Jul 11

A gentle reminder of City Council’s recent commitment to cultural funding

Given that some of the chatter surrounding the big Pride/Mammoliti/QuAIA story has bled into general debates about the city’s funding for cultural events, with some asking why Pride can’t be self-sufficient and operate without an annual city grant, I though it worth a second to refer back to a council vote that took place on May 18, 2011. With unanimous support — including from Mayor Rob Ford — council approved a report titled “Creative Capital Gains: An Action Plan for Toronto.”

Here’s an excerpt:

The City’s investment achieves greater leverage when the City provides support that would otherwise go wanting. The City is in the best position to understand, evaluate, and facilitate support for a myriad of events and organizations across the entire city. The City’s investment can also be the initiator for a whole stream of additional funding from a wide variety of other sources. Often, the City’s support can come via in-kind services or the waiving of fees or other charges. Although highly leveraged by funding from other sources, the City’s investment in culture is tremendously important. To maintain and build significant competitive advantage, the City needs to bring its commitment to culture to be more in line with that of other global creative capitals.

We recommend that the City keep pace with international competitors by making a firm commitment to sustain Toronto’s cultural sector and to position Toronto as a leading, globally competitive Creative Capital.

We care deeply about the future of our city. We recognize that in a time of necessary fiscal restraint, the City must think carefully about its investments in order to ensure they are working for the good of all taxpayers. This report details how targeted investments in the cultural economy can generate significant returns for the people who live and work here, and come to visit our great city. Toronto can create jobs and wealth, attract and retain talent, build stronger neighbourhoods, and build a prosperous city through culture. We have an opportunity to capitalize on our strong economic position relative to many of our competitors by recognizing that culture is the fundamental driver of Toronto’s future prosperity. The stage is set. The curtain has gone up. We must act now.

via Creative Capital Gains: An Action Plan for Toronto | PDF Report.

So if any councillor starts making noises about why should the city fund cultural events, point them to this report. They probably voted for it.

Apr 11

The high road: QuAIA withdraws from Pride Parade

Reading the news this week regarding Queers Against Israeli Apartheid’s participation in the Toronto Pride Parade, a single question kept coming to mind: would I be too pragmatic to suggest that QuAIA should withdraw from the parade to avoid the looming political storm?

Turns out I never needed to publicly ask that question, as this morning the group put out a news release indicating that they would not march:

“Rob Ford wants to use us as an excuse to cut Pride funding, even though he has always opposed funding the parade, long before we showed up,” QuAIA said in the news release. “By holding our Pride events outside of the parade, we are forcing him to make a choice: fund Pride or have your real homophobic, right-wing agenda exposed.”

via Queers Against Israeli Apartheid quits Pride parade and issues challenge to mayor – thestar.com.

I am not a member of the Queer community or the Jewish community. (I’m boring.) I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on his subject because of all the sensitivities and politics behind it. But I will offer this: I don’t  believe anyone can ever be called racist or otherwise intolerant for condemning the perceived actions of a government. They can, on the other hand, be called wrong.

That’s an important distinction, especially when it comes to barring a group from participating in an event.

That said, because of this years-deep controversy QuAIA has likely received a hundred times more attention than they would have otherwise as a smallish group marching in one of the world’s biggest parades. And they’ll be likely end up being a far bigger presence at Pride week than they would have been otherwise. As Daniel Dale notes in the above-linked Toronto Star article, they’ve promised to hold “independent Pride Week events outside the festival.”

The other reason this move is a smart one: if you work from the assumption that Ford would like to eliminate city funding for parades and festivals — a sentiment he expressed while campaigning — this removes a mechanism he could use to kill Pride. QuAIA is unpopular enough with the broader public — and the votes on council are still weighted enough towards the mayor — that any bid to drop Pride funding and support would have likely been successful.

In an article by InsideToronto’s David Nickle this week, Pride co-chair Francesco Alvarez said that, had the city withdrew its funding and support for this year’s event, it likely would have resulted in the city losing its license for World Pride in 2014.

QuAIA’s move changes the game: now if Ford wants to attack Pride, he has to attack Pride. He and his allies can’t hide behind issues on the periphery. It’s a better way to frame the debate and I’d argue that, as an advocacy organization, QuAIA hasn’t really lost anything either. Their core messages have spread further than they would have otherwise.