Canada’s film and television industries, who have enjoyed considerable growth in recent years, are expressing concern about the potential negative economic impact of recent changes to the federal Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program.
Representatives of Canada’s film and TV industries met with federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander during his recent visit to Vancouver, and let it be known they were not pleased with being lumped together with lower-paying industries such as the food services sector. In recent months, there have been several stories about foreign worker abuse in the food sector, leading the government to make the recent TFW program changes.
Under new TFW rules passed by the government this spring, foreign actors working in Canada are now subject to a $1,000 fee, and a 15-day waiting permit for their visa.
Concerns are growing that if the film and television producers are bogged down by fees and waiting periods it could severely impact their willingness to film in Canada. Shawn Williamson, president of Vancouver’s Brightlight Pictures, called the $1,000 fee a “cash grab” by the federal government, and worried the delay for TFW visa permit could seriously impede film production.
“We’re looking for some kind of fix that would allow us to go back to a three or four day (visa) turnaround,” Williamson said.
The federal government has shown itself to be willing to make some exceptions to the new TFW rules. Recently, the Conservative government made an exception to the TFW requirements for foreign musicians, allowing them to come to Canada for a limited time without the need for a Labor Market Impact Assessment usually required to provide the “need” for a foreign musician.
The Commercial Production Association of Western Canada is also pushing hard to get the immigration minister to exempt the film and television sectors from the TFW rules. “The film industry needs full exemption, just like the (musical) bands,” explained Christian Allen, the association’s chairperson.
Although a majority of foreign filming in Canada is done in Vancouver and British Columbia (BC), there’s concern that Canada’s other two largest cities could also be negatively impacted by the TFW changes.
Bill Skolnik, president of the Ontario-based Directors Guild of Canada, said attracting film and TV production is a competitive business, and that the TFW program changes could be “another added issue” of why foreign production companies decide that “we’re not going to go there [Canada].”
To help rally support to exempt the film and TV industries from the new TFW rules, a petition was started on the website Change.org. The petition calls on the federal government to exempt Canada’s film productions from the rigorous new TFW rules.