We’re kind of hard on the Conservative government around here, so when it does something right, it’s only fair we note it. You might want to print out and laminate this post for safekeeping as we’re not likely to do this again anytime soon.
The government has dumped the fees it was going to charge international musicians to play in Canadian bars and other small venues. Reforms to the temporary foreign worker program introduced last year had lifted the cap on the cost of work permits ($150 per musician to a maximum of $450) and added a $275 per musician processing fee. The fees also applied to anyone travelling with the musicians, like crew members. Oddly, the Conservatives did not apply the new fees to acts playing larger venues and concert halls, though perhaps that was because of adroit work done by the ABBA tribute-band lobby.
Now bands from the States and elsewhere won’t have to smuggle their drummer into the country in his own bass-drum bag. “While the previous regulation was meant to protect opportunities for Canadian performers, it often had the opposite effect,” wrote a spokesperson for Citizen and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in an e-mail to the CBC. Said NDP MP (and musician) Andrew Cash: “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.”
C’mon, Andrew, help us out — we’re trying to be positive here. Anyway, while Canadian artists reflexively go on about Harper trashing the arts and slashing culture, the news, over the years, hasn’t been all bad. In 2007, the Conservatives increased funding for the Canada Council — Canadian artists’ most direct source of subsidy — to $180 million, and have held it steady there since, while also introducing some stability to the Council’s financial planning. James Moore was a savvy Minister of Canadian Heritage, though erratic during his end days in the portfolio. And his successor, Shelly Glover, has been . . . okay, well that’s about it for the good news.
Of course, one of the reasons the Conservatives are willing to maintain direct support to artists, or change course on something like the fees for musicians, is that these are relatively inexpensive efforts. We’re artists; we’re cheap. It’s the structures that provide lattice-work for Canadian artists, such as Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board, that have been trashed and slashed. And the CBC? On Thursday, the CBC ceased to exist as we know it.
More on that in an upcoming post.