Election rhetoric this year has, most of all, been characterised by a dizzying, seemingly endless litany of all the things we can apparently no longer afford. Toronto is going to hell in a handcart, or so we’ve been repeatedly told, and with it has gone our ability to finance anything more ambitious than road repaving.
Short-sighted, narrow-minded, reactionary nonsense.
“What we can afford” is a choice, a value judgment about what we as a community care about, and what improves—what is, for many, essential to—our collective experience of the city. It is also patently false that arts are somehow a luxury, a frill we can afford in good times but which are expendable when the economic going gets rough. According to a report issued by Statistics Canada in 2004, there were 154,000 arts workers in the Toronto area, and a study commissioned by the City found that in 2001, the Toronto cultural sector contributed somewhere between $8 and $9 billion to our economy. Arts and culture are vitally important to Toronto’s well-being, no matter how you choose to assess it.
Right now, Toronto invests $18 per person per year in this sector, well behind other major cities in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal are at $26 and $33, respectively). Toronto’s Culture Plan calls for that investment to rise to $25, which in the current political climate is a tough sell indeed. A coalition of arts organisations is holding a debate for the city’s leading mayoral candidates to discuss these issues and hopefully elicit some constructive approaches to ensuring the stability of arts in Toronto.
The debate will take place Wednesday at the Art Gallery of Ontario; doors open at 5 p.m. and the debate starts at 6 p.m. We’ll be there, and if you can’t make it in person, we’ll be live-streaming the entire event right here on our homepage.
Get more municipal election coverage from Torontoist here.