Toronto Arts Council Questions 2004

These are the Toronto Arts Coalition Questions for the Canadian federal election, 2004.

1) What role do the arts play in your life?

2) What role do the arts play in keeping people healthy?

3) Why is it important that Toronto have a healthy arts sector?

4) Does your party believe that Canadian content and ownership should be protected in our broadcasting industry?

5) Our artists help make our society prosperous, yet many of them work and live in relative poverty. How can the Federal Government assist in returning some of that prosperity to our artists?

6) Do you support federal investment in Canada's arts sector?

  • Does investment in the arts produce a health dividend?

  • An educational dividend?

  • A public safety dividend?

  • If elected, would you vote to increase funding to the arts sector through The Canada Council? Through Department of Canadian Heritage?

  • Do you support provision of stable, adequate, multiyear arts funding?

"Toronto Arts Coalition is comprised of 3500 citizens (and growing) concerned about the health of the arts in Canada's largest city. It is fast becoming the Voice of the Arts in Toronto. The Coalition is committed to raising awareness of the important role our arts sector plays in our community. Last September, the Coalition produced the Great Toronto Arts Debate in 2003, featuring the five leading candidates for Mayor at that time. It was the most popular mayoral debate during that campaign, attracting over 500 people and media coverage from the major papers.

The CCA was formed in 1945 by a coalition of artists and cultural institutions, to be an advocate for artists in all disciplines. Throughout its long life, the CCA has worked ceaselessly on behalf of Canada's artists and arts organizations. Many issues identified in the early days - greater copyright protection for artists, public funding and support for the arts, taxation - remain on our radar today. Many others - effects of and access to new technologies, freedom of expression, foreign ownership - have been added to the list.

The CCA's membership represents more than 250,000 artists and cultural supporters across Canada. As the national forum for the arts and cultural community in Canada, we are

  • a leader in the defence of artists' rights

  • an authority on public policy in arts and culture

  • a catalyst for debate and action within the sector



1) What role do the arts play in your life?

(each candidate has to answer this themselves I am sure, for the
rest, however, you can just rewrite what is written in your own
words, being careful to use the key phrases ("creative class",
"individual human capital", "social network") I note with * below

2) What role do the arts play in keeping people healthy?

Art is expression. Freedom of expression is guaranteed in Canada as
a basic right and has been held to include re-naturalizing land and
planting wild gardens of native plants, all forms of storytelling,
and other activities that are provably related to health and well-
being. Art is our manipulation of our environment and social life
in order to create something we feel intuitively is better than what
is there now: not better in any measurable way, if it's financially
or otherwise measurably "better" we call it something else. Only if it's purely related to health and well being do we call it "art" - of course being scared and stressed is part of that, like horror movies, but, the stress must go down afterwards, else we know that we are not healthy.

Medical thinking today is mostly about finding the links
between the immune system, the nervous system and senses, and brain.
You might be better off to ask "can we actually be healthy without art?"
Certainly our cities cannot be! Probably our families can't be, either.

3) Why is it important that Toronto have a healthy arts sector?

Economist Richard Florida has three well-regarded measures of the health
of cities. One of them, the "Bohemian Index"*, tries to directly measure
arts activity. One of others, the "Gay Index"*, is highly correlated to
a lively arts sector. What Dr. Florida calls the "creative class" *
includes all of the obvious arts activity, but also those doing art as
a secondary or subtle activity as part of other work (like architecture
or gardening) and technical work that involves high creativity like all forms of scientific research or software development. Study after study
shows that these industries simply do not thrive without high quality of
life that is impossible to achieve in a city without healthy arts, and,
more importantly, the work itself benefits from exposure to many creative
people. Why did Andy Warhol leave Pittsburgh for New York? Because the
social networks in New York were ready to accept him and nourish him in
ways Pittsburgh could not. If Toronto is going to be more like New York
and less like Pittsburgh, then, it must attract the individuals and find
ways to let them create social networks in places like coffee houses, in
public parks that are music-tolerant, dives full of musicians ready to
jam, and on the sidewalks and rooftops. If people visit the city and
they feel welcome and engaged, then, we attract more expressive talent,
more individual human capital, and Toronto remains a great place to live
- and invest.

Think about it. If you're rich and ready to invest, are you going to
live in New York or in Pittsburgh? Which one will present you with more ideas, more venues, more ways to form links and connections with others?

It's obvious. Greens want Toronto to be like New York not like Pittsburgh.

4) Does your party believe that Canadian content and ownership should be protected in our broadcasting industry?

