Toronto is apparently suffering a deficit of over $700 million. It might be interesting to consider that during the mayoral election nobody mentioned this shortfall, and that this crippling debt seems to have appeared from nowhere, yet dominates the budget. But that’s a topic for another day. The fact is, the city is poised to stop funding frills in the name of austerity–no surprise, Ford’s sawed off shitgun is aiming straight for the arts. Fuelling this is the assumption that anything enjoyable or soul-nourishing must be unaffordable–literally, Ford can’t afford it. Har har har. But according to a visual graph from the Grid (the kind that unfortunately looks cute and has the undesired effect of not being taken seriously), far from a decadent expense, the arts is an economic engine.
Consider: Nuit Blanche got an initial investment of $600,000 and brought in $34.7 million; TIFF received $800,000 in grants this year and brought in $27 million in tourism from out of town visitors. There’s no need to exhaust similar stats, the trend is clear: even accounting for exaggeration and faulty methods, the return is irresistible. So why is it being resisted? Are these numbers that wrong?
As an innate sceptic, I find a return this crazy hard to swallow whole, but the graph is pretty compelling. Though admittedly I’m not an economics major, in my humble opinion it behooves our mayor to receive millions of dollars, especially when he’s searching desperately for every penny. I know if I had millions of dollars coming at me on condition I suffer some art, I’d oblige. Hell, for millions I’d do all kinds of unmentionable things. But what I can’t ever imagine is being too poor to buy beers after refusing to be paid handsomely to watch Leaf games. Is it possible our mayor hates art more than he loves money?
Unless the Grid’s numbers are a severe misrepresentation, the mayor is under heavy obligation to explain why a cherished and lucrative revenue stream is being cut while the belt is tightened all over the city.