Surplus Breathes Life into Budget - Billboard Tax for Art Resurrected

Unexpected surplus creates an excellent opportunity for Council to follow through on their commitment to youth arts and beautification - investing in a better future for Toronto

TORONTO, March 10 /CNW/ - Last week citizens, young people and mayoral candidates gathered at the 'InVoice' Town Hall (photos: and were told, despite City Councillor's desire to put funds raised through the billboard tax toward enhancing public spaces with art, the money was simply not available in the budget. The Mayoral announcement of a 100 million dollar surplus in the City's budget may change all that - giving Council a chance to set things straight.

"An amazing opportunity has opened up for the Budget Committee to follow through on their expressed support for investment in our public spaces and to act with the strong citizen engagement process that brought these funds to the table," states Devon Ostrom, a co-founder of Ostrom notes that despite overwhelming support for a billboard tax to fund city arts and beautification projects, many were beginning to feel that their energy, limited resources and enthusiasm had been used to merely get money from the billboard industry. "That's not what this is about," he explained, "it's about diversifying access to expression in public spaces, creating opportunities for community engagement and improving how our city looks."

Now with an unexpected surplus on the table it looks like Council has the capacity to meet that goal.

    Why increase funding to art in Public Spaces?

    - Vibrant public spaces enhance property values and increase traffic for
    small businesses; they boost civic pride and tourism, build community
    cohesion and give something back to residents.
    - Strategic investment is an important part of long-term fiscal
    stability. A McKinsey and Co. study in 2006 found that "for every 1
    dollar of public arts funding in a regional economy, 8 are generated."
    - Toronto is falling behind other cities in relative cultural spending:
    according to the Martin Prosperity Institute after inflation, cultural
    funding has been stagnant since 1991 and average cities around the
    country have expanded their cultural expenditures by more than 4 times as
    much as Toronto, putting the city on the low end of competitive growth.
    - According to EKOS Research, 80% of Torontonians think that government
    investment in the arts in public spaces improves the local economy and
    only 18% support the funds going to general revenue. is a youth led alliance of 60 organizations who first introduced the tax in 2001 as a means of beautifying Toronto and giving voice to high-need communities. The proposal is backed by three rounds of public opinion polls EKOS (2009) Environics (2007) and Pollara (2005) and a 4667 person petition. The tax as a means to enhance public spaces with art was council's original direction to staff and repeated in city press releases, over 45 times in council chambers, two rounds of public consultations and multiple staff presentations (see archive and polls here:


For further information: For further information: Media Inquiries, Devon, (647) 267-4221; Julia Che, Agents of Change,, (416) 928-1978

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