It's hard to believe a government as corrupt, incompetent and spiteful as Stephen Harper's could still find ways to shock us. But here we are. The federal Conservatives have recently introduced a giant head tax on any visiting musician who wants to play in a Canadian bar or restaurant.There was already a much smaller, more reasonable tax. Every band member (and every member of their crew) had to pay a one-time fee of $150. That was for a work permit when they entered the country. The maximum charge for each band topped out at $450. But no more. Now, the fee much much bigger. In addition to the $150, every musician is charged another $275 for EVERY SHOW THEY PLAY. So if, say, a four-piece from New York wants to play the Holy Oak or the Handlebar or the Central, they have to pay $1700 to do it.
That, of course, means that it's essentially impossible. Small bands from other countries are no longer welcome to play small Canadian venues.
Bizarrely, the new tax doesn't apply to concerts at venues that are primarily concert venues. So if the act is big enough to be playing the Molson Amphitheater or the Air Canada Centre, or even the backroom of the Horseshoe or the Rivoli, they don't have to pay. The Conservatives are only targeting the smallest bands — it is, in essence, a tax on indie musicians. Any band already popular enough to be able to afford the tax won't have to pay it.
When the news first broke, we were hoping it would all turn out to be some kind of strange misunderstanding. But federal Minister Jason Kenney has been defending the new tax on Twitter. So apparently not.
There's an online petition here. You can let the Minister know how you feel at @kenneyjason. Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Prime Minister can be contacted here. You can find your own local MP here.
You can read more about the tax from The Calgary Herald here.