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Pride beats cash goal

Mayor's absence at flag raising won't stop the party

LARRY'S PARTY? The mayor's absence at the Pride kickoff isn't stopping organizers. A healthy fundraising drive and a packed calendar are contributing to their good mood. Credit: Pat Croteau

Pride chair Gordon Boissonneault may be tired these days, but he’s in good spirits. That’s because Ottawa’s queer community tripled his pre-Pride fundraising goal, raking in $7,500 from a combination of bar blitzes, corporate donations, fundraising events and a windfall from the Knowledge Circle, who agreed to match the first $2,500 they raised.

Fresh from a private weekend house party — where the host asked guests to make a $20 donation each — and a Pride fundraiser held by the leather community, Boissonneault now says it’s next to impossible that Pride will be racking up any debts this year.

“Last year, we made about $17,000 of debt repayments. We’re hoping to do that again this year,” he says.

“We’ve done detailed cashflow projections,” adds Boissonnealt, who’s also a senior analyst for the federal Department Of Finance. “My projection is that we’ll able to be able to make a substantial dent in our debt and still have cash in the bank for next year’s Pride.”

Call it looking on the bright side: because the committee is still saddled with over $100,000 in debts, Pride doesn’t have any creditors this year — because, given the organization’s rocky past, most businesses ask for payment up front.

That doesn’t bother Boissonneault, who hopes he’ll cut all the major cheques for Pride before this issue hits newsstands. He says that even poor weather during the parade and party on the lawn of City Hall won’t prevent the fest from at least breaking even, barring a major, unforeseen disaster.

He’s also not letting the mayor’s decision not to raise the Pride flag during the annual City Hall kickoff get him down. Ottawa’s mayors have attended the flag raising for the last 10 years.

Larry O’Brien is not scheduled to march in the Pride Parade, either.

When Capital Xtra tried to contact O’Brien’s office, his communication director at the time, Mike Patton, said that O’Brien had booked Aug 17 as a personal day. Patton has since left to pursue provincial politics. Repeated attempts to find out from the mayor’s staff why the mayor would not be marching in the parade went unanswered.

The Pride team have posted a stiffly worded letter from the mayor on their website.

“Diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity represents a positive contribution to society and is therefore a matter for pride and celebration. Everyone who supports these principles is entitled and encouraged to help organize and to participate in Pride celebrations,” says the letter, in part.

“If he’s on vacation, he’s on vacation,” says Boissonneault. He says he won’t let the mayor rain on his parade — not this year.

Boissonneault is reflective, in part because this is his last Pride at the head of the organization. Exhausted after two years as part of a skeleton board, he says it’s been a lot of work, more than it had to be, while he and his fellow boardmembers pulled the organization back from the brink of bankruptcy and debtload that once neared a quarter of a million dollars.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride, and now I think we’re back to growing the festival.”

Given the level of involvement Boissonneault has had with the organization over the last two years — in 2006 he was treasurer, a role which earned him Capital Xtra’s community activist of the year Heroes award — his message to the community isn’t surprising: volunteer.

“I think a lot of people get intimidated by the idea of volunteering, but it’s what you make of it. The bigger the board is, the less work it is for everyone,” says Boissonneault, who’s been working with a board of five, rather than a full compliment of 10.

And as for a message to revellers?

“People really focus on Pride Weekend, which is great. We want people to go to the Rainbow Party, we want people to come out to the parade. But there’s so much going on during the week — it’s packed — and it would be a shame if people missed out on that.”