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Canadian live biz hits out over latest Covid rules

Billie Eilish has followed Dua Lipa, The Weeknd and The Offspring in postponing Canadian tour dates due to provincial restrictions

By James Hanley on 31 Jan 2022

Canada creates $20m fund for commercial live music sector

Erin Benjamin


Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) boss Erin Benjamin has warned of further cancellations after Billie Eilish became the latest superstar act to postpone tour dates due to provincial restrictions.

Eilish’s planned 15-16 February shows in Montreal and Toronto are being rescheduled as a result of “local guidelines and an abundance of caution”.

The singer follows the likes of Dua Lipa, The Weeknd and The Offspring in shifting concerts in Canada in light of the latest Covid-19 restrictions issued by the Ontario government, which limit concert venues to 50% capacity until at least 14 March – despite other entertainment spaces such as cinemas, casinos and restaurants expecting to be given the go-ahead to host full houses from 21 February.

Benjamin told The Canadian Press the policy was “really hard to understand”, and would likely deter other top international acts from visiting the country this year.

“We’re hearing things like outright cancellations and conversations being paused until 2023”

“I think the growing sentiment is that Ontario is closed for business,” she said. “The idea of doing business in Ontario is so uncertain that folks are just not interested in constantly trying to navigate the rules. We’re hearing things like outright cancellations and conversations [regarding future tour dates] being paused until 2023.”

The CLMA is also appealing for the government to extend relief for live music businesses via the Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF).

“We thank the government of Canada for its support of small business recovery through the recent extension of the interest-free repayment period for CEBA and RRRF loans from their previous end date of December 31, 2022 to December 31, 2023,” says Benjamin in a letter to the ministers of finance and international trade. “However, since the start of the pandemic, many live music businesses have taken on debt that will take at least two years to resolve; our members continue to report a bleak outlook for the future. As such, while this extension will provide some relief, it will not be enough.

“In support of other associations, such as the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), and on behalf of the CLMA, I urge you to consider increasing both CEBA’s and the RRRF’s maximum loan forgiveness amount by up to $10,000 if the balance of the loan is repaid by the end of the 0% interest free grace period; and extending the interest-free repayment period for CEBA loans and RRRF loans to December 31, 2024. These changes will help reduce the financial burden many businesses and organisations are currently facing.”

 


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