Last month, we reported that several Conservative MPs expressed their disapproval of the federal government’s funding of the Toronto Pride Parade, although none of them would go on the record. After we went to press, Tory MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt) told that most of the Conservative caucus was displeased with the government’s $400,000 grant to Toronto’s annual celebration of homosexuality through the new Marquee Tourism Events Program.

Trost also suggested that Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism Diane Ablonczy was stripped of responsibility for the program. It is unclear how the allocation of nearly a half-million dollars of taxpayer money was provided to an event that often features nudity and simulated sex acts on city streets. Pro-family groups were outraged.

We are willing to accept the fact that some nameless bureaucrat approved the funding when it was determined that the Pride event qualified under the program guidelines. But did Ablonczy really need to brag about the funding in a press conference in which she was surrounded by drag queens and lavished praise on the supposed economic benefits of the event?

Pride organizers and their allies, such as Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul), claimed the event attracts more than a million visitors to Toronto and helps inject more than $90 million into the local economy. Both of those numbers are dubious, but if they were true, there would be even less reason to pump $400,000 into the coffers of the organizers. It would seem the Pride parade and associated week-long events do not need the taxpayer handout to promote themselves.

No formal announcement has been made that the minister responsible for tourism was stripped of responsibility for the Marquee Tourism Events Program as punishment for the embarrassing funding announcement, although Maclean’s was among the media outlets that seemed to subscribe to that view. Now, Industry Minister Tony Clement is in charge of the MTEP and has told reporters that, as a new program, it will be reviewed to ensure the government gets “value for money” for its contribution. We encourage the government to review the values to which it is contributing.

Aside from the moral questions this story raises, there are also political ramifications. As Gerry Nicholls, a conservative critic of the government, has noted, the whole mess ends up alienating everyone. By supporting the gay pride parade, the Conservatives have upset their socially conservative backers. By giving a special interest group $400,000, the government has ticked off its libertarian supporters. By appearing to back away from the handout, Harper is sending mixed signals to independent voters.

While the Tories cannot undo the damage done with this particular fiasco, they could clarify things greatly by committing themselves to clear, socially conservative principles – including principled and consistent opposition to the gay agenda.