The issue of why Pride Toronto was denied federal funds this year continues to make the rounds on Parliament Hill, and new revelations have come up in unusual places.
The first was an analysis piece in the National Post in mid-May, which heard from unnamed Conservatives about the behind-the-scenes maneuvring that saw Industry Canada ordered to design a new process that would ensure that no Pride celebrations could qualify for the Marquee Tourism Events Program.
“They’ve been on top of this since way back then to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the article quotes one Conservative close to the industry minister. “They had a year to restructure the program in a way that would exclude Toronto Pride.”
The article also made reference to the fact that Guy Giorno, the prime minister’s chief of staff, is a devout Catholic, and that Darrel Reid, Harper’s senior policy advisor, is the former president of Focus on the Family Canada.
“It’s consistent when it comes to the track record of this government when it comes to marginalizing and attacking the gay community and gay rights,” says Liberal tourism critic Navdeep Bains. He says Pride Toronto offered a good return on investment for the government.
“We know at that time that [then-tourism] minister [Diane] Ablonczy lost the responsibility for this portfolio simply for making this announcement and having a photo taken with drag queens.
“She lost this portfolio, so it’s clearly a reflection of sound public policy and good economics being trumped by reckless narrow ideology.”
“I am not surprised,” says Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow of the Post‘s revelations. “This is the same party that refused to recognize equal families and took out gay history and gay rights out of the citizenship guide.”
“Why are the Conservatives so afraid of drag queens?” Chow asks. “Is there something that the Canadian public should know?”
The other revelation comes courtesy of the raft of documents made public as part of the Commons investigation into whether former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer was illegally lobbying the government. Documents dated Sept 1, 2009, show Jaffer corresponding with Ablonczy’s office when she was minister of state for small business.
Jaffer wrote, “Hope you are well and it has not been a crazy summer! I hope things have got back to normal after all the craziness at the beginning.”
When informed that Rob Taylor, Ablonczy’s chief of staff at the time the Pride Toronto funding became an issue for the government, was no longer there, Jaffer wrote back to Taylor’s successor, “Rob was kind enough to help out with this before the unfortunate handling of the situation with the PMO.”
Taylor left Ablonczy’s office in early August 2009 for a job in the public service, but denied to The Hill Times that he was shuffled out over the Pride affair.
“The PMO’s fingerprints are on everything — it’s control at the centre,” Chow says of these revelations. “It’s Stephen Harper, a control freak. They’re not democratic towards their own.”
“It’s well known that Ms Ablonczy was punished for offending the Conservative caucus for funding Toronto Pride,” Bains says. “I think from what we’re able to determine from the documents, clearly others have also expressed that.
“It’s not surprising because it fits within this government’s character when it comes to dealing with various communities, and in particular when it comes to dealing with the gay community.”