Toronto + Arts & Culture = Dollars & Cents
|Gillian Hewitt Smith.|
In this newly-dawned era of fiscal rectitude, I imagine we’ll be listening to Toronto electoral candidates’ vows to do "more with less" and calls for absurdly austere spending plans.
I shudder in anticipation. While I fully understand that Toronto staggers under the burden of too many obligations and too few ways to pay for them, I also brace myself for the inevitable rounds of proposed cuts to items deemed non-essential expenditures. I fear the arts and culture sector will fall victim to this nonsensical categorization.
Non-essential … what a confounding term … especially applied to arts and culture endeavours so vital to human health and happiness and integral to knitting together people of diverse backgrounds.
We must continue to invest in the arts.
It is my wish, throughout the course of the municipal election campaign and beyond, for the arts and culture sector to be heralded for what it is: a powerful economic engine that is a driver of the local economy. Moreover, I’d like to hear commitments to increase support of the arts and culture community, lifting it from its current flat-lined budgetary status.
Consider that in 2007, according to the Conference Board of Canada, the economic footprint of the Canadian arts and culture sector was approximately $84.6 billion. It’s easy to estimate that Toronto contributes a generous slice of that pie, especially given that Toronto has the largest percentage of its workforce – 6.1 per cent – employed in the culture sector.
Moreover, arts advocates point out that for every additional $1 invested in the city’s arts organizations roughly $15 is injected into the economy from private sector sponsorships, donations, ticket sales and grants from other levels of government.
The arts are a net contributor to Toronto’s economy.
Today, the City of Toronto spends $16 for each tax paying resident on arts, culture and heritage. This is well below Vancouver and Montreal, and pales in comparison to Chicago, San Francisco and New York City. In fact, in 2003 City Council agreed with local arts advocates: its Culture Plan proposed a total of $25 per Torontonian be invested in the sector.
Investment in the arts and culture sector pays economic dividends that would impress the toughest financial planner, and we haven’t even factored in the social gains achieved!
So, Toronto, let’s invest in the arts to build a beautiful, interesting and thriving economy.