After emerging from a sea of red ink two years ago and replacing its treasurer earlier this year, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) reported earnings after expenses of almost $24,000 for the 2005 celebration.
In combination with money set aside from last year, that puts the VPS in a very solid financial position as it moves into the future.
Most of the surplus, though, is thanks to generous corporate donations. If not for a single $25,000 donation from Vancity this year, Pride would have suffered a net loss. It’s estimated that the PrideWeek celebration brings about $30 million into Vancouver’s economy, but virtually every individual Pride event posted a significant loss in 2005.
Former VPS vice president John Boychuck was elected president at the annual general meeting (AGM) Oct 22 at St John’s United Church in the West End.
Boychuck acknowledges the VPS is “ahead of the game because of sponsorships,” but says, as president, he intends to ensure the VPS continues with a sensible and effective plan for financial stability.
“Whether that money comes from sponsorships, admission charges, beer gardens or somewhere else-as long as we have a plan in place that makes sense, it would be a good idea to continue down that road,” says Boychuck.
“Having an open, transparent organization is very important to me,” he adds. “I’m going to make a commitment to this community that I’m going to continue to listen and I’m going to continue to move forward with the idea that the Pride Society really needs to be able to operate as a business.”
The financial results were not officially accepted at the AGM because the VPS is still awaiting the results of a routine independent audit, but Boychuk says the audit will only confirm the numbers that were released with the society’s annual report.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” he insists. “We are extremely confident that the numbers we presented today are extremely accurate.”
In an attempt to solicit more community input, the VPS is running an online survey. Although complete results are not ready yet, VPS board member Caryl Dolinko gave some clues at the AGM about what the survey will show.
“We’re still collating the results,” Dolinko told the crowd of about 50. “There’s a ton of information. It’s interesting. The people who have showed up here are not the people who were the majority of survey goers.
“The majority was age group 30-40. There was an even split between men and women. About 90 percent of you want to drink at a beer garden on Pride. About 90 percent of you don’t know all the activities the VPS offers.”
Community member Michael Botnick publicly criticized the VPS earlier this year in a letter to Xtra West’s readers saying some questions in the multiple choice survey were unfairly designed to lead to conclusions predetermined by the VPS.
Dolinko said Botnick, who has experience in statistical analysis, is now working with the VPS on the survey. Dolinko acknowledged the survey isn’t perfect, but was quick to defend the VPS and to challenge those who don’t like the survey questions to step forward and help.
“This is something that I’ve never done and the board has never taken part in this,” said Dolinko. “We had no experience. I’ll be the first to admit it.
“Did we know what we were doing? Did we know how to actually create a professional survey?” she asked. “Not really, but we didn’t really get a lot of help from the community and we really would have loved that.
“If any of you have great ideas on the surveys,” she challenged, “I’m the one you need to talk to.”
The AGM also marked the end of retiring VPS president Shawn Ewing’s mandate.
“One of the great things about having surpluses over the last couple of years is that we find ourselves in the position of being able to give back a little bit,” she said at the AGM. “It’s not big. It’s a little bit, but it’s a great feeling to be able to give something back to the community.”
As her last official act as VPS president, Ewing presented cheques to the Positive Women’s Network, Egale Canada, The Centre, LEGIT (Lesbian and Gay Immigration Taskforce), PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the Little Sister’s Defense Fund, the McLaren Housing Society and the Dr Peter Centre.
It was a heart-warming end to Ewing’s presidency.
Ewing faced criticism and outrage from some members of the community in March when the VPS announced plans to move the parade out of the West End for the first time in Vancouver Pride’s 27-year history.
The VPS originally planned a 2005 parade that would lead to a festival at the Plaza of Nations. A tense community meeting was held at the West End Community Centre and the VPS board, under Ewing’s direction, was accused of making radical changes to Pride without adequately consulting the community.
Ewing, in turn, argued that the Plaza of Nations plan would solve many of the traditional route’s problems and that when the VPS asked for input and participation, the community stayed silent.
In the end, the VPS agreed the parade would follow its usual route down Denman St to the traditional festival site at Sunset Beach.
“This period of time was the most discouraging for the VPS,” read Ewing from her president’s report at the AGM, “not because plans that had been worked hours on were stopped, not because we were not getting our way, but because of the way some people in our community acted.”
The crowd was mostly respectful to Ewing and the VPS board at the AGM. There were a few rolling eyes, pointed questions and snorts of indignation when the discussion briefly turned to the Plaza of Nations imbroglio and speculation on what future plans the VPS might have for the Pride celebration. A laugh was shared by all when some members of the audience nearly dislocated their shoulders in the race to accept Ewing’s official resignation.
In the end, though, Ewing struggled to hold back tears as she received a bouquet of flowers from Boychuck and a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd.
“It feels good,” Ewing told Xtra West. “There’s a bit of relief. It’s been kind of emotional. It’s been such a big part of my life. We’re going to Mexico. After more than 10 years with no vacation, my partner and I have just lost the mistress that is Pride and we’re going to go be a couple.”