Mayor John Tory has declared February 7, 2018, as International Clash Day in Toronto, following in the footsteps of other cities in recognizing the influential British punk band’s contributions to music worldwide. In a press release, Tory referenced the group’s past performances at venues including the Rex Danforth Theatre, the O’Keefe Centre and Maple Leaf Gardens, praising how the band “made music with a social consciousness and believed that all people deserved a voice.”
That would be an innocuous enough “How do you do, fellow kids?”-style proclamation, but the announcement also included the assertion that “Toronto is a Music City and celebrates the influence of all genres and all those who birth new sounds through their talent and creative expression.”
It’s another instance of the city invoking its self-proclaimed Music City label to focus on the past while downplaying the real and present challenges facing its music scene and the people who make it so vibrant. At least in Olympia, Washington, the city’s International Clash Day proclamation calls out the band’s message of “anti-imperialism, anti-racism, poverty awareness.”
While the mayor uses the event to place The Guns Of Brixton on a few Spotify playlists, it feels like a good time to remind him there are still a number of pressing issues he could lead city council to address.
1. Toronto rent is still absurdly high
Despite the introduction of Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan last year, which legally protects tenants from major rent increases, Toronto recently surpassed Vancouver as Canada’s most expensive rental city. In December 2017, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom condo in Toronto was $2,020, up 15.4 per cent from the same period last year. There can’t be a Music City if musicians can’t afford to live here.
2. Live music venues keep closing
One of the pillars of the Toronto Music Advisory Council’s platform is the preservation of live music venues large and small, though progress on that front has been slow, as TMAC members repeatedly find themselves in stalemates with city staffers. In the meantime, venues like Less Bar and D-Beatstro are going or gone.
3. Increased funding for rap and R&B
Tory claims that the city supports all genres equally, but when it comes to arts funding for hip-hop and R&B, the numbers tell a different story. Awarding $200,000 to Toronto non-profit youth arts organization the Remix Project to build a new facility on the waterfront is a good start, but there needs to be more done to nurture and support new artists.
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