Mayor John Tory 2017 Evening Speech

On the night of Monday November 20th at the 2017 Mayor's Evening for the Arts, the Mayor of Toronto gave an uplifting speech to a room of over 1,000 arts supporters. From economic benefits, to enhancing our quality of life, Mayor John Tory spoke about the importance of the arts to Toronto's success. The following is a transcript of the speech. 

I want to say thank you to all of the people who are involved in this [Evening], and that is the whole Toronto Arts Foundation team, the Toronto Arts Council team, Kathleen Sharpe, Claire Hopkinson, the staff, the board, the volunteers, as well to our city staff and to Karen Miller, and to all of those who put the Evening together. More than anything else – and this is why we hope this will give you a flavour for what you’re supporting – I want to give a thanks to the artists who took part tonight. Those artists, and all of the other ones we have in the city – and of course there are thousands upon thousands of talented, creative and innovative people are so critical to the success and the fabric of our city – they perform here on behalf of a group of talented men and women who are the envy of the entire world, when you look at our arts community and our group of artists that we are privileged to have living in our city.

Now I want to thank each and every one of you for being here. When I became the Mayor and we re-instated the Mayor’s Evening for the Arts, you have helped us to contribute hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Toronto Arts Foundation in support of program like Arts in the Parks, and it is a huge contribution that in and of itself to strengthening the fabric of the city…

I can talk about the importance of the arts to Toronto within the context of the arts and culture being in and of themselves big job creators, sustaining tens of thousands of jobs.  If I just stood up here and had that alone to say, that would be important to the wellbeing of this city.  And I assure you that I could go on to talk knowledgeably about the importance that the arts and culture have in attracting investment to our city especially now that companies are looking for innovative, creative people to work for them, and those industries locate where they can find those people and those people tend to live in places which celebrate creativity and art and culture.  So arts and culture are a jobs magnet for Toronto.

I can tell you right now when I have the privilege of travelling on behalf of this city … I’m seeking investment; in particular, I’m seeking smart people to either move back here or to move here to add to our city’s already huge talent pool. Our thriving art scene is a big winner for us.

Mayor John Tory gets a painting lesson from artist Peter Farmer

But, it goes beyond the jobs that are created directly, the jobs magnet that the arts represents to attracting jobs and new people, the kind of people that we want and need to live in this city to keep it growing and thriving. And that will only be enhanced by the important designation of Toronto as a UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts, with thanks to Professor Paolo Granada … for this hard work in securing that designation for our city.

And while all of those jobs and investments are good for people in and of themselves, let’s not forget that those jobs and those investments and the wealth that they help to create produce the revenue that we, all of us in Government use to help those especially who need a bit of a hand up, to finance the kind of inclusive city that we all strive for. An inclusive city which also must include access to the arts and that’s really what this Arts in the Parks program is all about, making sure that every single person regardless of their circumstances and regardless of where they live in the city will have what I think is a very healthy exposure to the arts.

Now you may be surprised to hear me say that there are actually two even more important reasons why I believe that artists and the arts are so key to our city’s success. The first is that the arts are the ultimate unifying force in the world’s most diverse city. You know the new Mayor of London, and I think we can all take pride in the fact that he was elected as a Muslim man as the Mayor of London and he stood up on the night of his election, proud as he was and said he was proud to be the Mayor of the most diverse city in the world, and unfortunately for him he was fact-checked the next day by no less an authority than the BBC who said “sorry about that Mr Mayor, in fact the most diverse city in the world is Toronto Ontario Canada.” I haven’t had a chance to meet with him yet to remind him of that but I will.

But, you know that the arts are the ultimate unifying force in the world’s most diverse city. A group of people who come to Toronto, from around the world, initially, may not even be able to talk to each other, in any one single language. But they can stand together at an art gallery, they can find joy and happiness at a concert, in a song, they can see a dance performance, and experience joy together. And I think especially now, in a world which seems increasingly divided and turning inward, our recognized ability in Toronto to keep open hearts and open minds and open arms is more important than ever and I believe in my heart that the arts will be a crucial force in unifying the city, helping keep us admired around the world for the way we live together here, in this magnificent place.

Members of Convergence Theatre perform at the 2017 Mayor's Evening for the Arts

There is one more crucially important reason that the arts a key to our quality of life. Through artists and the arts we have one of the most indispensable ways in which we can tell our stories and illustrate our values and have people know who we are … and to reveal the soul of our city.  You’ve heard me use that expression before but I believe it in my heart, that the arts is the way the soul of the city is really going to come out and that’s important. Cities are living, breathing, evolving congregations of people. The buildings the parks and transit and the ravines, they’re important, but they’re never as important as the people. And if we’re going to be the most successful city in the world, in having a healthy and dynamic soul, knowing why we live together here, the openness, the creativity, the honesty, the fun, the reflection, provided by the arts will be a crucial part of that and that really is the test.

We are admired today, we’re listed among the world’s most liveable cities today but the test really is are we going to do the right things today to make sure we’re still on that list twenty five years from now? And if you look up the ten most liveable cities in the world as ranked by The Economist and others, you will find there, remarkably, three Canadian cities, but on all of the ten, no matter where they are, they all have a thriving arts and culture scene.

And so, I’m absolutely determined in the time that’s given to me in this job with your help, and in particular with the help of individual artists, to keep arts and culture at the heart of all we do; open, better funded, focused on big arts organizations and on individual artists, some of them struggling. At the same time, because it’s possible to do both, working with the City Council, and other governments, to get the public policy right, because that is our role.

And I thank you again for your help in achieving these objectives.  Your support for the arts, the artists and arts organizations in Toronto continue to make this city the envy of the world, let’s keep it that way. Thank you very much.