Speak with one voice or all bets are off for influencing decisions in Ottawa warns city Councillor Mathieu Fleury.
Well right now there seems to be one voice and it is that of performer Paul Perreault, who has challenged the bylaw by using voice amplification in his acrobatics show in over 20 performances in recent weeks after he lost his voice last year. To him the whole concept of buskers being one thing with one point of view is incorrect when really there are three types of buskers. Ask him on his Facebook page what the three types are.
The main bone of contention for Councillor Mathieu Fleury, Paul Perreault merchants, buskers and property owners is the prime real estate in the ByWard Market section of Ottawa. The issues are space, fees and noise. Paul Perreault has a problem with the limited space of only 12 spots allowed in the bylaws for ByWard Market. He has a point. If you zoom into the 360 degree camera view on the ByWard Market link, and move about the area it is evident that possibly more than 12 areas suitable for performance in the streets around the market easily exist.
Another ByWard Market bylaw provision has to do with the fees and amplification requirements there. Paul Perreault may be able to pay the fee but he needs amplification to perform. When you look at the ByWard Market camera views and move around you will see that room is tight and limited amplification would probably suit this area well. I noticed however a few spots that looked great for amplification. York and Byward was one intersection where it would work.
They want a lot of money for a performer to busk everyday. $10.45-$200 per day plus the general $45 per year licence.The reason seems to be to create a financial threshold through which you must busk, in order to perform there. This means from the merchant point of view that you will get performers that are appreciated enough by shoppers to go there and spend some money. The high fees also allow the city to bring in more money to spend on what they want. City governments usually like that option.
If the Street performers are expected to speak with one voice in addressing space, noise and fees it should be expected that the City Government should be required to justify its position with one voice. The current bylaws raise serious questions for the use of funds by generated by fees on buskers by Councillor Mathieu Fleury and the City.
What are the fees actually designed to accomplish? Do they help the neighborhood in any way? Do the merchants, business owners and performers have a voice in where the money goes? Does the fee structure allow developing talent a space to grow in a more mainstream environment? Could the fees be used to create a plan for performance space based on pedestrian safety, noise rules based on actual noise level optimization using db measuring instruments? Can fees be based on aiding excellence without limiting free speech and originality? Should there be free spaces in Ottawa to allow new buskers a place to earn enough to by a licence?
The bylaw will be up for debate in June.