The Pride Festival has become one of Metro Vancouver's largest events
Two weeks ago I called on the City of Vancouver to grant civic status to the annual Pride parade, the largest event in our city's calendar.
For me this was and is a simple question of civic pride, as well as one of fairness and equity. With 640,000 spectators, Pride is not only the largest event in Vancouver, it's the largest parade in all of Western Canada!
Pride also generates millions of dollars for local businesses and is a major driver of tourism. We all benefit from that massive injection of money into our local economy each year.
Other smaller events already enjoy civic status - the privately owned Grey Cup Parade, for instance, and the Celebration of Light fireworks competition, which attracts just one-half the spectators that Pride does on any given night.
So what does civic status mean? In a nutshell, events granted civic status aren't billed for policing and sanitation services.
During the Stanley Cup playoffs the city picked up the bill not just for police and sanitation, but for the entire cost of the fan zones and giant screen broadcasts of the game. If fans hadn't rioted that night, the city was also going to cover costs for a parade as well.
So why all the controversy over my call for civic status for Pride?
The response was all the more surprising when my proposal would actually save the city money. Right now the city spends more than $600,000 a year on "Car Free Days." If my proposal was implemented, we could cut that budget by more than 25% and still provide police and sanitation services for all of the parades and major street festivals around the city.
Police and sanitation are core city services after all. It's the Mayor's job to ensure safe, clean streets, not the job of the Pride Parade. I believe our city would benefit greatly if we focused more on the efficient delivery of core services.
Parades and street festivals are the original 'car-free days' after all. They aren't some government make-work project. They were created by local neighborhood organizations and help increase business for local merchants, unlike the city's ill-conceived "car free days" program that arbitrarily shuts down streets, disrupting traffic and hurting business.