Bar and club owners say a new “tour tax” for non-Canadian musicians quietly introduced by the federal government may force them to cancel shows and ultimately go out of business.

The increased fees apply to promoters or bar and restaurant owners who hire certain international musicians.

While many international artists already have to pay a $150 work permit, Ottawa has added an extra $275 fee for each band member hired to perform, up to a maximum of $450 per group.

That fee change will pay for a Labour Market Opinion, which studies if an employer could be hiring a Canadian act instead of a temporary foreign worker.

Aaron Schubert, a music promoter in Vancouver, said the new fees will make international bookings out of reach for many promoters and small business owners.

“If you have to spend $1,500 or $2,000 right off the bat to bring in an international act, you're not going do it. It just becomes prohibitively expensive,” he said.

Minister of State for Social Development Candice Bergen said it makes sense that bar owners – not taxpayers – should be covering the costs of bringing in bands from the U.S. and elsewhere.

And some industry groups are applauding the move, saying higher fees will encourage venues to book more Canadian talent.

But critics say the new fees are a tax on culture. They also point out that musicians performing at big concert venues in Canada don’t have to obtain work permits.

“The conservative government has failed small businesses,” said Andrew Cash, an NDP MP and a musician. “They've failed the art-and-culture sector, they don't understand how artists make a living.”

A petition demanding that Ottawa scrap the fees for touring bands has garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

With a report from CTV’s Richard Madan