By KEN BRUZUAL
Very often, when it comes to public policy and investment on entertainment and culture initiatives, governments and municipal administrations seem to believe that the Grass is Greener elsewhere and miss the wealth or nature of the opportunity under their noses.
Ontario’s retort to Expo 67’s USA biosphere and Bell Canada’s 360 degree Cinesphere was the creation of Ontario Place in the 1970s. This project collapsed recently and may have been temporarily resuscitated with a casino that would have mirrored the likes of Casino La Ronde, another from Man and His World’s vision. Ontario’s retort to the overly successful Montreal International Jazz Festival appears to be Luminato. Both of these projects have seen millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.
The same can be said of the millions put annually into Stratford Festival, into the Opera and Ballet sectors which fortunately have had pragmatic artistic guidance and forbearance as well as artistic advancements. But as was clearly articulated, to the warm appreciation of the cream of local art enthusiasts at a seminar for the projection of funding for the ensuing 10 years and held in 1990/91 by Toronto Arts Council: “These institutions and their programs were being funded with significant percentages of the tourism and hospitality income derived from Caribana festivals, while the Caribana organization was not funded with even 0.005 per cent of the income it generated.”
Several staff members of Ontario Arts Council were in attendance but nothing changed for the well-being of Caribana. And today, Ontario’s formula for funding of the carnival festival is no better. The music for the carnival street parade of costumes and floats is not even local, nor provided by any ensembles of either of the two generations of local Caribbean descendants and/or their Canadian buddies born during the 46 years since 1967. This is an anomaly for international carnival venues.
Toronto’s mayor and his team have recently sought guidance for maximizing the outcome of the city’s involvement in the local music industry. The mayor was advised that Toronto has the potential for becoming the New Orleans of Canada. But patchworks without pragmatism do not bear good fruit and ‘to get a crop of corn, one may not sow peas’.
Ontario’s GTA has seen a profound entrenchment of specific cultural genres in its youth across both the width and height of the region. Is the Premier of Ontario whose ‘beating’ of a steelpan instrument was featured in mainstream media recently, aware of the fact? Is the mayor who was serenaded into the Scarborough ‘Fordfest’ aware?
As in New Orleans, where the Soul of the Culture is Jazz, which rose from an innate foundation, should not the city and the province determine what is the current musical Soul of the GTA and consider giving some genuine support to that? Surely it will evolve with time while giving opportunities for the development of other dynamic musical genres to surface.