Pride goeth before a (ministerial) fall? (UPDATED)

One Tory MP has hinted that Diane Ablonczy has been reprimanded—over Toronto Pride funding


ITQ was somewhat intrigued by this story, which showed up on LifeSite News yesterday (and major thanks to National Newswatch for posting the link, since LifeSite isn’t usually on our must-read morning news list, and to BigCityLiberal, who tipped him off):

Canadian Conservative MP: Party Funding of Gay Pride Parade Came as a Shock to Most of Caucus
Minister Ablonczy likely lost the file over the matter, and review of tourism spending is underway

The revelation of $400,000 in funding from the federal Conservatives for the recent Toronto Gay Pride parade, which is notorious for its inclusion of full frontal nudity and public sex acts by homosexuals, came as a shock to most social conservatives in the nation.

According to Conservative MP Brad Trost, however, the decision to fund the event also came a shock to most of the Conservative caucus, even those inside the Prime Minister’s office. Speaking to from his riding office in Saskatoon today, the 36-year-old Conservative said, “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.”

Trost also hinted that Minister Diane Ablonczy, who was responsible for the funding, lost the file as a consequence of the embarrassment to the Party. Protesting more than once that there was no “official connection,” he said, however, “it should be noted that the file has been reassigned to a different Cabinet Minister since that announcement was made.” He added, “The whole tourism program and funding for major tourism events is being reviewed.” Trost claimed that “almost the entire Conservative caucus” including “most of the Prime Minister’s Office were taken by surprise at this announcement.” “It shouldn’t be deemed to have been a change in Party policy,” he said, adding, “Most of the caucus is still strongly pro-traditional marriage.”

The MP attributed the move to “sloppiness.” “Canadian taxpayers, even non-social-conservative ones, don’t want their tax dollars to go to events that are polarizing or events that are more political than touristic in nature,” he said.

“Well, that’s — curious,” ITQ thought to herself. She hadn’t heard of any intercabinet file shuffling related to the for-goodness-sakes-don’t-call-it-sponsorship Marquee Event Funding Program, which was set up earlier this year to dole out $100 million in stimulicious funding, and is — or, at least, was — managed by Industry Canada, with Ablonczy taking the lead on the file in her capacity as Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism).

As far as ITQ can tell, Ablonczy is still the minister responsible for tourism – and, by extension, the marquee event program, and she did, indeed, announce that Pride Toronto would be receiving $400,000 in funding last month. But if you check the news releases issued since then, every one appears to have been made by a different MP or minister on her behalf.

During the last two weeks of June, funding for the Cisco Bluesfest was announced by John Baird, for the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu International Balloon Festival, it was Christian Paradis, and for the TD Bank International Jazz Festival, it was Pierre Poilievre.

On July 2nd, Ablonczy’s name – and ministry – vanishes entirely from the marquee event announcement boilerplate:

On behalf of the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, today announced the Government of Canada’s investment of over $460 000 to support the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.

“Today’s announcement is exciting news to all involved in the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo,” said Minister MacKay. “The assistance from the Marquee Tourism Events Program highlights the Canadian government’s recognition of the immense impact that the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo and other such marquee events have on the visitor economy.”

On this release, Ablonczy’s office is also no longer listed as a contact — instead, calls are directed to Clement’s office, or departmental media relations.

So, is Brad Trost right? Did PMO take a — some might say the — major government tourism program away from Diane Ablonczy because she gave money to Toronto’s gay pride festival? ITQ sent off an email asking that very question earlier today, and will let you know what she finds out. Stay tuned!

SORT-OF-AN-UPDATE (1): According to PMO, Industry is handling calls on this, so ITQ’s questions have been forwarded thither. I’ll post the response as soon as I’ve got it.

UPDATE (2): Well, ITQ is still waiting to hear back from Industry Canada — Darren Cunningham, where are you? — but the intrepid Susan Delacourt tracked down Diane Ablonczy’s chief of staff, Rob Taylor, who says that as far as he knows, she’s still the minister. (Note to Rob Taylor: As long as the car and driver are still showing up, that’s probably a good sign.)

Case closed? Well, not exactly. Remember, in his interview with LifeSite News, Brad Trost claimed that the file had been taken away from her, and given to another, unnamed minister to manage, and in the most recent funding announcement, Ablonczy is no longer mentioned as the responsible minister, nor is her office listed as a contact. We’ll just have to wait to hear from Industry Canada before we know for sure whether the tourism minister is, indeed, still in charge of the Marquee Event Funding Program.


UPDATE (3): CP’s Karine Fortin reports the following:

A spokesperson for Industry Minister Tony Clement confirmed on Tuesday that his boss had been put in charge of allocating funds for the Marquee Tourism Events Program.

Clement’s spokesperson explained that the suspension of parliamentary work for the summer means he’s got enough free time to take over for Ablonczy. He added that the program was part of the stimulus measures included in last January’s budget and was therefore not part of Ablonczy’s responsibilities.

The minister’s office refused to draw a direct link between the change in direction and the funds handed out to the festival, the 29th edition of which took place this past June 19-28 in Toronto. The $400,000 allocation went to improving the event’s lineup and to facilitate access to the site for people with reduced mobility.

The team that approved the grant for Gay Pride remains in place to evaluate requests, said the spokesperson.

A Conservative caucus member who didn’t want to be identified told Canadian Press the sponsorship of the festival didn’t make waves at the last party meeting and that only five MPs objected to it.

The MP said Trost was making things up when he said there had been a caucus revolt.

For more, check out the followup post here.