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Councillor wants buskers, street performers banned from Yonge and Dundas

MICHAEL TALBOT | posted Thursday, Apr 28th, 2016

A street performer in front of the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. Photo/Michael Talbot.

The heart of downtown Toronto at Yonge and Dundas is a whirling hub of urban activity filled with a motley crew of characters that, depending on your view, add a splash of colour or a dose of aggravation to daily life in the city.

But at least two city councillors want the growing army of buskers, preachers, and performers that frequent the area to surrender the high-traffic street corners they’ve staked claim to.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam has put forward a motion, backed by Coun. Pam McConnell, to ban all busking and related activities in front of the Eaton Centre and 10 Dundas Street East.

The motion says the ban would seek “to ensure physical access and public safety until a longer term policy or strategy can be developed.”

In short, Wong-Tam believes the wild-west atmosphere must be tamed, and she says complaints from the public add weight to the motion.

“It’s 100 per cent about safety, public safety and public access,” she told CityNews. “It’s also about ensuring we have a downtown that’s going to work for everyone.”

“People have expressed, in droves now, that they can’t get through. And sometimes people are so rushed they’ll just jump off the sidewalk onto the roadway…and they don’t see oncoming traffic.

“The problem has gotten worse and not gotten better.”

Wong-Tam’s motion asks for new bylaws in 2017, saying the city should work with “permitted buskers on identifying locations within the downtown core that can support street performance without creating sidewalk access impediments…”

The area features an eclectic mix of regulars that range from apocalyptic street preachers, todrummers, chalk artists, superheroes and living statues.


Online, many derided Wong-Tam for trying to transform the colourful mecca of big city madness into a zone of bylaw-enforced banality. “A city isn’t a city without a few nutters and buskers,” said swampswing on Reddit. “Lets leave em be, or better yet, turn them into a tourist attraction like Speaker’s Corner in London.”

“It’s part of the character of the area,” added Redditer urbnplnto. “Wong-Tam needs to back off on this. The city has enough sterile spaces.”

Others feel a sweeping bylaw is misdirected.

“High pedestrian volumes sounds more like a reason to ban cars from the intersection, not certain types of people,” another Redditer added.

In a lengthy series of tweets, Toronto resident Sean Marshall admitted that he finds some of the buskers annoying, most notably evangelists, but concluded: “We wanted our own Times Square in the 1990s, we got one.”

On Twitter, @Thrakkorzog has already come up with a solution to the dilemma of where the buskers, many who have permits, can take their acts.

Read Tweet HERE



  • mynameisMax says:

    The street performers add a positive flare and vibe to YD. They are NOT the problem. Yonge and Dundas is probably the busiest intersection in Canada. People come here and enjoy the atmosphere. Toronto has some of the best street performers in the world. They provide some artistic entertainment to an otherwise drab environment. You want to be a World Class City….then don’t invoke this stupid bylaw/restrictions aimed at the buskers.

  • mynameisMax says:

    This is sooo very sad. YD has so much potential…..as a cultural centre of artists and performers for the people. Instead council targets the very sector that gives the place some colour & vibrancy.
    Toronto has some of the best Street Performers in the world…..and rather than embrace them, the city (councilors) chooses to target & limit them, when they are NOT the actual problem.

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