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Mayoral candidates agree Toronto’s arts industry needs financial boost

Doug Ford, centre, is pushed to answer a question as whether he will march in annual Pride parade by fellow candidates John Tory, right, and Olivia Chow as he takes part in a Toronto Mayoral Debate in Toronto on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO – Olivia Chow, John Tory and Doug Ford – as well as two lesser known candidates, Ari Goldkind and 18-year-old Morgan Baskin – took part in an unusually civil mayoral debate Monday afternoon on the arts industry in Toronto.

All three of the major candidates agreed that funding for the arts should increase to $25 per capita from $18 – the generally accepted level of arts funding in other major cities.

Toronto is set to hit that funding level in 2017 and Tory, Ford and Chow all agreed to stick with the plan.

But each had their own ideas to woo the votes of the arts community. Tory wanted to give the creative community multi-year budgeting which he said would ease the strain of constantly fighting for funding. Ford played on his brother’s trip to Austin and said he wants to create more music festivals in the city and Chow wanted to index the billboard tax to inflation.

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The billboard tax – which generated about $6 million last year in – contributes most funding to Toronto’s arts community.

“The billboards that advertise should generate some funds and those funds would then go to the Toronto Arts Council,” Chow said.

However Chow did deliver one of the few jabs of the debate, holding up a napkin with “art” on it – a drawing of, what she called, John Tory’s transit plan.

Toronto’s arts industry – highlighted by TIFF – generated about $40 million for Toronto’s economy annually, according to the Toronto Arts Council.

Ford and his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, share many of the same policies (including their promise to build subways in the city) but differ on arts funding. Rob Ford has repeatedly voted against funding TIFF the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet, while his brother, Doug, voted to fund the groups.

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Tory is the clear frontrunner in the campaign according to multiple polls, including one released Monday by Mainstreet Technologies which suggested Tory leads with 37 per cent support – just seven percentage points ahead of Ford at 30 per cent.

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