Ottawa
3 min

Make Pride even better

Success this year can be improved upon

When the Ottawa-Gatineau Pride Committee held a media conference to announce there would be a festival this year because Capital Xtra was loaning them up to $20,000 to pay the up-front costs, I was repeatedly asked whether this was an unreasonable risk for our not-for-profit to shoulder, considering the less than sterling reputation of Pride financial record.

I told the media that I had full confidence in this board of directors, and particularly in treasurer Gordon Boissonneault. I said the treasurer’s recovery plan looked solid and realistic. And that I knew the queer community would rally to make sure we didn’t lose our festival once and for all on the 20th anniversary of Pride in Ottawa. And then I crossed my fingers.

And sure enough, we got our money back Aug 31, just four days after the festival concluded. Thanks to Boissonneault’s skills and business plan, the work of other board members and volunteers, and, most importantly, thanks to you. Because you showed up at key fundraising events. You turned up for the picnic. You paid your entrance fees, drank your beer and otherwise did what was necessary to ensure it all worked.

There’s $5,000 left over, despite the rain.

You still made it happen. And now, it’s time for some changes to ensure that Pride survives in the long term. You probably have some ideas. Please send a letter to the editor with your suggestions. Meanwhile, here’s what I think we need to do:

— Remember, in this year’s municipal election, how the vote went. Supporting Pride’s cash request were councillors Diane Holmes, Alex Cullen, Alex Cullen, Clive Doucet, Georges B├ędard. Opposing it were all the rural councillors and Mayor Bob Chiarelli (who also angered the Pride board because he criticized them for not presenting a business plan after they had been specifically advised by staff not to present a business plan). Particularly galling was the behaviour of gay councillor Shawn Little of Kitchissippi ward, who left the council chambers just before the vote–Pride board members say he had pledged to vote for the $20,000 bailout. With gay friends like Little at city hall, who needs enemies? Former gay city councillor and now mayoralty candidate Alex Munter publicly stated he would have voted in favour of the grant to Pride;

— We need to lobby to overhaul the way the city chooses which festivals to give grants to and how much. The current system–which gave Pride $1,000 this year, while other festivals got as much as $100,000 or more–favours those who were getting big bucks decades ago and discriminates against newcomers. It also favours those festivals that focus on stage talent–if people sing and dance a jib, there’s lots of money. But in the 21st century, the definition of culture is changing and our cultural expressions, like the entire Pride festival, need to be fully respected when the city doles out grants.

— The Pride Committee needs some more business-minded people on the board and on committee. I’d like to see some of the pre-2002 board members return–they knew how to run a festival–as well as some new blood. And it’s time for Pride to set up a liaison committee between their board and queer businesses. This feud needs to end. All sides need to set aside historical grudges and make this work for the entire community;

— Next year’s events should add a little something to the ticket price and send it directly to Pride to help pay the overhead expenses. Big events like Laugh Out Proud and the private sector parties should add $5 to every ticket and send it to Pride. Pride has to pay the heavy overhead for the Parade and picnic, a cost independent promoters can avoid. Small events, like readings and such, should have a minimum payment of $2 per participant. If an event is free, it should still charge $2 for the Pride Committee. We all need to pay our share; we all can afford a few dollars to do so. Every one of us. Strangely, it seems those in our community who complain the most about any corporate sponsors in the Parade (and Ottawa has so very few) also whine about having to pay to attend events. Well, Parades and picnics are not free–no matter who runs it, the city requires a level of insurance coverage that costs some $15,000. Deal with it.

— We’re the capital city of Canada. Our Pride festival should be called Capital Pride. Our Pride organization should be called Capital Pride.

Okay, your turn. Send your suggestions to comment@dailyxtra.com