Thursday, June 27, 2013
Time for Pride (and others) to pay their own way
The Sunday parade is a gas, awash in high camp and low stress. Church St. will smell of sweat, pot, beer — and money. Sponsors include Viagra, Trojan condoms, Loblaws, TD Bank, Loblaws, Pizza Pizza ...
You’re on the list, too, whether you like it or not.
All levels of government sink your hard-earned cash into Pride Week, including the province with $350,000 and the city with $140,000.
Funny, but a poster on torontosun.com named “wbmmam” this week asked me what I meant by calling myself a libertarian. Good timing, wbmmam. Pride is a perfect example.
Pride Week celebrates a liberty — to be who you are or what you want to be, as long as it harms no one else. That is a libertarian creed: Small governments that fix roads, but don’t preach. Small taxes, too.
Which means be yourself, but don’t expect everyone to pay for the experience.
Pride is a wonderful thing. So is the Tweed tribute to Elvis. So is Pirate Days in the 1,000 Islands.
But should you foot the bill — even if you’re not a gay pirate in blue suede shoes?
“No,” says Gregory Thomas, national director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “It’s not what government is meant to do.
“We have politicians walking down the street, throwing rose petals and money at these events, yet air ambulance is a shambles and you’ve got people freezing in the snow waiting for a bus.”
City Hall and Queen’s Park spent a combined $16.8 million on what you might call leisure groups in our fair city the past year.
Taste of Little Italy, for instance, got $25 grand and Mayor Rob Ford still gets a slushie in the face.
Opera more to your taste? The Canadian Opera Company gets $1.3 million a year in city tax funds. The fat lady sings on your dime.
The National Ballet and the Toronto Symphony get about $1.1 million each, the film festival $800,000, Luminato $200,000, Caribana $494,000. Even the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art gets $135,980, good news if you’re sick of looking at your Tupperware.
I don’t want to sound like a hillbilly, but how many of us are opera, ballet or ceramic aficionados.
Yet, we all pay.
If opera and ballet cannot make a go of it — with all that Gucci, Chanel and Prada parading around the Four Seasons Centre lobby — they’re not trying hard enough.
No wonder when it’s much easier to recruit a suit to go get a big bite of tax pie. The greasiest lobbyist gets the squeak — which is no way to play with our money.
They’ll tell you that, hey, it’s peanuts in the big picture. Maybe, but it’s symptomatic of how loose governments are with our money generally.
According to a city list with teensy type and big dollars, we local ratepayers fund a menagerie of 838 other groups.
Just some of the “B”s: Bikes Without Borders ($16,800), Black Daddies Club ($50,000), Buddies in Bad Times Theatre ($119,200) and the Bulgarian Arts Collective ($4,000).
Worthy groups, I’m sure.
But should we all pay for them?
Should that money not go to governments’ prime directives, such as protect us, get us around and cleanse our water.
“Not to demean one person’s culture over another,” says Thomas, “but when you have government saying they need more tax revenue to provide basic transportation facilities, because everyone needs to get to work, then you see millions and millions given to specific recreational activities ... it just doesn’t make sense.”
No it doesn’t, not with a $250-billion provincial debt, $10.6 billion a year to service it, and transit woes galore.
If our dependent fests, troupes and artistes are worth their salt, they’ll find a way to pay their own freight.
For instance, my friend Jana just called from Oasis, the neighbourhood sex club. It will open a charity kissing booth on its Carlton St. lawn on Saturday.
Five bucks a smootch with a volunteer of either gender.
I hope Pride honchos steal the idea.
Pucker up. We’ll pay for that parade in no time.
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