Yes, but, the Green Party has no illusions about the modern media world
and corporate globalization. What good are "Canadian ownership" rules
that empower crooks living in London, England, who just happen to hold
Canadian citizenship? What good are "Canadian content" rules that don't
apply to the Internet? These rules are in need of some serious reform.

We'd like to expand the diversity of Canadian content not just force
people to watch it: more creative independent TV and radio broadcasts,
more cooperation between the public broadcaster (CBC/RadioCanada) and
community groups, and above all, availability in many more languages: in Toronto, even just in Scarborough, we Canadians have a hundred languages, forty religions, and very little of that diversity is reflected in what actually gets to the air.

The best way to protect Canadian ownership and content is to open up
broadcasting to many small players, who might broadcast to no more than
a few neighbourhoods, to treat television a bit more like the Internet.
There are dozens of unused UHF channels and millions of TVs ready to
receive them. Why are they unused? Obsolete regulations and vested
interests. The Greens view cultural diversity as the best way to
protect biological diversity, and would like more chaos in the game.
If we don't plan for it, we'll just get it anyway, via technology.

5) Our artists help make our society prosperous, yet many of them work and live in relative poverty. How can the Federal Government assist in returning some of that prosperity to our artists?

Remove all income tax from artists or anyone else living below the poverty line. Guarantee basic housing and plain healthy food as social
and economic rights, which Canada signed a treaty to protect in 1976
but has never implemented. What is our word worth, or our intervention
diplomatically, if we don't treat our word on such matters as sacred?

It's quite true that artists don't directly financially gain from most
of the diversity and culture they attract and encourage and help form.
That can be rectified by continuing to subsidize spaces suitable for
small scale collaborative projects, and starting a service to help a
range of creative networks in all artistic fields find "coaches" and
mentors. Our older artists can be paid to help boostrap younger ones!

Also, on any publicly funded project, there are almost always major
opportunities for artwork to be displayed or even commissioned - it
is absurd to allow commercial posters to proliferate everywhere in
town while art is suppressed. Many small commissions that are easy
to apply for, and require no paperwork, just simple presentations, are a better way to spend a million dollars in arts money than is a single big commission to a "name" artist, or worse, someone's brother in law.

Finally, small scale "community incubator"* projects can augment our
existing libraries and community centres to become small scale copies
of larger institutions like the Royal Conservatory of Music or the
Banff Centre. What these institutions know about fostering talent,
about mentorship, about social event, is often very applicable to
youth programs, integrating immigrants, or dealing with our elders'
"three plagues: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom." Imagine a
Toronto where nursing supervision for seniors, daycare, and social
arts activities are available to anyone who cares to participate?
Very often, we best meet social needs by simply putting together
those people and facilities that need, more than anything, each
other. A Green Toronto is made of many vibrant little villages,
including of course our many vibrant ethnically distinct villages.

If the nerdy part of town wants to put up signs in English and Klingon,
well, why not? Imagine the tourist possibilities. We might even be
making jobs for tour guides who translate from obscure or invented
languages specific to one part of town - weirder things have happened.

All of the above deals with the basic human and social needs of people.
But we all still have cash needs. The Green PArty would propose to the
House of Commons that we adopt a tax policy like Ireland's for artists:
no income tax. Tax should be on consumptions, not on creative incomes.
Creativity pays for itself by reducing violence, by inventing things,
by distracting people from their troubles, and in many other ways. We
don't need also to share in the cash from individual artists who sell
their work on the street. Corporations that benefit from art funding
also will be held more strictly to account to show how the artistic
community as a whole benefits, though overall funding would increase.

A good start? Covering basic dental and drug expenses for artists -
many promising people are forced out of these professions for fear of
not being able to keep their teeth in shape, or deal with an illness
that requires expensive treatments. And no one wants to look at a
dancer with bad teeth. Also, gym membership, exercise-specific gear, and
healthy organic food supplements would all be untaxed by Green government.

All told, we can reduce the paperwork load on artists to basically zero,
and put at least a thousand more dollars per year in the average pocket
of the fulltime professional, while covering their most basic expenses.
It's the least we can do. For others the gains would be more modest,
but, we could expand these programs as they were proven to have serious
financial benefits.

6) Do you support federal investment in Canada's arts sector?

Yes. Including hard core and expanding support for CBC Radio, and its award winning arts shows, and mixed arts and educational programs like
"Ideas". These important cultural icons will remain and continue to
be the beacons they are for the people who think and talk most wisely
about Canada's arts. Areas of special competence like radio documentary
(where our own Glenn Gould was a major pioneer) and "Brave New Waves"
type material, can be funded strategically as a specifically Canadian
form of acoustic art. Downtown festivals honouring foreign composers
can fill our streets with music and attract many foreign tourists and
even investors. The federal government must keep Canada's largest
cities, Vancouver and Toronto and Montreal, at the very forefront of
the North American arts scene. To lose their creative populations to
California or New York or Europe would be a profound loss to us all,
and would make us all very much poorer, and not only in cultural ways.

