When Toronto City Council passes its new budget in January, councillors may also be approving a big funding boost for WorldPride in 2014, Councillor Shelley Carroll confirms.
Carroll says the current proposed budget includes an additional $140,000 for Pride Toronto (PT) on top of the $140,000 the organization received last year from city council under its Major Cultural Organizations program.
The Toronto budget committee heard from citizens on Dec 2 and Dec 3 as it debated its $9.6 billion operating budget and $18.6 billion capital budget. No one deputed about funding for WorldPride.
“If this budget is adopted, [the funding] is adopted, too,” Carroll says.
PT executive director Kevin Beaulieu says he’s thrilled. “The city is going to be a key partner in making sure that visitors feel welcome and WorldPride is a success in 2014."
Beaulieu first appeared before the economic development committee in September to request the extra funding and support. He explained to committee members that PT secured the international 10-day festival through a bidding process in 2009 — and that PT will host WorldPride in place of the city’s usual Pride festivities.
Beaulieu also told the committee that WorldPride has the potential to be the largest event Toronto has ever hosted and the city’s investment would have a massive impact on the local and provincial economy.
“The amount that the economic development committee asked for is exactly what they are going to get,” says Carroll, who sits on the committee. “This is a global event that we as a city bid on, and we want to see it a success.”
Carroll also notes that the new funding doesn’t replace the $250,000 of in-kind services — such as police, garbage and street cleaning — that PT also receives each year.
The additional city funds are needed for the many planned educational, artistic and cultural elements of WorldPride, such as opening and closing ceremonies, fireworks at Nathan Phillips Square, a human rights conference, a licensed venue at Allan Gardens with comedy, cabaret and artistic displays, citywide rainbow street markings, TTC branding and a new website.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says there is widespread support for WorldPride among councillors at city hall.
“We have been working hard to ensure Pride gets the resources that it needs to hold this very important event, whose success is largely the city’s success,” she says. “When you look at the other major cultural organizations, Pride actually receives quite little.”
Beaulieu didn’t ask for a specific amount at the September meeting, but he says he was hoping for approximately double the city’s typical commitment of $140,000. The budget for WorldPride is $4.5 million, he says.
“We asked for support for various elements and components of the festival,” he says. “We didn’t put a price tag on it.”
Beaulieu says he estimates the funding for the opening ceremony alone will likely be in the range of $100,000.
A 2013 Pride Toronto economic impact study estimates that Pride brings in an additional $286 million in direct spending to Toronto each year. “WorldPride will bring a considerable return on investment,” Beaulieu says.
Wong-Tam suggests PT use some of the funds to help bring Pride to neighbourhoods all across the GTA.
“We know that there are small community groups across the city that want to host localized WorldPride events,” she says. “Pride Toronto does not have to go to every single community to do this. Knowing they’re in good financial standing right now, this is an opportunity to go off and support those communities with small financial contributions. Many of these groups can stretch a dime into a dollar.”
The economic and development committee voted unanimously in September to commission a report from the city’s general manager of economic development and culture. The report was supposed to include a financial plan to address “outstanding needs” for WorldPride.
Carroll says that doesn’t appear to have happened.
“I don’t think they proceeded with the report,” she says. “The motion for the report was moved at the time . . . [but] the funding was never contingent on the report anyway.”