May 23, 2018
By Arianne Robinson
Toronto City Council cut part of the cultural grants awarded to the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday evening.
The COC will receive $100,000 less and the TSO will receive $50,000 less from the city’s 2018 operating budget this year.
Mike Williams, general manager of Economic Development and Culture, explained the reason for the change is that according to a four-member peer advisory advisory panel, both companies did not score as high as they could on three criteria: the city’s diversity and inclusion goals, the governance stability and financial results of the organization, and the impact the organization has in Toronto.
“Diversity [meaning] inclusion of all the people in Toronto from the perspective of all the people in Toronto,” Williams told Signal Toronto, “both from the perspective of audiences, artists, board membership, staff all of those. We’re looking for evidence that they’re trying to reflect the city’s demographics.”
Although the reduction in city grants amounts to a fraction of the total contributions for each arts company – from $1.6 to $1.5 million for COC and $1.27 to $1.22 million to the TSO (which has gone through its own changes and challenges recently) – Councillor Norm Kelly, board member of the TSO, said the cut is significant for the organizations.
“The reduction was unexpected … and sort of a wake-up slap,” Kelly told Signal Toronto after the council meeting. “These boards have to work hard to earn their money … But I think they’re going to have to, as a result of the vote and the debate… take a closer look at city policies and ways they can move towards their fulfilment – faster than they would have otherwise.”
Council also moved to support an amendment by Councillor Neethan Shan for Williams to report to council in the first quarter of 2019 on ways to support festivals that draw 100,000 – 500,000 attendees in various parts of the city.
“Those [small] size festivals generally don’t usually get City of Toronto support,” Williams said about the motion. “He’s pointing out a challenge.”
Councillor Paula Fletcher called Shan’s motion “pretty important,” and was pleased to see council’s support for an item that intends “to make sure our resources are spread to all the boundaries of the city.”
Out of 11 organizations that received grants, the COC and TSO along with the Harbourfront Centre, the National Ballet of Canada and the Toronto International Film Festival will receive over a million dollars each in city funding from the city’s 2018 operating budget.
The AGO, Canada’s National Ballet School, Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Pride, Artscape and Luminato will receive amounts in between $225,000 and $684,000.