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this time, it's personal

soon to be illegal in a town near you, canada
i don't make a secret of the fact that i despise our current conservative government. and i don't mean more than willing to give our current prime minister a fair shot when he won his first minority government back some time before christ.
that just in the sense that i talk about it on the internet where i could conceivably get away with it. i talk about this out in the open, including in my workplace. i feel really strongly that canada currently has one of the worst [and most embarrassing] governments in what was once called the "first world". and it's not like i never gave them a shot. some super-long-term readers of this blog might even remember that i was

but those days are long gone. i have objected to pretty much every piece of legislation contemplated by this government since they were handed absolute power [i.e., a majority government]. i've come to despise every self-serving syllable uttered by prime minister stephen harper in a way that i never imagined possible. and this week, dude got up in my face with his big business agenda in a way that i didn't see coming.

part of me feels annoyed that i didn't do enough research to find out about this beforehand. another part of me feels annoyed that none of the venues, promoters or bands that i follow on twitter were able to give me a "heads up" on this. then again, it seems like this legislation moved through our parliament in stealth mode, because no one was taking it particularly seriously.

what's the legislation? a little bit of bullshit that requires promoters or venue owners hosting a show by a foreign band to fork over an extra $275 per person to the government in order to host a show. dafuq?

there are exceptions. groups that are playing multiple shows in canada or are playing as part of a festival, for instance, can get one. as long as they aren't playing venues that are designated as bars or restaurants [i.e., those that have a bar or restaurant license]. which is cold comfort to groups who can't fill arenas, since most of the venues that would host them have bar licenses in order to make ends meet when they aren't hosting the latest fringe acts from croatia.

of course, some acts won't be affected. bands who can fill arenas, or who can come in and play a festival like the montreal international jazz festival, where four blocks of downtown constitute the audience space won't be subject to these penalties. which is kind of stupid, since these are the acts that could afford it without a blink. $275 per person is nothing to bon jovi or their promoters. but to someone putting on a show like the kind one sees at the casa del popolo, it's a major imposition.

allow me to illustrate from my personal experience. i organised/ promoted a show in toronto in 2008, just before i moved back to montreal. there were four bands who played that night, with a total of eight members. as it happens, all were canadian citizens, but let's say half had come up from the states. playing by the rules, that would have cost me an extra $1100, or about four times the total other costs that i was shouldering for the show. and that's assuming i wasn't covering any of the travel expenses for the artists. frankly, the equation would have been simple. i never would have considered putting on the show if there were an extra $1100 fee involved and, most likely, neither would anyone else.

what i truly don't understand is what the logic behind this legislation is supposed to be. because every possible explanation leads to a dead end when i consider it:

1. considering the money spent on touring, the extra fees should be that much of an imposition and represent money the canadian government can put to other uses.
that's really only true of large, corporate-backed tours, who are exempt from the new fees anyway. lesser known bands and smaller venues are the ones who will be hit by this increase and they are the ones who will least be able to afford it.

2. this legislation imposes a fair tax on international promoters.
no it doesn't. because its exceptions are skewed to favour the largest touring acts- those for whom the fee is a minor irritant- while those who seek to bring in lesser known acts, new acts and acts with narrower appeal [basically anyone i would be interested in seeing] will be forced to pay a proportionally higher price.$275 per band member is nothing if you're filling stadiums with 10,000 people or more. it's a huge barrier in a venue of around 200 people.

3. these rules will mean that promoters are more likely to book canadian acts.
spoken like someone who hasn't been in a venue with less than ten thousand seats in at least thirty years. in fact, smaller venues already do a phenomenal job of booking and promoting local acts. but the fact is that a lot of canadian acts get their break when they're booked as openers for international acts. once you take those international acts and their crowd-drawing potential out of the equation, there's no reason to book locals.

international media have already dubbed this the "world's worst music law", which is saying something, when you consider how petty and stupid such laws can get. unfortunately, whenever i hear the words "world's worst" associated with any kind of law that's come out of canada recently, my immediate reaction is to say "yeah, they got us" before i even bother to check? possibly because i've never had that thought disproven when i did check.

i get that stephen harper isn't about the arts. i'm sure that he thinks cultural studies involve yogurt and a microscope, but what really grinds my gears with this sort of legislation is how sanctimonious harper and his cronies get about defending the middle class and small business people even while they impose legislation that cuts the throat of those same groups. artists and purveyors of culture already knew that harper was against them. entrepreneurs might find this a rude awakening. turns out only those with big time oil industry related funding are exempt from the prime ministerial axe.

whatever his diabolical thought process, the fact is that stephen harper and his yes-men are conspiring to deprive people like me of live shows. and that is something up with which i will not put.

for what it's worth [and i say that because i don't know to what extent the harper conservatives listen to or care what the canadian population is thinking], you can sign a petition to reverse the legislation here.

want an even better idea? throw these hypocritical, self-serving bastards out on their fat behinds at the earliest possible convenience.

Comments

Martin Rouge said…
The sad thing about the Harper harpies is that we have next to no recourse to stop them or get rid of them. Not because the opposition is weak (it's not particularly stunning) but because, as a "majority" (that is, they proportionally more votes than the other guys) so they feel that they can ram their idiotic, ill-conceived, retrograde policies down everyone's throat and there's sweet fuck-all that anybody can do about it until next election... unless we petition the governor general to recall his ass. Which is definitely something that should seriously be explored.
Aaron Fenwick said…
It's the usual "Mitt Romneisation" of government; promise lower taxes but then charge every frigging fee and levy you can charge to make up the shortfall. As someone whose nation is now looking down the barrel of Conservative government I feel the pain...
Kate MacDonald said…
@Martin- You're absolutely right. The parliamentary system (and those of most Commonwealth countries) too often equates a majority of seats with a majority of votes. In fact, a true majority has only happened once in a Canadian parliamentary election in my (our) lifetime: the 1984 PC "landslide" saw Brian Mulroney get 50.03% of the popular vote. And 75% of the seats.

@Aaron- Don't do as we do!! Not that I expect you'll have much say in it, of course, since I suspect you're not leaping at the chance to have a conservative government like ours.
Certainly, there has been a definite shift over the last fifteen years or so, but especially in the last two or three, to gouge every penny out of you for using government services. I remember my mother's favourite, when our national GST kicked in: "They're taxing stamps? Stamps ARE a tax!!" And she was (is) right: stamps are a levy charged by the government to pay for the postal service, ergo a tax. And applying a goods and services tax on the price of stamps constitutes the taxing of a tax. What's worse, most of these fees (let's call them what they are: hidden taxes)are leveled on everyone equally, regardless of their ability to pay. Which is exactly the problem with this new legislation: it will hurt those who can least afford it and won't matter at all to those who can

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