Toronto pride has reacted with surprise following news that it will not receive government funding this year.

“At this point we have not yet received any official notification,” said Executive Director Tracey Sandilands. “We heard about it when the media began calling, after receiving a press release issued by Industry Canada that included a list of recipients.”

Last year, the event received $397,500 from the Marquee Festival and Events Program (MTEP) for the first time and the organisers had applied for more funding this year.

Sandilands insisted that Pride Toronto’s planning would enable it to go on to present a world-class festival in 2010 despite the funding cut, but said that the move was short-sighted in light of Toronto’s license to hold WorldPride in 2014.

“Announcements like today’s cast serious doubt on whether we can count on the federal government’s support to make WorldPride the success that people from Toronto and the rest of Canada hope that it will be,” she said.

The organisation believes that last year’s furore over the awarding of the funds and the suggestion that Minister Diane Ablonczy was reprimanded as a result may well have played a part in the grant being rejected this year.

“We believe this sends the message that queer events are not worthy of government investment,” said Sandilands.

According to CTV news, one city councillor described the decision as “homophobic” but Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement explained that MTEP was simply aiming to fund newer events in smaller cities this year.

“I think that’s better in terms of our tourism strategy for the entire country,” he told CTV News.

Toronto’s Pride Week has been named Best Festival in Canada by the Canadian Special Events Industry in 2004, 2005 and 2009. With attendance of over 1,2 million, it is the third largest Pride celebration in the world.

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