Canadian Government Denies Montreal Pride Grant $$

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Jul 24, 2009

The conservative Canadian government doles out grant money from a "Marquis Tourism" purse, the idea being that by helping underwrite cultural events, the government will be promoting tourism and bolstering the national economy.

The funds available are limited, of course, and everyone wants a share; but in the wake of a recent flap over a grant of $400,000 (more than $350,000 in U.S. currency) to a Pride event from a Minister of Parliament tasked with apportioning the tourism-stimulating funds, the fact that a Montreal gay arts festival was turned down flat strikes many as suspect.

In the July 26 edition of Now Magazine, Susan G. Cole wrote, "It's very clear what Stephen Harper and his Tory bigots think about queer-related events in this country."

Cole reported that, "Montreal's Divers/Cit? festival, a queer arts festival, was informed that its application for Marquis Tourism funding was rejected, even though it met all the program's criteria, at least according to government marketing director Paul Girard."

Cole reference the earlier flap, noting that, Federal Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy had lost control of the grant's purse strings after issuing money for Toronto's Gay Pride.

Ablonczy's old funding bailiwick then fell under the auspices of Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement.

The government denied that the shift was meant to discipline Ablonczy, and said that her responsibility for the fund was only temporary to begin with, slated to end once Clement had dealt with other issues.

Stated Cole, "Craparama."

Invited Cole, "Check out the official site entitled Canada's Economic Action Plan and what it has to say about the Marquee Tourism Events Project that gave that dough to Toronto's Pride."

Noted Cole, "Toronto's Pride Event isn't even listed among the organizations that were funded. It was eliminated, made invisible, clear evidence of the feds' homophobia."

Cole went on to claim, "Toronto's Pride event is only the largest of its kind on the planet--including San Francisco and New York--drawing a million people and many more dollars into the city.

"The grants in question are supposed to go to events that are major tourist attractions," Cole went on. "Isn't a million people enough?"

It's not just a gay thing, though. The politically prickly province of Quebec is inclined to see the denial of funds as a slap against the Quebecois themselves, according to a July 24 National Post article by John Moore carried at

The article, titled, "How Badly Do the Tories Want to Lose Quebec?," claims, "The Tories are not merely demonstrating a tin ear for the province they once courted with Machiavellian guile, they seem to be actively giving it the finger."

After recounting that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had initially seemed to have a knack for pleasing Quebec, the article went on to note, "During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister trotted out what should have been a gimme talking point for winning over ordinary Joes: the notion of the arts as a snobby, urban frippery.

"To his surprise, Quebecers, who regard culture as classless, reacted negatively," the article added.

"He dug himself a deeper trench by dismissing the whole affair as 'a niche issue,'" the article continued.

"As Churchill might have said, 'some issue, some niche.'"

The article went on to address the current controversy in political terms more general than gay and lesbian. "Now it seems the Tories have opted for a scorched-earth policy," Moore wrote., adding, "If they're going to lose in Quebec, they're going to go down like Sonny Corleone at the toll gate in The Godfather.

"This week, they pulled the pin on funding for Montreal's gay pride celebrations.

"All indications were that the event had fulfilled every qualification for its grant," Moore added. "But with 10 days to go, the department that took over the tourism-grants file from Diane Ablonczy (after she made the grave error of posing for pictures next to a drag queen) said 'Sorry, out of luck.'"

Moore continued, "I hate to be the one to break it to the federal Tories, but Quebecers--in spite of their Catholic roots--like their gays.

This latest move will merely hammer home the impression that the Conservatives not only fail to appreciate the province's unique character, they are hostile to it," Moore went on.

"There are many arguments to be made about whether splashy public events that generate millions of dollars in commercial revenue should be receiving government grants," noted Moore, "but that is clearly not the issue for Harper's caucus.

"The issue is gays and cities. And it would appear they have problems with both."

A July 23 article in the Gazette that was also posted at accused Harper's government of "pandering to its redneck base" in denying funds to the event and noted, "Some people, not all of them homophobes, might well be put off by the the garish vulgarity on display at gay pride parades, but for multitudes of others, not all of them gay, that's precisely the attraction."

The Gazette article cited Quebec's credentials among gay tourists, noting, "Divers/Cit? is furthermore a significant tourist draw in a city that benefits considerably from its cultivated repute as a gay-friendly tourist destination.

"The event met all the criteria for funding from the program in its application for a relatively modest $155,000, a fraction of its $2-million budget, and it was denied only after the file was kicked upstairs to the office of Tony Clement, the minister in charge of the program," the article continued.

The Gazette opined that the incident was "typical of the way the Harper Conservatives play wedge politics."

Stated the article, "The calculation here would be that anyone who attends a gay pride event is unlikely to vote Conservative anyway, so there's nothing lost in offending them, and points can be gained from pleasing the crowd that considers homosexuality to be a degenerate lifestyle choice."

A separate article in the National Post, also carried at, recounted the Ablonczy controversy, before going on to report, "Now the government again finds itself under fire, this time for denying funding from the same program for a gaythemed arts festival in Montreal.

The article continued, "Predictably, the decision is being portrayed as anti-gay and anti-Quebec.

The article cited both Moore's piece and the Gazette article, then went on to assert, "Both ignore the fact the Conservatives have funded many other gay and lesbian events, and that Quebec will get about 42% of the total fund, the same as Ontario, leaving the rest of the country to divvy up the remaining 16%."

The article called into question the very idea that government should be doling out money for local events of any sort.

"A fundamental failing of such government giveaways is that political gains from recipients are almost always outweighed by the resentment of those who are refused," the article continued.

"By trying to buy popularity in Ontario and Quebec," the article added, "Mr. Harper has slighted the rest of the country and fueled the usual charges of favoritism."

The article went on to note a paradox implicit in the controversy, posing the question, "Does this sound like a good use of a taxpayer-funded slush fund aimed at pumping up national morale and civic engagement?"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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