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A study of municipal investment in culture in five major Canadian cities indicates that Toronto, our largest metropolis, is faltering in efforts to increase per capita funding while the others – Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and Calgary – demonstrate a more robust commitment to the arts.

Prepared by Hamilton-based Hill Strategies Research in association with the five municipalities, the report, released this week, compares data gathered between 2006 and 2009. Toronto's civic government spent $19 per person on culture in 2009, a 12 per cent increase from 2006, whereas Montreal's tally was $55, up 34 per cent from 2006, and Calgary's $42, a 55 per cent increase.

Indeed, per capita-wise, Toronto ranked last in 2008 and 2009 among the five cities surveyed and third, behind Montreal and Vancouver, in 2006 and 2007.

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In 2003, Toronto city council agreed to try to reach a per capita investment in culture of $25 by 2008. At that time, the city's per capita investment, in both operating and capital expenditures, was $14.64. By 2008 the statistic was only $18. The $25 target was affirmed again by council in votes in August 2010 and May 2011 – but based on the Hill Strategies report, it could be the early 2020s before that goal is reached, if ever. Council, in fact, is facing a 10 per cent cut to Toronto's arts budget proposed by the city's budget committee.

According to Hill Strategies, the five-city average in per capita municipal investment for 2009 was $35, an increase of 46 per cent from 2006. Pacing that statistic was Calgary, which saw its per capita cultural investment grow by an impressive 175 per cent (to $42 from $15), the largest, on average, of the five cities surveyed.

The report also found that in 2009, 34 per cent of all "cultural workers" in Canada lived in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver, with the B.C.'s largest city having the highest concentration (7.2 per cent), followed by Montreal (6.4 per cent) and Toronto (5.9 per cent). The overall average for "cultural workers" in the Canadian labour force is 3.3 per cent.

The study also touched on library spending: $53 per capita was invested in library operations in the five surveyed cities in 2009. Only two cities – Toronto and Vancouver – topped that national average, with $69 and $61 per capita, respectively. However, municipal support for libraries seems largely sluggish or flat: Vancouver's per capita investment in libraries for 2006 was only $60, Montreal's budged only 16 per cent, to $43 from $37 three years previous.

Net per capita municipal investment in culture in five Canadian cities:

Montreal: $55 (2009); $41 (2006)

Vancouver: $47 (2009); $33 (2006)

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Calgary: $42 (2009); $15 (2006)

Ottawa: $28 (2009); $15 (2006)

Toronto: $19 (2009); $17 (2006)

Source: Hill Strategies Research Inc.

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