Kelowna busker, panhandling laws not yet a done deal | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna busker, panhandling laws not yet a done deal

Buskers are pictured in Kelowna in this undated file photo.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
April 07, 2018 - 1:30 PM

KELOWNA - An unpopular bylaw amendment targeting buskers is not a done deal, despite what many seem to think and is quite likely to be amended before it's passed by Kelowna city council.

City clerk Stephen Fleming said the amendments and additions to the Good Neighbour bylaw targeting panhandlers and buskers has not had a final vote and won’t until a review of the program is completed by Festivals Kelowna and brought back to council.

Before the final vote is held, Fleming said councillors are free to propose amendments and likely will, given the controversy some of the new bylaws have generated.

Until then, council has also instructed staff not to issue tickets for violations until the final reading and directed them to conduct a public information campaign about the amendments and additions.

Active Living director Jim Gabriel said staff has had initial discussions about the review but no date has been set for its to return before council.

Local musician Joshua Smith says he knows the busking bylaw hasn’t been fully enacted but that didn’t stop him and large group of local musicians from recording and releasing a protest song and video ahead of time.

“We want to make sure they know what we think,” Smith said.

Smith said he wrote the song “in about ten minutes” when he heard what was being proposed and called on a wide circle of musical friends to make it happen.

Smith says he began busking on the docks in Halifax when just barely into his teens and counts it as a critical part of his musical development.

“I feel like there needs to be a bit of a bar for musicians so people see the best Kelowna has to offer,” Smith says. “But it also has to be a place to learn how to busk so you can get better and not exclude the young and the less talented."

Despite that, Smith says Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran is a fan of his band The Trips and he has some appreciation of council’s efforts to regulate buskers.

“I think he’s trying to do what’s he thinks is right,” Smith adds. “What they’ve put forward is kind of silly and is maybe not the right way to go about it.”

Smith said he would be happy to share his busking experiences with Festivals Kelowna — he also busked in Nashville for three years — but doesn’t expect the final result will be perfect.

“I know whatever they do won’t make everybody happy,” he says. “But they are in a place of power and responsibility so I hope they make the right choice."

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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