Base instincts: Are the Tories playing to their core supporters in cutting off funding to Toronto Pride?

Base instincts: Are the Tories playing to their core supporters in cutting off funding to Toronto Pride?
Unfunded: Toronto Pride gets shafted by the feds (Image: Neal Jennings)

Who can forget last summer, when then–tourism minister Diane Ablonczy, surrounded by drag queens, handed nearly half a million dollars to Toronto’s gay pride festival. The Conservative party went a little bit crackers, and many alleged that Ablonczy was punished for supporting the event. The debacle posed a number of problems for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, so this year he’s come up with a tidy little solution: Toronto Pride will get exactly $0 for its 2010 festival. An event that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to Toronto will get nothing from a program designed to boost tourism in Canada. The obvious question is, Why?

The National Post has some theories:

So intense was the caucus backlash last July against a publicity photo of then-tourism minister Diane Ablonczy awarding $400,000 to a Pride committee group, including busty transvestites, the story goes, that the order to Industry Canada was to design a new process that would ensure the event would not qualify again.

“They’ve been on top of this since way back then to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” says one Tory close to the Industry Minister. “They had a year to restructure the program in a way that would exclude Toronto Pride.”

But that’s just one version. Other senior Tories have others. One posited that Prime Minister Stephen Harper enjoys stoking social issues that divide the Liberal caucus.

And so does the Star, which notes that the Conservatives have been playing more and more to their base:

Consider, as well, other recent moves by the government, such as defunding women’s groups, excluding abortion from its international maternal health initiative, and pushing legislation to scrap the long-gun registry.

May we add slamming the CBC?

The Tories’ defence is that Montreal and Toronto are given only two grants each as a way of helping out smaller cities. Only problem is, that policy was brought in directly after the last crack-up over Pride funding. Suspicious, to say the least. Then there’s the fact that while denying Pride any money, the Tories did manage to find some spare change for Luminato and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Farmers need that much help showing city slickers their livestock, apparently.

We don’t need much explanation for yet another example of Toronto’s magical money-repelling powers. This will, however, help bridge any remaining gaps between Toronto’s different tribes. Transit users and Pride revellers are now in the same boat—neither of us gets any money from Ottawa.

• Grants and drag queens don’t mix [National Post] • Harper shows anti-gay side [Toronto Star] • Tories say Gay Pride “well looked-after” [Toronto Star] • ‘Why does ideology trump economics’ in funding gay pride? [Globe and Mail]


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