  • Does investment in the arts produce a health dividend? An educational dividend? A public safety dividend?

Health costs are reduced when people seek artistic collaboration or just
to be part of an audience to feel involved and connected, rather than
going to their doctors to get sympathy (which is surprisingly common).

Education costs are reduced when people learn and more quickly find
what interests them via entertainment. How many people learn most
or all of their history from movies? And what works of art, like
Uncle Tom's Cabin, have changed society and raised conciousness ?
And think about the vocabulary you can develop watching Shakespeare,
let alone acting in it. Culture knits education into every gesture
and conversation, when it's done right. Classroom education is also
very often a bad play - what it if could be a more exciting play and
if it could involve students more directly in acting out the history?
Civic life* would benefit - and that's why we FUND public education,
to make better citizens.

Public safety is obviously improved with more eyes on the street later at night. Would you rather be on a well-lit main drag at midnight with
hundreds of people around, dozens of whom are employed on that street
and lose their livelihood if the street becomes unsafe? Or on some
deserted suburban wasteland street? It's obvious. When people have a
unique advantage from living in a community, and art is about just that
uniqueness, they defend that community, and they defend it ferociously.

For instance, they join the Green Party, and run for office to protect
that community from government stupidity and top-down bureaucracies.

  • If elected, would you vote to increase funding to the arts sector through The Canada Council? Through Department of Canadian Heritage?

Heritage should concentrate on specific areas of natural advantage, and
things Canada is known for, especially those arts that emerged in the
20th century. We should be careful to preserve studios and homes that our important 20th century artists used, if they are unique in any way.

The Canada Council is a good program, but it would be easier to fund if
it had clear objectives in terms of social capital*, individual talent
(or "individual capital"*), instructional capital* like techniques and
courses, that were expected to emerge from its investments in the arts.
These would provide at least a way to answer "what value is created",
without trying to reduce it to financial terms (which would be futile).

A third Council should be set up strictly for projects that exploit the
linkage between cultural and biological diversity. In this category we
can include arts-focused funding for First Nations language preservation
and arts that are "close to the land", like landscape gardening and the
preservation of unique species or heritage genomes. For instance, those
trees lost in Hurricane Juan that had progeny already growing in green
houses in PEI. Without such thoughtful programs, we lose heritage when
extreme weather occurs. And we should be ready, since we may get a lot of that!

  • Do you support provision of stable, adequate, multi-year arts funding?

Secure funding of these programs across many administrations is required
to ensure the arts they support survive; That will not be achieved if a
single Auditor-General's report can bring the whole thing crashing down.
So accounting and accountability is actually key to keeping federal funds
flowing into the arts - once implemented, value reporting standards are
hard to change, and a hostile administration in Ottawa would find it too
much bother to challenge and change a good system of identifying capital
assets and intangibles in the arts.

Consider Walkerton: the NDP hired a thousand water inspectors, and the
Conservatives laid them off. Neither put clear standards for testing
and quality in place, they simply changed the number of eyes on water without considering the protocol or chain of custody of the results. Had the NDP put some clear standards like ISO 14000 in place, it would have been much more difficult, maybe impossible, for the Conservatives to rescind. Likewise, clear standards for reporting on "what we get out of the arts," are the key to keeping public support for funding.

It may even be valid to have the Auditor-General report on these
matters, so that s/he can say clearly "Canada got value for money
out of its arts investments: health and well-being increased, and
street crime was reduced, and many youth were distracted and load
on the health care system and police were reduced. Dollar for
dollar, it's hard to find a better way to spend money." How difficult
would it be to cut arts funding after several years of such reports?

Greens will make such funding invincible, by making it defensible to
a point that is rational. We can talk about numbers of copyrighted
original creative works, for instance, or number of live events (paid or not) or even number of audience-hours which were watching or number
of participant-hours. We will not try to reduce the art itself to just
numbers, but, there are things we can do to account for its human impact.

> >The Coalition website will also direct users to the CCA's coverage and
> >analysis on the arts policies of the political parties.

The Greens will assist you directly in any effort that includes us on an
equal comparison basis with other parties. As almost no English speaking
Canadians can or will vote Bloc, but every single Canadian can vote Green
in this election (we have full coverage of all 308 ridings at present and
have filed nominations in over 300), we recommend four columns in English
and five in French (including the Bloc). We can also help translate if
distribution in languages other than English and French is desired or