are often defined, at least in polite company, as "the art
of the possible". In the new City of Toronto, however, the
politics of Art are being relentlessly defined by diminishing possibilities.
before publishing the amalgamation and downloading Bills, the Provincial
government had begun the trend towards subsidising deficit reduction
through cuts to the Arts. Last year alone, the non-profit culture
sector in Metropolitan Toronto was "asked to absorb" a
reduction of 21% in net public support.
By the time the Bills receive Royal Assent,
our recently elected Toronto Councillors will be grappling with
the costs of constructing a new megacity bureaucracy and delivering
downloaded services, for which the Province will have passed on
responsibility but not financing. The Councillors will face the
temptation of continuing the trend of eviscerating the Arts in an
attempt to stanch the City's fiscal haemorrhaging.
The Council's ability to resist the temptation
of this false economy will be an early test of the new City's character.
If it fails that test, the future of the City would be irretrievably
prejudiced. In the short term, it would set a tone of intellectual
bankruptcy in political decision-making. In the medium and long
term, it would accelerate the City's plunge into financial bankruptcy.
Currently, the Arts are directly or indirectly
responsible for 7.3% of all employment in Metro. The sector employs
more Torontonians than manufacturing, transportation, utilities,
business services, finances, and real estate combined, and injects
$2billion in wage stimuli into the City.
In total, over 1996, cultural industries centred
in Metro had an economic impact of $8.5billion. This is in addition
to the $1billion in funds introduced to the City via cultural tourism.
The value of additional foreign business brought to Toronto by the
Arts is difficult to quantify, but Tourism Toronto reports that
one-quarter of all business travellers who chose Toronto as their
destination came here in preference to other world cities because
of our artistic and cultural attractions.
In the face of such a colossal yield, the $32million
municipal support for the Arts in Metro, accounting for less than
0.6% of budgets, appears well invested. The corollary, however,
is that cuts in that funding would be of equally dramatic effect.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation
(UNESCO) estimates that every $1 per year in municipal funding is
tied to a further $24 every two years from other levels of government
and the private sector.
Hence, while municipal financing is responsible
for only 9.6% of Arts support in Metro, the results of clawing back
that funding would be catastrophic to Arts organisations, and in
consequence to the new City's economy and the Council's own budget.
For every $1 the Council removed from the Arts budget, it would
deprive the public accounts of more than $2 in taxes and governmental
Not only is it ethically unacceptable to try
save the City's financial skin by destroying its soul, it is fiscally
The debate amongst Toronto's Councillors of
whether, in the context of amalgamation and downloading, the new
City can afford to continue supporting the Arts is divorced from
reality. The real question is whether the City can afford not to
make those investments.
If this basic financial question goes unasked
in the political discourse, a deeper issue passes completely unnoticed.
The Arts not only help vast numbers of Torontonians
to earn a living; the Arts make Toronto a city worth living in.
They remind us of our shared and diverse past; they speak to our
common civic future. They reassure us of the universal truths; they
challenge our basic beliefs. They not only reflect the City's essence,
but shape the City's destiny.
In this context, Toronto needs to develop a
meaningful and comprehensive vision of the appropriate role of municipal
government in the Arts. Its current function as financier is vital,
How can municipal government foster a common
civic commitment to the Arts? How can it act as a catalyst to engage
a wider cross-section of our citizenry with a broader base of artistic
activity? How can it build true partnerships across sectors, not
only to invite free-market funds and efficiency to the Arts, but
to spread the humanising influence of the Arts throughout the economy
Until our newly elected Councillors begin asking
the right questions, Torontonians are unlikely to get the right