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Pride wins $12K city grant

Now it's time for the community to step up, says Pride chair

CAPITAL. Pride chair Gordon Boissonneault, pictured standing in front of city hall, says the city's contribution shows that Capital Pride has got its financial house in order. Credit: Pat Croteau

Capital Pride got a modest boost from city hall in April, leaving the organizers to turn their attention to community and local businesses to bridge the other $68,000 needed to pull off Ottawa’s biggest gay week of the year.

The city’s $12,000 festival grant represents a significant jump in the dollar amount the city is prepared to invest in the festival. A year ago, the city contributed just $1000 to Pride — a decision that threatened to derail the festival completely. Eventually, they agreed to waive $15,000 in fees for services like police and cleanup.

Pride chair Gordon Boissonneault considers it a vote of confidence.

“We’ve got a nice precedent now. Last year they said to us that our application was great, but that their hands were tied because of our financial situation. The implication is that we’ve at least turned a corner and the city has recognized that. I’ll be looking for more next year,” he says.

The Pride board’s credibility at city hall was tarnished by its then-crippling debt load of $198,000, which was where it stood 18 months ago. Since then, Boissonneault and his team have reduced its debt by $65,000 — and turned another $51,000 into long-term interest-free debts to be repaid to the city over seven to 10 years.

Boissonneault’s team had applied for $15,000 this year from the city, which represents the cap that the festival was eligible for, given the size of its budget. After the Arts Investment Strategy was adopted by city hall in March, they applied for an additional $25,000 to offset what they had expected — but didn’t receive — in rain insurance.

“The irony is that that money will go right back to the city,” says Boissonneault.

That’s because the city charges festivals like Pride for community services like road closures and police. Together with other fixed costs like fencing and insurance, the committee has to cough up $45,000 before it can turn its attention to the week’s parties and the Sunday afternoon entertainment. They’re banking on $25,000 from the $5 entrance fee to Festival Plaza, a tradition they started last year to help offset costs. Other fundraisers — and especially the May 31 Swirl and Twirl wine tasting — will help bridge the gap in the festival’s bare-bone $80,000 budget.

And since Pride’s consultations with the business community have “gone nowhere,” Ottawa’s queer community should take this as an invitation to help reinvigorate the festival, Boissonneault says. Host a party and invite guest to donate to Pride or come up with an innovative way to raise money, he suggests.

“I’d like to devote our energy to planning Pride Week and not so much to fundraising from here on in. We’ve spent a lot of time [since last August] fundraising,” he says.

Those looking to volunteer — and those who just want to say hello — can come to an informal meet and greet with the Pride committee at The Buzz May 22. The Buzz and The Lookout have been two of Ottawa’s most supportive gay businesses throughout Pride’s rocky past.

“I remember when I first volunteered for Pride, one of my motivations was social. So I thought, let’s bring people together beforehand. We wanted to be able to give people a chance to mix,” he says.

Capital Pride will also launch a community conference Jun 9, with the hopes of filling the Jack Purcell with curious queers.

“That was something that was done years ago, [Pride board member] Joanne Law thought would be good to bring back. It’s going cover the range of the lifestyle: legal, financial, health,” he says.