Understanding the lien laws of a particular state can be overwhelming. However, it is important to also take note of legal developments in other states in order to understand how lien laws are shaped. So too is it worthwhile to pay attention to lien laws in other countries, especially those with similar legal systems. As Canada looks to revise its lien laws, Americans should keep an eye out for new developments. Payment problems in the construction industry are similar pretty much everywhere, so in looking to fix these problems it is useful to be attentive to lien laws all over. On that note, here’s a recent dispute subject to Canadian lien law.

Liens Filed on National Music Centre

Calgary’s National Music Centre is a music lover’s dream. The $191M centre serves to celebrate and preserve music history as well as to inspire and educate young musicians. Called Studio Bell, 160,000 square foot project is home to exhibits, performance halls, studio space, and even classrooms for music education. The purpose, put generally, is to share the love of music. Living in New Orleans, this is a cause we at zlien can definitely get behind. What we can’t get behind is unpaid workers hanging in the balance.

The National Music Centre is a feat of construction. The complex integrates historical landmarks with innovative architecture and some green construction features. The project was quoted at $150M, but as construction projects regularly do, ballooned over the last few years. Several contractors who pushed tirelessly to meet the deadline for the National Music Centre’s completion went unpaid. As a result over $7M in liens have been filed. The majority of the of the lien totals come from the prime contractor. According to the Calgary Herald, at least one of the subcontractors could face extinction if Canadian lien law does not come the the rescue. The spokeswoman for the National Music Centre stated that the total sum of the liens are inflated, as many of the subcontractors’ lien amounts are included in the amount of the prime contractor’s lien as well.

Maybe it’s the agreeable temperament Canadians have become famous for, but this lien dispute does not have the same vitriol seen in many other cases. The National Music Centre has lauded the quality of work performed by contractors and subs. It appears that the centre took the liens in stride as well, and the centre is currently in mediation with the prime contractor to put the issue to rest.


Hopefully these issues can be settled speedily. When small businesses must to resort to liens to get payment, problems often arise. Liens don’t solve problems overnight, and even small delays in payment can wreak havoc. But payment is the only issue here. Often times there are a litany of disputes present such as unapproved change orders, delays, and other conflicts which can complicate the process. With payment as the only point of contention, this matter can be handled relatively quickly, especially since it sounds like the National Music Centre is already at the negotiation table. Legendary musician Missy Elliot taught us that “Music Makes You Lose Control,” but I don’t think she was referring to construction payment. I’m sure the National Music Centre would be thrilled to get back in control of its payment woes and focus on the music rather than Canadian lien law.

We have taken a look at Canadian lien law a few times in the past. We have also discussed payment issues on other interesting projects such as stadiums and a historic Hawaiian marketplace.

Subscribe to zlien's Construction Payment Blog