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Capital Pride not yet ready to discuss financial situation

Public consultation meeting includes vendor needs and expansion concerns

Tammy Dopson, left, a queer realtor andCapital Pride sponsor, stands with Christine Leadman. Both came to the meeting to show their support for Capital Pride. Credit: Adrienne Ascah

If you came to Capital Pride’s public consultation meeting on Oct 6 expecting fireworks, you would have left disappointed.

From the outset, it was made clear the festival’s alleged accounting irregularities were not on the agenda. Colin North, who was Capital Pride’s Info Fair coordinator in 2011, was asked by the board to chair the meeting, which took place at Ottawa City Hall.

“Tonight will pretty much include any and all aspects of the festival, with the exception — and I must stress this — of Capital Pride’s financials,” North said in his opening remarks. “While the board understands that you may have questions concerning irregularities that have recently been reported in the media, this is not the forum for them tonight.”

Capital Pride’s annual general meeting (AGM) will take place Wednesday, Nov 5. Jodie McNamara, chair of Capital Pride, said the board won’t address questions relating to the festival’s financials until the AGM.

In addition to the Capital Pride board, just under 20 people attended the public consultation meeting for discussions about the Pride guide, marketing, Pride events, the parade, youth and families, entertainment, the festival site and food vendors. Community members’ feedback about the 2014 event ranged from concerns about mistakes in the Pride guide to praise for the parade. Others said more bar servers were needed, as the festival saw lineups so long some would-be customers walked away. Food vendors reported a decrease in business as a result of being placed in the back rather than closer to the main stage where they had been in previous years.

Christine Leadman, executive director of the Bank Street Business Improvement Area (BIA), was among the attendees.

“The Bank Street BIA has been looking to reestablish a good partnership with Capital Pride,” Leadman says. “So listening to what people have to say, how the event could be better, that’s what we’re all about. As participants, as partners and as sponsors, I think we’re here to show our support as well.”

For Leadman, the meeting was a good exchange, as community members shared their concerns but also their praise and the board listened attentively, taking their feedback to heart, she says. Although the festival’s financials weren’t discussed, she says she’s optimistic the issues will be resolved in time.

“It’s unfortunate that there’s always financial issues, but I think every festival, every volunteer group goes through these things,” she says. “I would certainly side with Pride’s position that they run a great event — 110,000 people [attended]. They have to find out what’s happened, and we should give them the opportunity to do that.”

Once the financials are sorted out, there’s no reason Capital Pride can’t have another great festival next year, Leadman says, adding she’ll continue to show Pride her support.

Tammy Dopson, a queer realtor who works with Paul Rushforth Real Estate, says she has no regrets about participating in Pride as a sponsor.

She says Pride has become too big to be entirely volunteer-run. A festival of this size can’t continue to be managed solely by volunteers who work around the clock, she says.

“What festival in this city is run with only volunteers when the attendance is 110,000?” she asks. “Like Toronto, and I was in Toronto when those changes happened, they’re going to have to eventually bring on paid bodies because . . . this is a year-round business.” With more sponsorship, paid positions would be possible and would give the festival greater stability, she says.

Some who attended the meeting say Pride’s expanding size means it is time to consider not only paid positions, but also moving to a venue larger than city hall.

“At the very least, those are conversations that we need to have,” McNamara says. “Just because something’s desirable doesn’t mean it’s viable or possible or practical, but it’s absolutely a conversation that has to happen.”