be affected by the new fee structure. And here’s what gives me a headache; some of these bands might be lucky to see $42.50 per member for these pub gigs (if they don’t have a guarantee), so who’s gonna pay 10 times that to the freakin’ government just to have ’em play? And even if a four-piece band has a guarantee of, let’s say, 400 bucks a night–not unreasonable for a smaller touring act–you’d still owe the government more than four times what you’re paying the performers! Good luck keeping your doors open under that scheme…
And hey, it’s not like these non-Canadian musicians are coming up to steal our jobs or something. As The Palomino’s promoter told the Herald, “Me bringing in (American act) Redd Kross (Aug. 31) is not going to devastate Calgary’s garage rock scene. It’s not going to put anyone out of work. It’s going to inspire people to pick up a guitar and put out an album. The same thing when we bring in Orange Goblin from the U.K. in October, it’s not going to destroy the city’s stoner metal scene.” (Wait… since when did Calgary have a stoner metal scene!?)
Incidentally, the aforementioned Orange Goblin has posted a link to a petition protesting this bureaucratic pig-headedness on their Facebook page, as have many of my online contacts. At last count the petition had over 100,000 signatures; but unlike petitions.whitehouse.gov in the States, Canada has no means of making a government respond to any particular public plea. And if past precedent is any indication, Stephen Harper doesn’t tend to listen to those of us who didn’t contribute to his “Strong, Stable, National, Conservative Majority Government.” *vomit*
Hmm, perhaps it’s time for a punk-rock protest album. After all, Rock Against Bush Vol 1 was pretty much responsible for removing George Dubya from office down south, right? 😉