Canada’s Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, Diane Ablonczy, recently saw the Marquee Tourism Events Program (an economic stimulus package designed to encourage major tourism events such as the Calgary Stampede and the Montreal International Jazz Festival) taken from her portfolio and turned over to Industry Minister, Tony Clement.
The spin from the reigning Conservative government, of course, says that this is because Ablonczy is just too busy, while Clement, who is looking at forecasts of a serious surge in unemployment in an economic crisis, has nothing better to do than administer the program.
This all happened silently, a few weeks ago, without fanfare… shortly after Ablonczy announced a nearly $400,000 grant to the Toronto Gay Pride festival.
If that sounds fishy to you, you probably won’t be too surprised that word of the change in administering the program only leaked out after BigCity Lib noticed that Conservative backbencher Brad Trost ran over to the right-wing website Lifesite.ca to brag that Ablonczy was being demoted for making the grant.
“The pro-life and the pro-family community should know and understand that the tourism funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronto was not government policy, was not supported by – I think it’s safe to say by a large majority – of the MPs. This was a very isolated decision.”
But it was still a fair decision to fund the event. Pride Toronto in fact met all of the requirements, and being that it has estimated over 250,000 in annual attendance, it is a noteworthy tourist festival — not to mention a huge photo-op for rival party leaders. Says organizers:
“Pride Toronto went through the same stringent application process as all other recipients and Industry Canada was extremely thorough in checking details before approval was granted. We are proud of the fact that we were successful when judged objectively against the criteria for the grant. The $397,500 that was awarded to Pride was allocated for specific items such as improved access for disabled people, infrastructure spending and top calibre entertainment.”
Naturally, everyone from bloggers to the MSM are decrying the decision as politically based and catering to the far right wing base that the Conservative Party re-emerged from, while flying the Reform banner. What’s more is that there are two more Pride events with applications for funding in, and not decided upon yet. What are the chances…? The Conservatives, after all, are making like the decision to remove the file from Ablonczy’s oversight had nothing to do with the decision to grant money to Toronto Pride.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Star is reporting that the grant “sparked a crisis at the highest levels of the Harper government” and that Ablonczy’s attendance of the event only inflamed matters.
“It was seen as a poke in the eye” to social conservatives, said one senior insider, noting the Prime Minister is wary of alienating a key part of his base.”
And Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy, who was reportedly pulled into a private meeting and raked over the coals by several MPs for the decision, has learned what moderates in the Alberta Conservative Party have already found out: governance is slowly being turned over to the churchies and exceptions will not be tolerated.
(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project)