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Provincial funding announced for Pride Toronto

City of Toronto funding still up in the air

Pride Toronto (PT) can breathe a sigh of relief after being given $400,000 by the province, but the organization is still waiting for word on cash from the City of Toronto.

The latest funding, announced on March 3, is part of the province’s Celebrate Ontario grant.

“This definitely relieves some of the pressures going into the 2011 festival,” says PT fundraising director Ryan Lester. “There’s always a fear the funding doesn’t come through. It’s an annual application. As with all our public sources of funds, there’s some uncertainty. But we’re happy this grant has come through. It’s a big one.”

It is one of the largest grants PT receives, Lester says. The next largest funding source is the City of Toronto’s Tourism Toronto grant at $125,000, which is still up in the air.

The Celebrate Ontario grant is aimed at “improving the visitor experience to Ontario. So they are increasing the quality or number of toilets onsite, security, entertainers, for example. It allows festivals to provide better customer service all around,” Lester says.

The Celebrate Ontario grant is up $100,000 from last year. Lester says PT was eligible for a maximum of $300,000.

PT has received the Celebrate Ontario grant for the past three years.

“We’ve received the maximum we’ve applied for each year,” says Lester.

About 230 Ontario festivals and events “that help drive tourism, support jobs and generate economic activity” benefited from the grants, he says.

“Pride reports economic returns in the tens of millions of dollars with over 400,000 in attendance and support for over 700 jobs,” says Mukunthan Paramalingham, director of communications for Michael Chan, minister of tourism and culture. “This is good news for Ontario.”

This support is earmarked to help festivals and events across the province enhance programming and services to attract new audiences, increase visitor spending and create jobs.

Meanwhile, at city hall, Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam told Xtra Councillor James Pasternak stood in council March 8 to make a statement condemning the term “Israeli apartheid.” Calling it “shameful discourse,” his statement specifically addressed Israeli Apartheid Week, which runs this week.

“It is an offensive and repugnant event that uses the suffering under the old apartheid regime in South Africa to demonize the state of Israel and its supporters,” Pasternak says, in a copy of the statement obtained by Xtra. “This event and the rhetoric of its organizers are undermining the peace process.”

Wong-Tam says Pasternak is “setting the tone for the motion to defund Pride Toronto to hit the floor” in the near future.

Also, the week of March 1, Mayor Rob Ford repeated his election pledge to the Canadian Jewish News: “Taxpayer dollars should not go toward funding hate speech.” He said Pride Toronto will not be funded if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is allowed to participate.

Wong-Tam says she is a “lonely” progressive voice on council.

“There is a very good chance we will lose the vote on council,” Wong-Tam says. “I think the community needs to start talking about this now.”

Last year PT received $123,807 from the city.