Cheol Joon Baek
Giorgio Mammoliti plan to withhold Pride money is a legal no-no
Less than 24 hours after the Pride parade wrapped up, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti began hitting the local media circuit vowing to have funding for this year's festival withheld because he videotaped a small contingent at the Dyke March using the words "Israeli apartheid."
The media played along. The city's biggest paper ran a front-page story about how Pride's promised funding for this year is in jeopardy, and the national broadcaster declared the festival had been "rocked" by a fresh scandal.
But before Toronto's queer communities get drawn into another bitter struggle to defend the enormous cultural and financial benefits of Pride, it's worth considering that Mammoliti doesn't have a hope in hell of reneging on the city's $130,00 grant to Pride this year. In fact, he has neither the support at City Hall nor the legal tools to touch Pride's money.
Despite Doug Ford and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday's public musings, no councillor besides Mammoliti has committed to withholding Pride's grant this year. Holyday is skeptical that Mammoliti has any evidence for doing so. "I'm not gung-ho on pulling Pride funding," Holyday told me. "When you're dealing with Councillor Mammoliti, it's best to see everything for yourself."
Mammoliti's allies have deserted him. Even Councillor James Pasternak, who wants to change city bylaws to declare "Israeli apartheid" hate speech, said he believes Pride made progress this year.
While Mammoliti claims to be speaking for the Jewish community, the Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (formerly the Canadian Jewish Congress) has politely declined to back his crusade. CIJA's Len Rudner said in a statement that he's satisfied Queers Against Israeli Apartheid didn't march this year.
Even if he had the support, there is no current legislative justification Mammoliti could use to withhold Pride's money.
Last term, council passed a motion declaring the city would not deliver Pride funding until it was clear the festival had complied with Toronto's anti-discrimination policy. But before the march even took place, the city manager released a report declaring that the term "Israeli apartheid" is not discriminatory. Even if all 1 million people at the Pride parade had carried banners emblazoned with those words, Pride would be in compliance and entitled to funding. That the phrase was removed from all official proceedings is testament to Pride meeting City Hall more than halfway on this.
Mammoliti, Rob Ford and others at City Hall spent the run-up to Pride rattling their sabres and threatening to cripple the festival. But what's generally overlooked is that whenever the issue goes to a vote, suddenly those sabres get very dull. Since Ford took office, only one councillor has voted against Pride funding, and he later said it was an accident.
Some sabre-rattling councillors are genuinely offended by the term "Israeli apartheid." Some may be attempting to curry favour with suburban voters by thumbing their noses at queer downtowners. But few councillors are dumb enough to vote against the $136 million Pride injects into the local economy each year.
Threats to defund Pride at City Hall have been all show. Mammoliti is the only one who doesn't know the show is over.
Rumour has it that the councillor will soon abandon his efforts to defund Pride 2011 and set his sights on wrecking it in 2012 instead. Torontonians can spend the next year as captive participants in his cynical charade or they can ignore him and start getting ready for the next parade.