Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander have announced the death of the "Tour Tax," the prohibitive fees for bookers and venues to bring international touring acts into the country (a.k.a. the only thing keeping Canada True North Strong And Free.)
The controversial measure — a $275 processing fee and a $150 per band member work permit for foreign acts in small Canadian venues — outraged the Canadian musical community, and kicked off the sweeping populist reforms issued by the Conservative government last year, in response to reports of the country's Temporary Foreign Worker program being abused by the country's banks. This was the only spot of good news in Kenney's swath of new measures, which some view as a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate the program altogether, despite the protestations of business leaders.
Music Canada and the Canadian Independent Music Association celebrated the news in a joint statement: "Effective immediately, all foreign artists performing in time-limited engagements — so, on contract for a tour for instance — and their essential crew will no longer have to expend the time or the cost to obtain a work permit, regardless of what kind of venue they're performing in across Canada."
The costs previously applied to foreign workers taking part in gigs at a venue not registered primarily as a live music business. These charges did not apply to larger venues. Just ones where, for example, they have a nicer kitchen than a stage.
It was an insane thing, and NDP MP (and musician) Andrew Cash said as much about the government's "fix": "They corrected something incredibly dumb that they shouldn't have implemented in the first place. The music sector wasn't abusing the temporary foreign worker program, and there was no consultation in advance of the government's decision. There was no one asking for it, in fact."
In this, the Canadian government learned a valuable lesson: blaming immigrants for economic troubles doesn't fly with the public if they play instruments and leave the country promptly. Otherwise, go crazy.