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NPA proposes unified city Pride entry

Gay city councillor unimpressed

MIXED REVIEWS: Vancouver Pride Society president John Boychuk sees the NPA's motion for a unified city entry in this year's parade as an 'excellent step' in the VPS' ongoing bid to win civic. Credit: Natasha Barsotti photo

A motion asking the city of Vancouver to enter this year’s Pride parade under one united banner generated great excitement among Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) officials, but derision from an openly gay city councillor when it was brought forward at a May 15 city council meeting.

Non-Partisan Alliance (NPA) councillor Elizabeth Ball introduced the motion, which was subsequently deferred until June by unanimous vote pending a city staff review.

Her motion reads in part: “Be it resolved: that Council direct city staff to work in partnership with the Park Board to organize a City of Vancouver entry in the 2007 Pride Parade.”

Despite the deferral on the vote, VPS sponsorship coordinator Caryl Dolinko says she’s “thrilled” the city as a collective wants to put its stamp on the parade, saying it signals its willingness to “accept diversity as part of their mandate.”

It’s taken them 29 years of Pride to bring this, she points out. “It’s fantastic for us as a community and for other communities as well.”

For his part, VPS president John Boychuk welcomes the initiative, seeing it as a progressive move in winning over new support for Pride at the city council level.

“Remember we have support within Vision Vancouver and now we’re making some headway with some of the new city councillors in terms of their understanding Vancouver Pride and what it represents and what it does for our community,” says Boychuk. “[The idea] is to work with them, educate them, not work against them.”

Ball herself called Xtra West to give advance notice of the initiative, saying she expected it to be approved.

Last year, city councillors walked in separate entries based on party affiliation but there was no unified city entry, she told Xtra West, adding that Pride is “huge event” that contributes financially and culturally to the city. Everyone should participate, she says, indicating that she and her family always show up for the event.

But Vision Vancouver’s Tim Stevenson is not impressed.

It’s nothing but “a showboat political move by Elizabeth Ball to try and grab some headlines over basically a non-issue,” contends Stevenson, saying Ball’s claim that this hasn’t been done before is a non-starter.

“The city has always been involved in the parade, for many years, and it’s always been the mayor’s office and staff who have worked with the Pride people to get an entry in,” he explains. “It’s always been the mayor’s budget that has paid for it and has made it a non-partisan affair. Every person of whatever stripe or party can then walk with the mayor.”

This was the case during the respective tenures of mayors Phillip Owen and Larry Campbell, recalls Stevenson, arguing that what the Ball motion calls for is quite different.

“This is asking for the city staff, not the mayor’s staff, to work with park board staff to put in an entry, and doesn’t say anything about what the entry will be,” he says.

“Is it a float, or a series of floats?” queries Stevenson, who also wonders where the money for the proposed entry will come from.

“Now all of a sudden, they’re coming along and saying, ‘Oh, we want to have this and we want to have staff get together and we’re not going to give you a budget, and we’re not going to tell you anything about it.'”

Instead of coming out of the mayor’s budget, it will come from general revenues, Stevenson claims, adding that having staff work on something costs money.

“It’s just a PR job by a councillor who doesn’t know what she’s talking about, doesn’t know what she’s doing,” he reiterates.

“This is a city council motion that is being put into action–as opposed to just members of city council just showing up and marching in the parade,” counters Dolinko.

This is the first time this is going through as a motion from the city as opposed to individual members doing it of their own accord, she underlines.

Boychuk acknowledges that the various city boards already do march in the parade, but concurs with Dolinko that an official city entry will demonstrate “more of a unified network within the city itself.”

Yet it also begs the question, says Stevenson: If the city has the money to support such an initiative then “why not go to the VPS and instead of $10,000, give them $20,000” to offset the perennial costs of funding security, street closures and post-Pride clean-up.

Last year, Stevenson said the time had come for city council to look at making Pride a civic event.

With civic event designation, the city would cover the parade’s costs for policing, street closures and clean-up. Broad public appeal, free participation and event accessibility are some of the key criteria often considered in according civic status.

Boychuk believes Ball’s motion is “an excellent step” on the road to winning such status for the parade which is free, organized by volunteers, and now attracts more than a quarter million people.

When asked about the status of the VPS’ application for civic designation, he says several city departments told him they were still working on developing an application process.

“So there’s nothing to apply for. The application doesn’t exist yet,” Boychuk says.

Boychuk told Xtra West after last year’s Pride parade that he would make a presentation to the city in September to apply for civic status after several councillors told him “they had to be educated about what the Pride Society is and what we do, what events we provide, what community we serve, what the economic impact is on the region, and why we should be considered for civic event status.”

The city has already come up with the dollar amounts it plans to allocate to the VPS for 2007, Boychuk notes, though he declined to reveal what figure he was given because he was “asked not to.”

Earlier this year, the VPS requested two grants of $10,000 to meet its parade, festival and services costs. Last year, it received an allocation of $10,000 and an additional $7,500 grant towards those ends.

At any rate, it won’t cost the city “an arm and a leg” to participate in the parade, according to Dolinko. The only potential problem for the city, she claims, is meeting the Jun 30 deadline for entries, capped at 140 for this year’s parade.

This year’s Pride theme is Pride in the City.