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TAPA Advocacy Chair Chris Lorway orienting Arts Day participants

On Monday, November 14, Councillors from all corners of Toronto participated in the 2nd Annual Arts Day at the City. Led by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) along with Friends of the Arts, arts sector workers, patrons and supporters gathered at City Hall to meet with 25 City Councillors individually to discuss the importance of the arts for Torontonians.

Participants presented a strategic message about the economic and social impact of culture on our city, and reminded Councillors of the commitment they made to increase investment by 30% over time through the adoption of the Creative Capital Gains report in May. There were three consensus priorities conveyed: invest competitively in the sector, lead the way in championing our rich cultural assets, and make affordable cultural spaces available across the City.

To the credit of participants, Councillors of all persuasions expressed support for a strengthened cultural agenda at City Hall. For the most part they even agreed that cuts to the sector are not warranted. Though despite their affirmations, some were shy to fully commit their vote until the budget is presented and negotiations begin. It seems apparent that the highly politicized environment at City Hall is leaving Councillors feeling restless and unsure about the fate of many city services and culture is no exception.

Given the circumstances, Arts Day was a very timely effort by TAPA and Friends of the Arts who worked hard to rally voices around a unified message and secure meetings with key Councillors. On the heels of a contentious core city service review, City Council is on the precipice of the sure-to-be equally controversial budgeting process. On November 28th, City Manager Joe Pennachetti will present the budget, reflecting the overall 10% cut to spending mandated by Mayor Ford. It is expected that not all divisions will be treated the same, though many programs and services will loose the baseline 10%. Others will absorb either more or less. Sound familiar? Like Stephen Harper’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan, Ford’s budget goals force all departments to face cuts.

We are operating in an environment where the question is no longer IF there will be spending cuts, but how much and to what. It’s possible that the City will not see culture as a target, and tread softly on this already fragile portfolio. One could imagine that there may indeed be some efficiency savings to be found, though one could also imagine reinvesting these savings into the sector… a step that Ford won’t support if he is to achieve his bottom line.

But unlike Harper, Ford isn’t guaranteed the favour of his government and he must convince a majority of Councillors to support his agenda. And so begins the highly politicized bargaining process that will dominate discussions in Council Chambers come November 28th. Motion after motion will cause the budget to shift and change as each proposition is debated and voted on. The budget process also allows for public consultation. Budget deputations are slated for December 8th and this day is sure to be another overnight circus similar to the consultations surrounding the service review.

Despite whatever news we may receive November 28th from Pennachetti, until the process plays itself out fully, the outcome will remain anyone’s guess. An important window exists starting now until the budget is passed early in the New Year to engage in the debate. Councillors want to hear from their constituents and in the coming weeks it will be critical that the arts sector organize its efforts so culture priorities are heard across all wards from local constituents.

Here are some things you can do:
1 – Show Councillors that Torontonians love the arts and sign the Friends of the Arts petition. This petition has nearly 20,000 signatures and will be presented to City Council on November 29th. Already signed it? Send it to 10 of your favourite arts supporters and ask them to sign too! Posting on your Facebook page works too.

2 – Might as well join the circus and sign up to make a budget deputation on December 8th. Or, if your routine is a little rusty, simply make an appearance at City Hall that day to show your support for the other arts and culture acts. Mike Layton offers a user-friendly blog post that explains the process.

3 – Re-live Grade 7 all over again and make a trip to City Hall to visit your Councillor! Bring an arts supportive friend from your ward who doesn’t work in the arts. If Grade 7 was a bad year for you and you’d rather stay home, a phone call is the next best thing. Or an email. An email is ok too. Find your Councillor here.

Don’t forget to review key messages and priorities endorsed by Friends of the Arts (including the Toronto Arts Foundation, ArtsVote Toronto, Arts Etobicoke, TAPA, Creative Trust, Lakeshore Arts, Scarborough Arts, BeautifulCity.ca, Business for the Arts and Urban Arts).
KEY MESSAGES
FACTS and FIGURES

Once the city’s draft budget is announced November 28th, Friends of the Arts will prepare and distribute a new message reflecting new information. Stay tuned…!

Meanwhile enjoy these snaps from Arts Day at the City.

TAPA Executive Director Jacoba Knappen speaking at Arts Day orientation


Our fabulous volunteers!


Andrea Vagianos and TAPA Board Chair Meredith Potter


Chris Lorway and TAPA Advocacy Committee member Jenny Ginder


Chris Lorway and Jacoba Knappen


Councillors Kristen Wong-Tam, Josh Matlow, Michael Thompson, Mayor Rob Ford, Karen Kain, Councillors Gary Crawford and Mary Fragedakis at the declaration of National Ballet Week

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8:15pm
Just heard Rob Howarth of Toronto Neighbourhood Centres who also recommended sustaining the 2% cost of living increase to CPIP. Then Rami Tabello of Illegalsigns.ca who advocated a further increase to the billboard tax rate, given the already 119 billboard applications that have been received by the city.

Jacoba Knaapen and Jini Stolk

8:35pm
Jacoba Knappen of TAPA and Jini Stolk of Creative Trust take the podium – number 24 of 30. Jacoba speaks about the economic impact of over 175 theatre, dance and opera comanies who employ 6000 people and sold
2.4M tickets last year. That’s a $152M economic impact! Support=investment. “show business is big business”.

Jini tells a story of the Coleman Lemieux company who is restoring the crumbling Citadel building on Parliament. City funding from a now suspended program stimulated federal support, allowing them to revitalize a new building in Regent Park – a priority neighbourhood. “if we want to grow our economy, we should grow our support to the arts”.

Martha Burns

,

Miriam Fernandes

Now actor, filmaker and producer Martha Burns deputes and begins by telling a compelling story of a young child who was transformed by the arts.

Following Burns, Soulpepper outreach program youth participant Miriam Fernandez speaks about her experience and the impact of this program on other at-risk youth. Then two youth from the Daniel Dett Chorale speak. No notes! Nice job!

8:50pm… 40 minutes to go!

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