Toronto's mayoral election

I learned the hard way, about seven years ago, that performing artists and political messages do not always mix. It was a Saturday afternoon gig at The Rex, before the start of the war in Iraq, and I decided to use the microphone to express my personal opinion. Some people cheered, some people booed, some people walked out...and I don't think the management was particularly happy with me. I understand that if people are looking for an afternoon of great entertainment, they are probably also not looking for a strong dose of political statement. (Unless, of course, you're choosing to watch the Daily Show, or a Darcy James Argue concert, at which point you should know what you're in for.)

All that to say, this post will not be telling readers in the city of Toronto how they should vote in the October 25th municipal election, and who they should choose as the next mayor.

However...

In an effort to personally be as informed a voter as possible on October 25th, I've spent the morning on the websites of the five main mayoral candidates, something I've never before done in the lead-up to an election. I was primarily interested in any mention of a cultural policy, but browsed through all of the policies listed on each of the websites. And, in order to be fair, I tried to spend as much time on each website, flipping through the various pages on policy, news releases, blog entries, bios, etc. And here's what I found out about each candidate's take on the city's cultural plans (listed alphabetically by last name):

Rob Ford
I couldn't find anything about the arts anywhere on his website. However, this sentence interested me: "He recognized that team sports, such as football, can provide a catalyst that helps engage at-risk youth, teaches teamwork and leadership skills, and provides a positive environment for teens to develop as healthy, productive citizens." That sounds a lot like the benefits of getting youth involved in culture, too. I wonder if he sees the parallel?

Joe Pantalone
The only candidate with a specific policy announcement on the arts in general, called his "Cultural Capital Plan". I'll let you read it for yourself on his website; he is the only candidate whose website lists the economic benefits of cultural activities.

Rocco Rossi
I couldn't find anything on the arts anywhere on his website.

George Smitherman
I couldn't find anything on the arts anywhere on his website. However, when talking about developing Toronto as a recreational city, he says: "For example, to enhance our parks and sports facilities, the Mayor should be ready to work directly with non-profit organizations, Business Improvement Associations and the private sector. We can learn from other cities about how to deliver these kinds of services, and we can measure Toronto against them. If Toronto is not at the top, we will work together to get there." I wonder if he'd be willing to take the same approach with the arts?

Sarah Thomson
Ms. Thomson does outline a policy for increasing Toronto as a film-friendly city, and makes mention of using the billboard tax for the arts, but her website features no general arts policy.

So - I'll let you draw your own conclusions. The one thing I will say, however, is VOTE. Make sure your voice is heard on October 25th. And, if you're interested in finding out more about how the mayoral candidates line up on cultural policies, I encourage you to attend the mayoral arts debate next Wednesday, September 29, 7 pm (doors open at 6 pm), Baillie Court, Art Gallery of Ontario. For complete details, check out ArtsVote.

I hope to see you next week at the mayoral arts debate!

Josh

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