Mission: Possible? Mammoliti’s crusade to cut funding for any Toronto group with a political message

Mission: Possible? Mammoliti’s crusade to cut funding for any Toronto group with a political message

Dare we say—Giorgio Mammoliti-inspired political art? (Image: Shaun Merritt) 

While Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s guerilla tactics at Saturday’s Dyke March left us both scratching and shaking our head in disbelief, we’re even more incredulous over what has happened since. Mammoliti initially took issue with the inclusion of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in this year’s Pride Festival in Toronto, but now, alongside Councillor James Pasternak, he appears to be campaigning to restrict public funding for events or entities that have any political bent whatsoever. Earlier this week, the politician who once advocated for legal brothels on Toronto Island decreed that the city, essentially, shouldn’t be funding any kind of political messaging at all, playing the good ol’ taxpayer card.

From the Toronto Star:

“We shouldn’t be funding any political messaging at all,” said Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. “I think that we have to re-evaluate and reconsider everything we do with taxpayer’s dollars, which yes,” also applies to the arts community.

Mammoliti has the support of Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, who wants the city to create a policy that will prevent public dollars being spent on a political message.

Holyday said art grant recipients — which are paid out of the same city fund as Pride — will also need to be scrutinized, but he isn’t sure the same rule should apply to them.

The scary part, of course, is the implication for local arts funding. Community leaders have already piped up; Claire Hopkinson, the executive director of the Toronto Arts Council, told the Star, “To try to say that art that has a political slant shouldn’t be funded is really against free speech,” and even Toronto’s own executive director of culture, Rita Davies, disagrees with Mammoliti’s crusade.

The Stephen Harper Conservatives have already set the national tone when it comes to arts spending, and the latest developments at city hall appear to be the civic version of a larger national trend. Holyday remains on the fence—as evidenced by his noncommittal comments—and we’ll be watching closely to see what transpires. In the meantime, we’re inclined to agree with Councillor Shelley Carroll on this one—she called Mammoliti’s position “dangerous.”

Artists prepare for funding battle with City in wake of Pride fallout [Toronto Star]
Pride funding in jeopardy after Mammoliti video gets rise from City [Toronto Star]