Arts Funding Increase in Toronto

Toronto artists, arts supporters and residents developed the case for increased municipal support for the arts and moved it forward consistently and repeatedly beginning in 2001. What follows are highlights of a long but effective campaign.

Arts Funding Increase in Toronto - The Sixteen Year Timeline, 2001-2017

2001 - The idea of a billboard fee to fund art in public spaces was first introduced in Creative City Youth Consultations.  The Beautiful City Billboard FeeAlliance, later BeautifulCity.ca, was created with a membership that would eventually include over 60 Toronto arts and community organizations.

Culture Plan for the Creative City
Culture Plan for the Creative City, 2003
2003: City Council approved a Culture Plan for a Creative City, setting the target of $25 per capita funding for the arts to be achieved by 2008; at that time city funding was $14 per capita.

2005:  City funding had increased slightly to $16 per capita

2007: City Council directed staff to report on billboard tax for arts and culture.

2008: funding remained stalled at just over $16 per capita.

2009: First Beautiful City Town Hall was held in at City Hall Council and attracted over 300 young artists and activists demanding increased arts funding.

Beautifulcity.ca
Beautifulcity.ca hosts arts advocacy town hall

December 1, 2009: City Council passed a motion calling for a tax on city billboards, with 29 Councillors voting in favour and 12 opposed.    

August 26, 2010: City Council passed a recommendation to increase arts funding to $25 per-capita by 2013, with 40 Councillors voting in favour and one opposed.

Creative Capital Gains report 2011
Creative Capital Gains report, May 2011
May 2011: City Council unanimously passed the Creative Capital Gains Report calling for $25 per capita arts funding.

Summer 2011: Amid speculation that arts funding was under threat, the coalition Friends of the Arts was created to demonstrate public support for arts funding

September 2011: City staff report to Budget Committee recommends 10% cut to arts funding. 

September 15, 2011: Friends of the Arts hosted a press conference at Roy Thomson Hall: announced that in 20 days, 20,000 people signed the Friends of the Arts petition requesting City Council to protect arts funding. 

Fall 2011: City budget did not cut arts funding for 2012.

November 2012: Supreme Court of Canada upheld billboard tax (challenged in the courts by the sign industry)

January 2013:  City Council voted in favour of a 4 year plan to increase Toronto's yearly arts investment by $17.5 million and meet the long sought $25 per-capita commitment. This will be accomplished by utilizing a $22.5 million arts and culture reserve created from billboard tax revenue.

April 4, 2013: City Council directed $4 million of the $6 million arts funding increase to go to Toronto Arts Council grants program.

February 2014:  Toronto Arts Council receives annual grants allocation of $16 million.

February 2016:  Toronto Arts Council receives annual grants allocation of $17.8 million, an increase of $7.8 million since 2012.

2017:  To remain on track to meet its $25 per capita arts funding commitment, City Council must increase the City staff recommended arts budget by $2 million.