Arts and culture in London are critical to the health of our community and to our sense of who we are as citizens.

London’s arts and culture sector directly contributes $450 million every year to the local GDP. This represents $1,475 per capita created in economic benefit compared to the $60 per capita invested by the City of London. In terms of economic return on investment, the arts and culture sector is one of the best we can make as a city. This growth has led to nearly 1,300 “cultural enterprises,” many of them small businesses, working right here in London.

London Arts Council (LAC) has created many programs, including Belong to Song, which supports people with mental illness; Connecting Through Art in Dementia Care, with McCormick Dementia Services, which improves the quality of life for those with dementia; and Citizen Culture, which provides free passes to London’s arts and culture venues for newcomers and new citizen. Through LAC, the City of London invests in vital organizations and institutions such as the Grand Theatre, Museum London, London Symphonia, and the many festivals and organizations — such as the Palace Theatre, TAP, and Forest City Gallery — which make a significant contribution to the fabric of our community.

I know economically, and in terms of creating a better quality of life for our citizens, investing in arts makes sense. Through the London Music Office and Tourism London we hosted the Canadian Country Music Awards and next year will host the Juno Awards, which will bring benefit to businesses throughout our community. These national events add to the economic and city-building work of local artists that we should build on.

But we can do better. Our local theatre scene is rich, but needs more help. Our local dance community is growing, but needs more investment. In addition, with some careful planning and consideration, London can become a centre for the film industry as well. Add to this the work of our digital creators and we can use London’s Cultural Prosperity Plan as a blueprint for future growth. The is why I am proposing to increase the funding to the Community Arts Investment Program by $750,000. In terms of our city budget this is a fraction, but in terms of return on investment it would generate $2,950 per capita on a $120 per capita investment.

Arts and culture tell us who we are as a community and a country and in time of uncertainty it helps us understand one another through our shared stories and music. I believe in arts and culture, not as an ornament or as a nice to have, but as a vital part of our prosperity from which we all reap the benefits because in the London I envision, everyone matters.