News / Toronto

ArtsVote Toronto debate far from a 'F-cked Up' affair

The ArtsVote Toronto debate was a peaceful affair.

"I want to commend all of you on how civil you're being,” moderator Damian Abraham, lead singer of the hardcore band F-cked Up, told the candidates midway through the debate at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Monday. “They prepared me for the worst. I was going to bring a helmet.”

Abraham issued a warning before the debate began that he would not tolerate racism, homophobia or misogyny, perhaps because at a community mayoral debate last week, audience members shouted bigoted comments.

He strictly enforced the debate rules and didn’t shy away from cutting off the candidates who veered off-topic from the arts. He explained he was instructed to keep to the script. “If it was up to me there would be lots more swearing today, no shirt," he said.

The candidates, Doug Ford, John Tory, Olivia Chow, Morgan Baskin and Ari Goldkind, all support city funding for the arts and spoke passionately about the important role the arts plays in Toronto.

It was a major contrast from 2010, when Rob Ford earned the ire of his opposing candidates and the crowd by saying he didn’t support city funding for the arts when the money should be spent on road repairs.

ArtsVote grades mayoral and city council candidates and will release its 2014 results soon. Last time, Rob Ford got a D.

Doug Ford took a different position, and argued that funding for the arts was beneficial for the city’s economy. He repeatedly mentioned last year’s council trip to Austin and promised to bring a world-class music festival to Toronto. After Baskin was cheered for pointing that Toronto already has several world class music festivals, Ford was booed for suggesting to her that Austin’s festivals are better.

Tory advocated bringing artists on trade missions, giving landlords incentives for letting artists use untenanted properties and supporting the city’s touring arts groups.

Chow spoke about her own ties to the arts—as a former working artist and a former member of the Art Gallery of Ontario board—and her support for creating a Toronto city music office.

Candidates' transformative experiences

The candidates were each asked to tell the audience about the most transformative art experience they have ever had.

Ari Goldkind: “O.Noir… It’s a restaurant where you’re in the pitch black dark, when I say pitch black dark, you can’t even see your hand in front of you. It may be a dining experience, to me there was something very artful.”

Olivia Chow: “AGO exhibition recently, Ai Weiwei. On the wall, all the names of the children that died because of the earthquake, partially because the schools were not built properly. Reading those names is just phenomenal because art is politics and politics is art.”

John Tory: “I could name a number, but I’m amazed every time I go to see a one-person play…But I will say… Nuit Blanche. Partly because it’s at night, partially because of the incredible diversity of what’s going on. Some of it, quite offbeat. It’s so interesting.”

Morgan Baskin: “I went to a photocopier dance party at Nuit Blanche. There’s something to be said for interactive art. Having a dance party with the amazing people that live in this city, to the light of photocopiers.”

Doug Ford: “I have to go back to when we funded the first murals in Rexdale. That was a big thing. Rexdale’s been around 100 years and there was no murals on any of the walls. So we’re going to make sure we have any blank wall decorated, painted.”

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