Who needs any further convincing?
Randal Denley, Ottawa Citizen,
22 June 2006
Instead of grovelling for a government handout, maybe those who claim to represent Ottawa's gay people shoud ask themselves whether a Pride Festival is really necessary.
It's been 20 years since the first gay pride event in Ottawa and we've made tremendous progress in accepting gays and lesbians as what they are, people like everyone else. If anything, the annual pride parade harms the image of gays, presenting them as fetishists in odd costumes.
And it's not just the parade: last year's festival featured a "pansexual Leather Fest."
Maybe that's why the floundering pride event is getting so little support from gays themselves. If you're putting on a great event for a group that purports to be 10 per cent of the population, one wouldn't think it would be so difficult to raise $20,000.
That's how much cash the festival committee wanted from Ottawa city councillors but, for once, they were smart enough to say no.
That "no" came only after the festival ran up an unpaid bill of $16,425 for police and paramedic services in previous festivals and defaulted on a city-guaranteed $50,000 line of credit from 2004. Taxpayers will never see that money again.
In their Solomon-like wisdom, councillors agreed to write off the $16,425 debt and not bill the festival for $13,810 in similar services this year. It also gave the festival more time to pay back the $50,000, at no interest. None of that means much, because without the $20,000 cash grant, the festival doesn't have enough money to get started. As guarantor of the line of credit, the city is on the hook to pay the bank back.
The pride festival organization is in such a mess that it was easy for councillors to say no. In total, the festival organization owes $136,653, and that's after getting some creditors to take 25 cents on the dollar.
It has no assets. The group's projections for this year's event are more of a wish than a plan. The festival has never charged admission, but this year thinks it can collect $80,000. It wanted to use the $20,000 city handout to get started, then run the festival at a profit and take the $20,000 to pay the city debt back with its own cash.
Really, how could councillors have said yes to this?
The group does have $13,000 in support from businesses, but it was seeking $40,000. One of the organizers admitted the festival doesn't have much credibility with businesses because of its poor financial historv.
Treasurer Gordon Boissonneault wanted the city to do an audit of the spotty financial records from the preVious board and wondered aloud if there had been wrongdoing. He later said he has no proof that any money was siphoned off, but none of this would encourage more spending. All that didn't deter Councillor Diane Holmes, who led the charge to save the Pride Festival, with the help of Councillor Alex Cullen. If those two thought this was worth public money, it's difficult to imagine what they wouldn't fund.
City councillors did want to make it clear that not supporting the Pride Festival doesn't mean they don't have the greatest respect for the GLBT "community." Councillors said the usual silly things, agreeing that Ottawa is a much better place because of the "diversity" our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons bring.
Which stereotype were they relying on? Does the vibrancy come about because all gay people have a flair for the arts, or is it because they are flashy dressers?
A number of gay and lesbian people told city councillors the Pride Festival is important because it says it's OK to be homosexual. Who said it wasn't? We've got a gay guy running for mayor and only homophobic nuts think his sexuality is the most important part of his resume.
The pro-gay point of view has now become so commonplace, it's seen as a scandal when an honorary degree is awarded to ethicist Margaret Somerville, who opposes gay marriage, or Rabbi Reuven Bulka, who belongs to a group that thinks homosexuality can be cured.
Surely, we're past the point where gays and lesbians need to march in a parade to convince themselves they are all right. They certainly don't need to convince me. If you're gay, I don't care. I'm sure you're no more interested in my sex life than I am in yours.
Some of those seeking city money argued it would be embarrassing for the national capital not to have a gay pride event. Not really. Maybe it would just show that gay people here have become part of the mainstream. Wasn't that always the goal?