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Pride Toronto banks record surplus

Mark Singh elected male cochair

AN AUDIENCE FOR ARTISTS. Pride Toronto executive director Fatima Amarshi says she wants Pride to work harder to support queer culture. Credit: (Krishna Rau)

Pride Toronto accumulated a record surplus this year but board members are concerned that the city’s financial crisis might hurt next year’s festival.

The news was revealed at Pride Toronto’s annual general meeting on Sep 18.

Pride posted a surplus of $80,582 for 2006-’07 on revenues of more than $1.5 million according to the financial statements. That’s way up from a deficit last year of $45,303 on revenues of almost $1.3 million.

Treasurer Ross Chapman said much of last year’s shortfall was due to the organization’s decision to upgrade things like sound systems and equipment.

Pride Toronto’s balance sheet shows an organization that is on solid financial footing leading into next year’s celebration. It is far-and-away the largest and most wealthy of any Pride group in Canada with almost $600,000 in assets including almost $300,000 in contingency money.

But Pride Toronto executive director Fatima Amarshi told Xtra that raising the extra $1 million or more needed each year to pay for the event continues to be the major concern.

“Revenue is still always a challenge,” says Amarshi. “We raise our funds from scratch each year. Grants are very, very fickle. We have a city council that’s facing a fiscal crisis. The needs of the festival grow every year, site infrastructure, barriers, permits, security costs grow. And with the budget crunch the city may not be able or as willing to help with costs next year, with policing, for example.”

The City of Toronto contributed more than $115,000 in cash grants to Pride this year.

“We’re in the middle of a provincial election and of course we’re dealing with a federal government that has made it clear it’s not friendly,” says Amarshi.

Also at the AGM, elections were held for open seats on the board of directors. Newly elected are Genevieve D’Iorio, Elle Flanders, Chris Killam and Helen Kennedy. Kennedy is also the executive director of Egale Canada. Additionally the membership elected a new male cochair of the board, Mark Singh, who was previously the board secretary. There is one male and one female cochair. Each serves a two-year term and is replaced at alternate annual general meetings. Lenore MacAdam is the current female cochair.

Singh says one of his primary objectives as cochair will be to seek input from the community as Pride looks to establish a plan for the next five years.

“The board will be spending a lot of time consulting with the community,” he says. “There’ll be a survey going out.”

Singh says he’s also concerned that Pride makes sure that its internal makeup keeps up with the festival’s rapid growth.

“My push right now is focused on policies, procedures and processes in terms of impact on the festival,” he says. “We’ve grown a lot in the last few years. It’s time to stop, catch our breath and make sure our internal structures have caught up.”

To that end the membership approved changes to Pride Toronto’s bylaws. From now on cochairs and the executive director are officially required to make formal reports to the membership at annual general meetings, job descriptions of officers on the board of directors will be defined in more detail and an improved process for handling complaints against individual directors is in place.

Amarshi says that Pride Toronto also needs to expand its borders.

“The political and cultural climate in Canada and Toronto has changed so much that the reason for our existence has changed,” she says. “What do we do when we’re so successful? We’ve been able to get some rights resolved here but that doesn’t absolve us of a responsibility to stand up for the international community.”

Amarshi points to last year’s appointment of Sri Lankan activist Rosanna Flamer-Caldera as the parade’s international grand marshal as an example of how Pride Toronto can reach out to different oppressed communities.

“There’s a huge South Asian queer community who can be galvanized to fight here and back home,” says Amarshi.

Amarshi says she also wants to see Pride make a greater effort to promote queer culture.

“It’s time to showcase [queer arts],” she says. “There’s a wealth of queer artists and we have an opportunity to bring them to an audience of a million people.”

Amarshi also says Pride will present a handful of queer writers at this year’s Word on the Street literary festival.

“We’re looking at how to revitalize the festival, how to speak to issues beyond what we have been talking about, how to allow that diversity to be presented.”