Musicians and music lovers are petitioning against a new federal regulation that has bumped charges to bars and other venues that host international performers.
Venues are being charged a $275 application fee per musician along with managers, sound people and the like, plus an extra $150 work permit charge for each approved musician and crew member. Until Minister of Employment, Social Development and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney announced the new rules this summer, bars had paid $150 per band member up to $450.
The petition at change.org says the regulation “unfairly punishes international musicians and small Canadian venues. The Canadian government should be encouraging culture and the arts, not punishing those who are trying to promote it.”
By Thursday, the petition had garnered upwards of 100,000 signatures. Supporters include Comox Valley musician Helen Austin, who writes: “Smaller venues charged to feature international performers … but not the large arenas … can’t upset the big guy!”
Milo Yakibchuk plans to stop hosting international shows at the Venue Formerly Known as Joe’s Garage in Courtenay.
“I don’t need the hassle,” he said. “They just put up the costs for special-occasion permits. It’s just money, money, money.
“Sooner or later they’re going to realize that you can’t get blood from a stone. If you want to support business you have to allow business to grow. It’s not happening. At every turn there’s some regulation or some fee.
“In the old days we called them the mafia; now we call them the government,” he added.
Yakibchuk will continue promoting shows featuring East Coast musicians such as Newfoundland singer/songwriter Ron Hynes, who performs Sept. 18.
“I’m just not going to deal with anyone from outside of Canada, which is unfortunate because we had people from Australia that were coming to town,” Yakibchuk said.
Visiting bands performing several tour dates, and musicians and buskers performing in Canadian festivals are exempt from the rules, provided they don’t perform in bars and restaurants.