In a marked departure from recent years, the annual general meeting of Pride Toronto was a largely collegial and even fun affair that had no lawyers present in an official capacity but did feature a drag performance by Miss Conception.
It was mostly a good-news meeting, with the board announcing its selection of Kevin Beaulieu as permanent executive director, a story Xtra had broken
earlier in the day. Beaulieu replaces Glen Brown, who stepped in on an interim basis to replace Tracey Sandilands, who resigned in January
Mark Smith, Sean Hillier, Susan Gapka, Paola Solorzano and returning board members Chad Simon and Luka Amona were also elected to the board.
In another bit of good news, the board tabled its unaudited financial statements for 2011, showing that the organization ended the year with a $110,000 surplus, completely eliminating the accumulated $109,000 debt left over from 2010’s shortfall. Pride had originally planned to pay down the debt over three years.
Audited statements could not be prepared in time for the meeting, to the frustration of several in attendance. The board agreed that they were unhappy with the auditing firm Adams & Miles LLP and said that they would be seeking new auditors for the coming year.
A motion from the floor that carried unanimously compels the board to release a request for proposals for new auditors who can turn around audited statements before the next annual general meeting.
Another recurring concern from the floor was whether the organization was worried that it would face significant cuts in government grants in the coming year. The board says it is working to reverse the city’s decision to withhold funding until after the parade is complete, in order to allow it to qualify for a $100,000 Heritage Canada grant that requires municipal participation. Pride lost the grant this year because of the delay in municipal funding.
However, the board expects to escape the municipal funding axe, as the city has only recommended eliminating grants to organizations that receive less than five percent of their revenue from city grants. Pride currently receives about 10 percent of its revenue from city grants.
In general, the board announced that the festival will be shrinking to a more manageable size in 2012. Pride is not planning to host a concert in Queen’s Park during the 2012 festival, but it may return to the park as the festival expands in the future and for WorldPride in 2014.
The board also announced it would begin seeking a new, fully accessible and cheaper office space immediately. They will begin advertising for someone to take over the five-year lease on their current space on Dundonald St.
If there was any tension during the meeting, it arrived when it was time to vote for new directors on Pride Toronto’s board. A representative from Fair Vote Canada attempted to explain the board’s single transferable vote system
(STV), but after speaking for more than 10 minutes, many in the room complained loudly that they didn’t understand how the STV system works.
In STV, voters rank their choices and then a complicated mathematical formula is used to figure out who got the most preferential votes.
Ten candidates were nominated to fill the six vacant seats, including two incumbents. Nine gave speeches; Susan Gapka was in Moncton for a mental health conference.
All of the candidates who were present were asked by members of the audience where they would stand if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid were to ask to march in the parade next year, and all answered that they would support free speech.
After waiting for nearly an hour for the voting results to be tabulated, the board announced that the system tabulating the results had broken down and that they’d have to start again. It was decided that the meeting would be adjourned and the results would be announced at O’Gradys later that night.
An hour later, it was announced that Mark Smith, Sean Hillier, Susan Gapka, Paola Solorzano and returning board members Chad Simon and Luka Amona were elected to the board. (Read more about the candidates here
The board will pick a new chair from its members at its next regular meeting.
At the top of the meeting, board chair Francisco Alvarez suggested that the years of controversy when Tracey Sandilands was executive director have made the organization stronger.
“With all the controversies, more people became reinvolved with Pride,” he said.