Pride Toronto’s severe case of TGIF: how the gay and lesbian festival ended up having one of its worst weeks ever

Pride Toronto’s severe case of TGIF: how the gay and lesbian festival ended up having one of its worst weeks ever

This has been a nasty week for Pride Toronto. The bad news started on Wednesday, when it came out that Pride had overspent its revenues for 2010 by more than $400,000, having blown through all the money the group raised in 2010 plus a sizeable surplus that had been left over from 2009. Then, on Wednesday, Pride Toronto’s executive director Tracey Sandilands resigned after the discoveries of the massive deficit and the fact that she had given a $40,000 job to her partner. Finally, at last night’s raucous general meeting, the board had to answer questions that sometimes got as blunt as “how do we call for all your resignations”?

How did Pride get in to this financial—and now, political—disaster? A brief recap, after the jump.

• In 2009, Pride Toronto was given a large grant from Ottawa’s Marquee Tourism program. The Conservative Party, apparently responding to pressure from their caucus, took the Marquee program away from Diane Ablonczy and gave it to Tony Clement, a.k.a. 2010’s Man to Blame for Everything.”

• In the spring of 2010, Pride Toronto was dealing with the bubbling controversy of whether to allow Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QUAIA) to march in the main parade. By late April of 2010, it was a big enough deal that it was no longer an internal Pride matter—Giorgio Mammoliti, for one, was running against Pride by that point.

• Thanks to reporting by the Canadian Press, we know that Pride Toronto had come off the list of approved events for the Marquee program by May 7th.

• And then we had this week’s news.

There’s no shortage of fingers being pointed. The conventional view is that QUAIA scared off a large number of donors and grants, leading to this year’s financial shenanigans. And sure enough, Pride Toronto would not be in the red at all if it had gotten the $630,000 it requested from Ottawa’s Marquee Tourism program. The timing—QUAIA blowing up before the Marquee grant was denied—suggests that at the very least, if the Tories were looking for a reason to say no to Pride, QUAIA gave it to them.

Critics of Pride Toronto say that QUAIA is being used as a scapegoat—a way to mask Pride’s own mismanagement.  One of the most basic questions asked at the board meeting last night (and we think it’s one that deserves answering) is: why was Pride seemingly betting the farm on a grant from the Conservative government? The Ablonczy debacle of 2009 was a not-too-subtle hint that the feds were uninterested in publicly supporting Toronto’s gay and lesbian festival—a hint that Pride’s management seems to have missed.

• Pride Toronto’s Tracey Sandilands resigns []
• Pride Toronto financial statements show big losses []
Pride Toronto head resigns after deficit reported [Toronto Star]
Toronto Pride passed test for federal funds but got nothing [Globe and Mail]