Why changes to the Foreign Worker Program could harm Vancouver’s film industry

WATCH: Just as the BC film industry finally returns to health — a new problem gets in its way. Brian Coxford reports.

The film studios along Boundary Road are always buzzing with new projects, employing hundreds of people in the film industry on short-term contracts.

But many of those temporary projects have affected by changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program – and producers say that will harm the commercial-making business in town.

“We’re charging talent to give Canadians jobs. If I’m paying 4 or 5 thousand to get a small group of key personnel that are integral to the project into Canada, we’re going to have to find those savings somewhere else or they won’t come up here,” said Christain Allen of Capital Media.

“We’ve been told there’s some sort of relief coming, but we need it now.”

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The government announced changes to the program on June 20. Under the new provisions, employers will have to pay an application fee of $1,000 for every foreign worker they wish to hire, up from the current $275.

It means that when advertising companies want to film commercials in Vancouver, they’ll have to pay thousands of dollars extra if they want to bring in their key technical people for the project.

Producers from Los Angeles that spoke with Global News said they should have an exemption from the program because they’re creating job opportunities in Canada. Over 100 commercials were shot in Vancouver over the last year.

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“It’s always been a small fee, but if it doubles or triples, that I don’t understand,” said Jay Kelmar, who has been shooting commercials in Vancouver for close to 30 years.

Kelmar says he typically comes up with a group of four people to oversee the project, and hires up to 60 Canadians to put it together – but “if the money ends up being an issue, we’re not going to come.”

Allen says the cost difference is a huge issue to his clients because unlike their cousins in the film industry, they don’t get tax credits.

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“We’re in high season right now. With the financial crisis, the loss of the HST, foreign production was down, but now it’s back. To have these problems come up with bureaucracy and paperwork is a huge hindrance,” he said.

“They can’t process fast enough for us with the new rules…If there’s any slowdown in getting people into this country, they’ll go somewhere else.”

– With files from Brian Coxford

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