The government stimulus program has been marked by patronage and problems. The infrastructure money it was giving out was done using new funding agreements instead of the existing gas tax transfer, generating more waste and taking longer to implement but with the advantage of Conservatives using it to pork barrel in their ridings.
Pork barrelling is one thing, but blatant discrimination is another.
The marquee tourism program was supposed to help already established world-class events expand their tourism offerings as a stimulus measure. It came about because last year, the former tourism minister, the member for Calgary—Nose Hill, was stripped of the program after she appeared in a photo op with drag queens.
Toronto Pride leaves a $100-million economic footprint, creates 650 jobs and generates $18 million in tax revenue. Compare that to many other events that got the funding.
If this program were about stimulating the economy, than surely helping to expand one of the country's largest festivals would have met those objectives.
We all know that the Minister of Industry himself made the decision and that according to the National Post, he created new policy specifically to keep another drag queen photo opportunity from happening.
Why was this policy changed to exclude gay Canadians?
Spreading the money around would seem to contradict the point of this stimulus program. Events with little international drawing power were funded.
When asked about the decision, the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, Tom Flanagan, said that the Tories deserved all the criticism they got and called the whole ordeal atrocious and political mismanagement.
In fact, rather than give Pride Toronto the $600,000 it asked for, the minister actually let about $12 million from the program go unspent. If the point of the program was to stimulate the economy, then why did the government not spend all the money, particularly on proven economic drivers such as Pride Toronto?
No other gay pride event in Canada even got any money. That was not about Toronto. That was about excluding a specific group of Canadians from government out of pure prejudice. The executive director of Pride Toronto said that she believes that homophobia was behind the decision.
I guess the simple question I have, in conclusion, is whether the government has changed any other policies in order to exclude specific groups of Canadians?
Mr. Mike Lake (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I do not really know where to begin in terms of the inaccuracies in the hon. member's comments, but let me try.
The marquee tourism events program was announced on January 27, 2009 as part of budget 2009. In budget 2010, the government reaffirmed its commitment to fully implement these temporary stimulus measures.
The marquee tourism events program is part of the government's support for Canada's tourism industry. While the industry has strong, long-term potential to generate jobs and growth, it has faced its own economic challenges and competition from other destinations.
Promoting tourism is a key component of the economic stimulus which was introduced to encourage growth and restore confidence in the Canadian economy.
The marquee tourism events program is designed to contribute to the long-term growth of the tourism industry by bringing more visitors to cities and communities hosting marquee events from inside and outside Canada. It provides much needed assistance to these world-class recurring events that have a history of programming and management excellence.
The program respects the three principles that guide the economic action plan. It provides timely support for marquee events that stimulate tourism in all regions. It is targeted at major events that drive business activity in the communities in which they are held.
Funding is temporary, ending March 31, 2011.
In its first year, 165 applications were received. Sixty events in 26 cities were funded for total approved funding of $47.5 million, including $1.2 million in funding for two-year projects. In the second year, 131 applications were received. Forty-seven events in 35 cities were funded for total approved funding of $39.2 million.
On May 7, 2010 when the Minister of Industry announced the recipients for 2010, he also announced an $8 million investment in the Canadian Tourism Commission. This funding was provided to the Canadian Tourism Commission in order to capitalize on the success of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in key international markets. The Canadian Tourism Commission is well positioned to use this investment to attract international tourists and generate increased tourism revenue for years to come.
A small amount of funding remaining was earmarked in each year to support program administration costs. In both years all supported events met the program's eligibility criteria and demonstrated how their proposed projects would contribute to program objectives. In year one, almost 70% of the funding went to events in Canada's largest cities. In year two, successful recipients were selected to ensure broader regional distribution of support. This has meant 19 new events are being funded across Canada and will have the opportunity to highlight their tourism offerings to domestic and global markets.
The marquee tourism events program is a two-year program, and applicants were required to submit an application for each year.
Funding is project based and each application was considered on its own merits. Now in its final year, the marquee tourism events program will have provided support to close to 80 festivals and events to help stimulate the economy and promote Canada as a global destination of choice.
There is no logic to the argument presented by the member opposite because $12 million were left in that fund unallocated. This was a missed opportunity. It is very clear, based on the reaction of what happened to the former minister of tourism, that this was done simply to appease a right-wing ideological agenda based on some form of prejudice.
I think what most Canadians are looking for is some clarity as to why this decision was made in going forward as a government policy.
Mr. Mike Lake: Mr. Speaker, I have already given the reasons for the decision, but let us talk about clarity. What is clear is that when it comes to funding programs like this one, there is no amount of funding that will satisfy the Liberals, because no matter what program we fund, the Liberal Party always wants more. If we fund 30 qualified recipients, the Liberals want it to be 40. If we were to fund 40, they would want it to be 50. They want it to be ongoing. They want these programs to be permanent.
Today the Liberals' former critic for finance was calling for a six to twelve-month extension of the stimulus program. There is no end
to how much money the Liberals would spend, and there is no end to how far they would take Canada into deficit to do that.