Entertainment Industry Concerned about Temporary Foreign Worker Changes

After the announcement of major changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Canada’s entertainment industry is speaking out about how the changes will negatively affect the industry.

Among the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program implemented in June are an increase in the fee associated with bringing a foreign worker into Canada from $275 CAN to $1,000 CAN and an increase in work permit processing times.

Canada’s entertainment industry is concerned about the implications of these changes for business, noting that the increased fees for Canadian projects are scaring away American actors and directors from working in Canada at all, which results in job loss for the hundreds of Canadians who would have been hired for production and jobs on set.

Tom Murray, who works in TV commercial production, is particularly concerned about the implications of the TFW changes, noting that “Canada is taxing foreigners who are coming to Canada with high paying environmentally friendly jobs for Canada. There’s a lot of other countries around the world that let them enter for free.” By the estimates of Peter Leitch, the Chair of British Columbia’s Motion Picture Production Industry Association, this industry brings in approximately one billion dollars annually to British Columbia alone, so the economic impact of lost business could be very significant.

Interestingly, Canada’s music industry is not bound by these new LMIA and work permit fees, creating an imbalance in Canada’s entertainment industry. The federal government’s recent decision to repeal the “tour tax”, which required small venues to apply for an LMIA and pay processing fees to hire international artists, exempts the music industry from these particular TFW changes. In contrast, Canada’s film and television industry is being lumped into the same category as businesses who hire low skilled foreign workers.

Individuals in and outside of the industry are speaking out in opposition and are seeking further support through a recently created petition on popular online petition platform Change.org. The petition calls on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to drop the $1,000 permit fee and the 15 day wait period required by actors and directors to come and work in Canada. Currently the petition has reached almost 3,000 signatures towards its goal of 5,000.

The petition takes a very critical tone towards the TFW program changes, and notes that many other Canadian industries could also be affected by a decline in business from American and other international actors and directors in Canada. The petition also recognizes the imbalance between the music and film industries, noting that the government “had the foresight to exclude musicians and singers yet completely overlooked [the film and television] industry which generates billions of dollars a year in Canada, boosts the economy, employs thousands of workers and sustains hundreds of off-shoot industries such as car rental companies, caterers, antique shops and many, many others.”

Industry representatives met with Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander recently to discuss how the changes are affecting and threatening their industry, and found that the minister was receptive to their concerns.

At this time, there appear to be no plans to exempt the industry from the LMIA requirement or to adjust the way foreign workers are processed for positions in film and television in Canada.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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