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Toronto Boosts Arts Funding to $25 Per Capita via Billboard Tax

Many arts activists were buoyed in Toronto this week as a 12-year campaign to tax billboards in order to generate more funding for arts and culture finally came to fruition.

Toronto City Council approved a four-year plan to increase Toronto’s yearly arts investment by $17.5 million—boosting arts and culture funding to a $25 per-capita commitment. (Prior to this move, it was in the realm of $14 to $19 per capita.)

This funding jump will be accomplished by using a $22.5 million arts and culture reserve created from billboard tax revenue.

Council previously voted to meet the benchmark of $25 per capita in 2003, 2010 and 2011, but had not enacted it into a budget until this week. Though the billboard tax was approved in December 2009, it faced an appeal and until recently it remained uncertain whether its revenues would be dedicated to the arts as originally proposed by community groups like BeautifulCity.ca.

In a release, Claire Hopkinson, executive director Toronto Arts Council, stated, “The approved increase in arts funding will have a big impact—now and into the future. It will make a difference to the sustainability of many arts organizations, while creating exciting opportunities for Torontonians, of all ages, all over the city to participate in the arts. It will provide emerging artists with the chance to shine and, through greatly increased arts activity, to enhance Toronto’s role on the world stage.”

According to a blog post by Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam—a former art gallery owner and proponent of the funding boost—Ottawa spends $28 per capita on arts funding; Calgary, $42; Vancouver, $47; and Montreal, $55.

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