3 min

City council to vote on civic designation for Pride

'Vision has decided that it's time to move forward': Stevenson

Vision Vancouver will bring forward a motion to city council this fall to consider civic status for the Vancouver Pride parade. Credit: Sergei Bachlakov

Vision Vancouver will bring forward a motion to city council this fall calling for Pride to be designated a civic event.

“After another record turnout of over 650,000 at the BC Day long weekend’s Vancouver Pride Parade and Festival, Vision Vancouver and its team at City Council believe it’s time that civic status be granted to Pride, and possibly other large-scale community festivals such as Vaisakhi and Chinese/Lunar New Year,” states an Aug 16 release from Vision Vancouver.

If it receives civic status, the Vancouver Pride parade — like the Celebration of Light fireworks competition, Remembrance Day and the Grey Cup parade — would potentially no longer bear the costs of city services, such as policing, parking, permits and sanitation.

“This is a huge breakthrough and a huge and significant announcement, obviously, for our community,” Councillor Tim Stevenson told Xtra Aug 16. “In light of, again, another extremely successful Pride event, Vision has decided that it’s time to move forward.”

Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) president Tim Richards says the news is very exciting. “When Tim [Stevenson] called me and told me the news I actually got goose bumps.”

The city’s support and public recognition would mean a lot to our community, Richards says. “The economic impact is there, so the city sees that. But then on the flip side, you balance that out with what an impact that has for our community — for all citizens of Vancouver — to say that we live in a city that’s really inclusive and wants to support us that way.”

Stevenson cautions it’s not a done deal until city staff has had a chance to review the proposal and make its recommendations.

“Vancouver’s Pride is now the largest parade of any kind in Western Canada and ranks among the largest Pride celebrations in the world,” Stevenson notes in the press release.

“I have felt for many years we needed to do this, but there were lots of voices that said that the finances were such that it was difficult,” he tells Xtra. “It was also felt that other events would also have to be considered for the designation. And so there was reticence to move it [Pride] out to that scale.”

“Finally, we have come to a consensus,” Stevenson says. “It’s been an issue that has had a lot of debate over the years.”

Former VPS president Ken Coolen says he’s pleased with the news but suggests there’s a kind of arbitrariness in the granting of civic status.

At the end of the day, there needs to be a system so that anybody can apply for the designation, with the funding disbursed more judiciously, he says.

In 2008, a civic election year, then newly elected Coolen asserted that the city needed to stand behind Pride financially “in a bigger way.”

In presenting the treasurer’s report that year, Coolen said the bill from the city had more than doubled, noting that the parade route had been lengthened, requiring more street closures, more signage and more police.

In the end, the parade cost the VPS just over $56,000 to stage that year, $20,000 of which went to the city for assorted fees, according to Coolen’s 2008 report.

“The Pride Society shouldn’t be paying that much to put on a one-day celebration for the city,” Coolen said then. “I would hazard a guess that more than half of the parade do not recognize themselves as GBLT,” he added. “I think at least 250,000 people come from other communities of our city and of our Lower Mainland, and we’re entertaining them for three hours. That’s something that the city needs to stand behind in a bigger way.”

“Putting on the parade is a huge part of the non-profit society’s budget,” Richards concurs. “I think as a city, in the big scheme of things, it’s a small investment to make for the citizens of the city.”

It would be a huge financial relief if the designation comes to pass, Richards adds.

City costs to stage the parade in 2011 totalled approximately $65,000 to $70,000, Richards says.

“The Pride Parade and Festival boost Vancouver’s economy by over $30 million every year,” Stevenson says in the press release. “Civic status is one important way the city can continue to build on its support for large-scale community events that celebrate our diversity, showcase Vancouver’s vibrant character, and create jobs by injecting millions of dollars into our local economy.”

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has also repeatedly touted Pride as an economic and cultural boon to Vancouver. As recently as the July 30 Pride launch at city hall, he told Xtra that granting Pride civic designation was in the works but pointed to lean budgetary circumstances as a setback to progress on that front.

“The discussions will be — and what I’ll be pushing for — is when you have a Pride parade of 650,000, what level of funding do you get in comparison to the Grey Cup or the other ones?” Stevenson asks.

Richards credits “tons and tons of work and discussion that people have had over the years” for paving the way toward the proposed civic designation.

“It’s nice to see [we’re] getting this close, so fingers crossed, things continue along this wonderful path,” he says. “It’s a pretty good day.”