Jeff Melanson, Ford’s culture guru, argues arts grants aren’t gravy
One of the more interesting stories of the Ford administration’s early days has been that of Jeff Melanson. Hired on as the mayor’s point man on culture issues, Melanson ably stickhandled a report calling for more investment in arts funding through city council, scoring a unanimous vote of approval, despite the cost-cutting attitude coming from the mayor’s office. He’s leaving Toronto to take a job at the Banff Centre, but not before he makes a deputation to the executive committee. His message? As he tells the Toronto Star, cutting arts grants would be short-sighted.
Melanson, who will be leaving Toronto soon to become president of Alberta’s prestigious Banff Centre starting Jan. 1, said “every $1 saved in arts grants is going to end up costing the city $17.’’
Cuts to arts funding would see the city lose money in the end because its reputation as a creative leader would be damaged, Melanson argues.
“It’s both a business draw and important to the quality of life in the city,’’ he added.
No doubt, lovers of the arts are hoping that Ford’s relationship with Melanson will keep arts funding in Toronto protected in the midst of the great gravy hunt of 2011. But we can’t help but notice that Melanson’s logic—that cutting arts funding would cost more money than it might save—also applies to other things targeted by the mayor’s band of waste hunters, like the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, the city’s climate change agency, which costs the city precisely $0 (it’s paid for with an endowment from 1991).
In any case, Melanson is number 10 in line with the other 334 deputants at the executive committee today, where he’ll have a chance to make his case in public before he leaves for Banff.