Free ride for arts groups must end 5

Free ride for arts groups must end 5

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North Bay, Canada

#1 Nov 22, 2012
Free ride for arts groups must end 5

First posted: Thursday, November 22, 2012 06:37 PM EST | Updated: Thursday, November 22, 2012 06:53 PM EST

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There’s a big difference between giving people a hand up and a hand out.

Give them a hand up, and you teach them to fend for themselves.

Give then a hand out, and they’ll just keep coming back for more.

That’s what’s happening in light of the bizarre City of Toronto policy giving 93 well-connected arts, theatre and community groups free rent in city-owned real estate, plus lavishing huge operating grants on them, year after year.

As Sun City Hall columnist Sue-Ann Levy reported Wednesday, Toronto taxpayers are being hit with a double whammy of waste.

Not only is the city forfeiting millions of dollars by charging these groups a nominal $2 annually in rent for a period of up to 10 years, it’s also massively subsidizing their day-to-day operations as well.

This fiscal insanity all but guarantees that none of these groups will ever become self-sufficient, because there’s no incentive for them to do so.

As Budget Chief Mike Del Grande, one of the few voices of financial sanity at City Hall, rightly notes,“the problem with the $2 rent is that it gives no incentive (to) an organization to make things work. What incentive is there for anyone to meet their operational goals?” To that we would add, what operational goals?

Under the city’s current policy these 93 groups — and who knows how they were chosen in the first place — don’t even have to explain what financial benefit the city is getting by providing them free rent.

It’s hard to conceive of a policy more likely to keep these groups attached to the public teat forever.

That’s because it simply assumes these organizations will need public subsidies forever, instead of compelling them to become more self-sufficient over time.

It’s the same government welfare mentality that assumes that people who start out as low-income earners will always be low-income earners, which a recent Fraser Institute study exposed as a myth.

In the real world, most people start out at the bottom of the economic ladder and move up over time.

But not if governments keep throwing other people’s money at them.

Sadly, that’s a lesson City Hall has yet to learn.

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