Foreign Musicians Touring in Canadian Live Venues Face New Application Fee

Club and bar owners fear the $275 "processing" charge to enter the country will limit the number of international artists performing here.

TORONTO – Ottawa is picking the pockets of American and other foreign musicians performing in Canadian clubs and bars.

A new federal regulation stipulates that booking agents and promoters bringing international artists and bands into the country must pay a $275 per performer "processing" fee.

"This ensures that the cost to process employer LMO [Labour Market Opinion] applications is no longer paid for by Canadian taxpayers," the federal ministry of employment said when unveiling the changes Aug. 7.

Jason Kenney, the federal minister of employment and social development, this week defended the new tax against charges it will limit the number of foreign musicians entering the country to perform.

"There is no fee that discriminates against musicians. All LMOs required for temporary foreign workers have cost recover fee," Kenney said on his Twitter account.

The federal government adds that the new processing fee applies to all temporary foreign workers, and not just musicians.

Previously, Ottawa demanded a one-time fee of $150 per bandmember, with a cap at $450, when they entered the country. That enabled Canadian venue owners to spread the cost of booking acts across an entire concert tour.

Booking agents fear the crippling cost of bringing in acts will harm their business as bars and clubs hold far smaller audiences than larger arenas with star acts.

"If I have one four-member American band at the Palomino, I'm looking at $1,700 Canadian just to get them on the bill -- and that's on top of paying out a sound tech, paying for posters, gear rental, paying the other bands, staffing," Spencer Brown, a booker for Calgary's Palomino club told the Calgary Herald.