Well, this is fun. It seems the folks at the BeautifulCity.ca Alliance have managed to collected 4300 signatures in support of a new third-party tax on outdoor advertising, and billboards in particular, the proceeds of which are meant primarily to support community-based outdoor art initiatives.The bottom line would be added tax revenue of about $11 million per year -- which doesn't sound like a lot, but it would actually increase municipal funding to this sector by 53%.
They're taking all this before City Council tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9:30 am, where council will vote on a draft bylaw set to pass the tax into law. The industry, of course, is, predictably, vehemently against it, saying it'll destroy their business. But wait -- a just-released Ryerson study says that, in fact, the proposed levy would eat into gross revenue by 7%, significantly less than the industry claims. According to illegalsigns.ca, an industry report submitted false data while the draft was being drawn up. You've got to think that little fact will tip any fence-sitting councillor in favour of the tax, no?
A vote in favour means that billion-dollar companies like Pattison, which owns basically all of the country's billboard space and takes in $6.7 billion annually, would be forced to take a tiny hit to their collosal profits in favour of community cultural initiatives -- and even officially giving over some billboard spaces to art groups (the above is a piece by Dan Bergeron which is unofficial, to say the least). Seems more than fair to me.
EDIT: Thanks to Leah Sandals for pointing out the very good work done by Jonathon Goldsbie over at Spacing.ca, about the lunching habits of councillor Karen Stintz, who's spent a little time lunching with billboard owner Abcon Media's chief, Les Abro.
Then, later on today, Goldsbie offers this handy guide to lobbyists, many of whom have been lining up at city hall to help derail the billboard tax bylaw. Tomorrow should be interesting, to say the least.