“He’s a penny pincher.” Ask a Toronto taxi driver how their crack-smoking, stupor-drunk mayor Rob Ford ever gained so much support and he’ll give you a simple answer. He’s known as the man who cuts waste. You can’t escape austerity anywhere, yet Canada’s music scene is thriving. I came here to find out why.
The next morning, before the award of the annual Polaris Music Prize, I have breakfast downtown with founder Steve Jordan. In Award Show years, the Polaris is only a baby – Jordan started the award in 2006, inspired by way the Mercury Prize shortlist introduced him to a host of obscure and interesting new British music each year. “A lightbulb went off,” he says. “I was thousands of miles away, but I was discovering records through them.”
He wanted to do the same for Canadian music, so he rounded up 190 Canadian journalists to vote for their favourite home-grown albums of the year. Unlike the slightly murky, label-led Mercury submission process, the journalists were given free reign to nominate whichever records they wanted to. Then each year a new ‘Grand Jury’ of 11 is drawn up, with each record on the 10-strong shortlist having its champion. Like the Mercurys the winner is decided on the night of the award, so when we meet Jordan has no idea who will win. “The only thing I know for sure,” he says, “is that whoever wins, half our audience will be shocked and the other half will tell us we’ve been too predictable.”