Toronto This a.m.: Arguments And the Vote
Gail Chiasson, North American Editor
With the long awaited vote in Toronto to put a $10.4 million tax on billboards – with the funds destined for art and beautification of the city – expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. EST, this morning, a group of some 50-plus arts-related organizations under the name beautifulcity.ca has made public a poll and an economic study that are very much for the tax so vehemently protested by the members of the Out-of-Home Marketing Association of Canada.
An EKOS Research poll found 70% of Torontonians supporting such a tax. The polling also shows that a clear majority are less likely to support the tax if it does not end up supporting the arts. And 80% of Torontonians believe that government investments in arts and culture improve the local economy. The results are based on 700 respondents and are valid +/- 3.7 percentage points 19/20.
And on Nov. 27, the City of Toronto finally released a report by Professor David Amborski, Ryerson University economist, that contradicts many of the claims made by the billboard industry. While OMAC’s report by an independent third party research house, concluded that the tax is more than the industry earns in total, Amborski’s report concludes that the proposed billboard tax represents less than 7% of gross industry revenues, that the research methodology of OMAC’s Altus Report was flawed, and that the tax would not negatively impact the economy.
Beautifulcity.ca also planned to present a petition this morning that includes over 4,300 signatures in support for the billboard tax for art and enforcement.
BeautifulCity.ca is a city building initiative that aims to beautify, democratize and diversify access to public space, and in turn – hold companies investing in billboard advertising accountable for their impact on shared spaces through an annual license fee.
According to beautifulcity.ca, Toronto spends less on arts and culture than other major North American cities: $13 per-capita, compared to Montreal’s $32, New York’s $54 and San Francisco’s $80 in per-capita spending. The group also contends that funds are needed to enforce the new bylaw and take down illegal billboards and remove the ‘wild-west situation’ that currently dominates Toronto’s shared spaces.
“We don’t agree with the figures shown by OMAC,” says Devon Ostrom, an ‘independent curator’ and spokesperson for beautifulcity.ca. “And as far as its argument that charities would lose out, well, we’ve talked to a lot of big ones who say all they get are the unused avails anyway.”
OMAC, which has been lobbying Toronto’s Council members, is hoping that the Council will delay voting on the tax and bylaw for at least another month so that further information on their impact can be studied by the city’s project team.