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 [Xtra.ca]
• Pride Toronto financial statements show big losses [Xtra.ca]
• Pride Toronto head resigns after deficit reported [Toronto Star]
• Toronto Pride passed test for federal funds but got nothing [Globe and Mail]
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It should be noted that one of the reasons for Tracey Sandiland’s resignation may have been the fact that she had contracted her wife, Janine Marais — or rather her wife’s ‘company,’ MediaWorld [http://mediaworldtoronto.com] — to manage the Pride Toronto website and online newsletters. This presented a major conflict of interest that was unbeknownst to the Pride Toronto Board until their Auditor made it known to them on November 26, 2010. Before then, the Board was under the impression (or, more accurately, misled to believe) that Sandiland’s wife was just a volunteer of Pride Toronto — an arrangement that began in April of 2009.
In fact, at yesterday’s Board meeting, it became known that there were some senior Pride coordinators who expressed concern over this arrangement when it first became known that Marais-MediaWorld was being paid by Pride Toronto. They were told that this was a temporary agreement and that Marais would no longer be paid for her services. But this turned out to be untrue. Unbeknownst to the Board, Pride Toronto paid Marais-MediaWorld $40,317 for its services during the 2009-2010 fiscal year alone.
(Pride Toronto’s year-end is the 31st of July. Why this conflict of interest was not reported in the 2008-2009 audited financial statements still remains unanswered)
And to add to the suspiciousness of it all, it has been reported that this arrangement was made known to AND approved by then Treasurer Mark Singh (whose term ended last September) and Co-Chair Jim Cullen (who resigned May of last year) who went ahead with the contract despite the conflict of interest. Indeed, this was an arrangement that persisted even AFTER the six-person lay-off in July. Why this approval was not made known to the rest of the Board also remains unanswered.
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TMI!!! Way TMI… The bottom line is where does Pride Toronto go from here ? 2014 ? This years pride ? And time to ask yourselves, IS PRIDE REALLY RELEVANT ANYMORE?! Just shut down the streets and party, sell lots of drinks/alcohol and rake in lots of money!!
Take a good look what happen to caribana cultural committee in Toronto, the old guards lost control or even pillage there own finances and now a major corporation controls it with the help of the ontario government reaping the profits. The pride parade just like caribana parade brings this city to much money to let the government or any major corporation control it. Some one needs to really take charge before your committee loses control. Even if you have to delay the parade for a year get your financing and the budget straight to avoid government and a corporation like Scotia bank from controlling your event. Remember its a celebration for the people, don’t let the government choke hold you.
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