Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Canadian Industry Minister Denies Homophobia Played Role in Scrutinizng Funds for Toronto Pride

The Canadian Parliament resumed yesterday in Ottawa, after a long summer break and it didn't take long for the minority Conservative government's anti-gay shenanigans to come under fire. In the House of Commons, opposition Liberal MP Marlene Jennings, confronted Industry Minister, Tony Clement, concerning the controversial dismissal of Diane Ablonczy, earlier this summer. Ablonczy, a fellow Conservative, was dismissed by the government from her position as head of a federal government tourism boosting program after she approved $400,000 for the 2009 Toronto Pride. "The minister of Industry recently ordered bureaucrats to scrutinize tourism events directly related to gays, lesbians, women's groups and so on. Will the Conservatives now tell Canadians exactly which groups are on their blacklist for special scrutiny?" MP Jennings demanded.

Clement insists he is not responsible for the ousting of Ablonczy from her position as head of the Marquee Tourism program. Furthermore, he denies accusations by Liberal MP Jennings that he directed his department to give 'special' scrutiny to gay-themed tourism events: "I know you're looking for the smoking gun or some sort of other agenda but quite frankly, you know, to be accused as I have been accused by [Liberal MP Marlene] Jennings to be some form of homophobe, you know, quite frankly I find that offensive and anyone who knows me knows that that's ridiculous."

Clement's response to the controversy is in direct contrast to an internal memo, obtained by the Canadian Press via Access to Information legislation. The memo indicates that Conservative party bureaucrats were given instructions to "scrutinize" tourism activities the same day that Ablonczy was dismissed from the program.

Later on during the summer, the Conservative government's 'scrutiny' was extended to Montreal's gay cultural festival, Divers-Cité. This hugely popular festival met all the criteria necessary to receive program funding, but it too, was rejected at the ministerial level.

Clement represents a Conservative government that is painfully out of touch with 21st century Canadian society. For example, Toronto Pride contributed $100 million to the city's economy, raised $18 million in tax revenues and supported 650 jobs. We shouldn't be too surprised, however, as the Conservatives continue to be supported by this country's evangelical Christian-right. Commenting on the controversy over the funding of gay-themed events, and to illustrate to Canadians just what a glib, homophobic moron he really is, Clement had this to say: "The fact of the matter is some of those programs got grants, others didn't. We didn't fund every folk festival. Calgary Folk Festival got funding, but Mariposa Folk Festival didn't. That's doesn't make me folkophobic."

Gay-themed events not scrutinized: Clement
Conservative Minister punished for funding Toronto Pride
Tories reject funding for Montreal's gay arts and culture festival
Denied grant, Montreal gay festival must rethink lineup

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