Today Heritage Toronto and Toronto Historical Association released their State of Heritage Report assessing the city’s heritage sector.
This report, released every four years after the municipal election, aims to:
• provide a picture of the current state of heritage in Toronto;
• lay out goals for strengthening the heritage sector;
• provide recommendations to the Mayor, City Council, senior staff and decision makers to improve resource allocation within the sector, including financial resources, human resources, and the resource of political will.
It comes at an especially timely moment, given discussion over the last few days about potential budget cuts to Heritage Preservation Services staffing, as well as recent heritage losses such as the Stollery’s building, plus Ontario Heritage Week wrapping up this past Sunday. As the new Mayor and City Councillors get settled post-election, it is an ideal time to put forth much-needed recommendations to improve the heritage sector.
In a nutshell, this year’s report reflects good work on revising the Official Plan, starting to reposition heritage as a better aspect of city planning, and putting the Inventory of Heritage Properties into a single easily-accessible source. There is a pressing need to allocate more staff and resources to enforce existing laws, and to enact stronger legislation and longer review timelines to avoid the irreparable loss of heritage sites. Improvements are also needed to expand interpretation of Toronto’s heritage beyond traditional pioneer history as well as improve communication amongst those who have a stake in the sector.
In past years, the State of Heritage Report was informed mainly by private stakeholder consultations. This year it was expanded to include formal research and public symposia related to the four pillars of heritage the report covers (natural, archaeological, architectural and cultural heritage). A wide cross-section of the heritage sector was consulted, including City of Toronto staff, First Nations, volunteers and advocates, and professionals working in the private sector. For the first time, a “progress report” has been added to the report: It grades selected recommendations from the previous report to gauge how far the heritage sector has come since four years ago. It was introduced as a way to track progress made against key recommendations every four years. The grades were designated given what was found from research, consultations and symposia as well as through consultation with Heritage Toronto’s Conservation Committee made up of Board Members with relevant backgrounds.