Will Ford backtrack on planned arts spending boost?
Remember last August when not-yet-Mayor Rob Ford surprised everyone by joining with 39 other councillors to support increased city arts spending? Well, just as we predicted, the boost—from 2003’s $13 to $25 per capita by 2013—is looking more and more like a relic from the good old gravy days. To achieve this increase, you see, the city would have to add $5.8 million to the arts budget in 2011.
In a column in today’s Toronto Star, Martin Knelman points out that artsy types had breathed a collective sigh of relief when Ford appointed Jeff Melanson, executive director of the National Ballet School, as his special advisor on the arts. Melanson took the job on the condition that arts spending would not be cut, but a promise not to cut is different from a promise to spend. Knelman explains:
There’s a big trap in settling for the status quo. If during the next four years, Ford keeps the city’s arts spending at its current level, the arts would be losing ground every year. If inflation over that period averages a modest 2.5 per cent, then by 2014, the real spending on culture would be 10 per cent less than it is at present. We’d be going backward instead of forward — and missing a huge opportunity.
Ford’s intentions with respect to the 2011 arts budget will become clear at next week’s city hall budget meeting. Based on his mixed messages so far, though, the future of arts funding is anyone’s guess.