After controversy surrounding the federal government’s funding of Toronto Gay Pride festivities, Stephen Harper re-assigned responsibilities for the Marquee Tourism Events Program, which gave $397,500 to the homosexualist organization, to Industry Minister Tony Clement from Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism Diane Ablonczy. Pro-family organizations were outraged that the celebration of homosexuality, which often features scantily clad and naked demonstrators as well as simulated sex acts, received taxpayer dollars.
This year, Clement announced that the MTEP would not grant Pride its $600,000 request for assistance.
Liberal Tourism Critic Navdeep Bains charged in a Liberal press release that “Discrimination and vote-buying is behind the Harper Conservatives’ decision to cut off funding to gay pride and arts festivals in favour of those events that support their right-wing agenda or pander to their core voting base.”
Clement denied that the refusal to subsidize Pride was tied to a social conservative agenda or any other political ideology, but rather the government’s goal of spreading around Marquee Tourism Event Program money to more events across the country. During Question Period in the House of Commons, Clement said the government imposed a cap of two events per major urban center, “so we could spread it around and make sure that the diversity of the country was recognized by this program.”
The two Toronto attractions that received funding were the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and the Luminato Arts Festival. Furthermore, no gay pride events anywhere received a federal subsidy this year. Clement noted that 19 new events were given financial support. Clement added that just because an event received funds in the past does not mean they were entitled to future funding. He said it was “inaccurate” to describe the refusal to subsidize Pride as “cutting off” funding because decisions about financial support are not presumed to be annual subsidies.
Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands told the CBC that she believes the government is motivated by “homophobia” and is pandering to its socially conservative base. Yet the public seems on the government’s side. In an unscientific online Toronto Star poll, 68 per cent of respondents agreed with the government’s decision to not fund the parade.
While Liberal MP Bain said that Tories were making a mistake in refusing to fund “one of Canada’s largest and best-known tourism events in North America,” supporters of the government’s re-prioritizing of tourism dollars say that if the Gay Pride Parade actually attracted one million visitors, created 650 jobs, and resulted in more than $100 million in economic activity generating $18 million in tax revenue, there would be no need to subsidize Pride. Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes said, “We understand Clement’s discretion … It is a bit far fetched for the radical homosexual activists who parade nude down the street to expect cash in these tough times.”
According to National Post columnist Barbara Kay, Toronto Pride has lost Proctor and Gamble and Pepsi as sponsors in recent months, leaving only TD Bank and Labatt Breweries as major backers. However, as Kay notes, corporations have withdrawn support because of a controversy over an anti-Israel display that has taken part in the parade.