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The Globe and Mail

Vancouver mulls civic status for Pride parade, major festivals

People dance on a float as it passes by during the annual Vancouver Pride Parade in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Sunday, July 31, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

Vision Vancouver will introduce a motion this fall that could see the city pick up the tab for more major public events, such as the annual Pride parade and Vaisakhi and Lunar New Year festivals.

"The Pride parade has been established as the primary parade in Vancouver ... and yet it has this oddball status of just having to do everything themselves, and rely on grants," said Vision Councillor Tim Stevenson, who is the council's liaison to the city's GLBTQ advisory committee.

"I think people have just come to the point of saying, 'It's time.'"

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Mr. Stevenson said he would want the Vaisakhi and Lunar New Year festivals included as well, saying it would not be just to only expand designation for the Pride parade.

"I think all three deserve it, and we just have to bite the bullet," he said.

At present, only the annual Celebration of Light fireworks festival, Grey Cup parade and Remembrance Day ceremonies have civic status.

Civic status would mean the city, rather than event organizers, would foot the Pride parade's roughly $70,000 bill for policing and sanitation. In comparison, the budget for the three-night fireworks celebration was $686,000 last year, while the Grey Cup cost $212,000.

The Vancouver Pride Society, which organizes the popular Pride parade each summer, has had ongoing conversations with the city about civic status designation for many years. In an interview with The Globe and Mail before this year's parade, Councillor Raymond Louie said those talks stalled because council has not been able to find money in the operating budget.

"When these nice-to-haves are brought forward, we do seriously consider them, but at the end of the day we're trying to keep taxes as low as possible while providing key quality services," said Mr. Louie, who is also chair of the city's finance committee.

Mr. Stevenson noted the Pride parade is the largest of its kind in Western Canada and boosts the local economy by more than $30-million each year.

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"After the Pride parade this year, again being so huge, I said to folks, 'Look. Let's really look at this again,'" he said. "So we did."

NPA councillor George Affleck said he would be "very pleased" to support granting the parade civic status as it is a "major revenue generator." He is hoping the motion will call for a return on investment report to determine the financial impact of the Vaisakhi and Lunar New Year celebrations.

"Obviously they're positive from a cultural point of view, but I would like to see, as part of the report I assume they will ask for, the numbers," he said. "We should be able to tabulate the impact of these events, and the positive financial impacts on our city, to justify the cost."

City staff is expected to look at economic impact, cultural significance and crowd size as measuring sticks in the consideration process.

Council resumes on Sept. 18.

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