Posted by: pafmurray | April 30, 2009

Thank you The Gazette. Over 1/2 page!!!

The following was published in The Gazette of April 28/09

No more free rides for the Tour de l’Île

Murray Levine

WITH THE SUBSIDIES THEY GET, the least the organizers could do is let participants use the event to raise money for charity

Taxpayers of the Island of Montreal spent $602,050 last year to stage the annual Tour de l’Île de Montréal. That amounts to a subsidy of $20 for every participant, including those from Laval and the South Shore. City grant works out to a $20 subsidy for every participant in the annual Tour de l’Île.

All that for an event that greatly inconveniences tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of island residents, hurts retailers, does essentially nothing for tourism, and causes pollution as a result of the traffic jams. And in spite of taxpayers’ generosity in helping it organize this mess, Vélo Québec refuses to co-operate with charity and use Le Tour to raise money, as do thousands of similar events!

In March, Dorval’s Mayor Edgar Rouleau did something that unfortunately, few mayors on the Island of Montreal have the heart, brains, or intestinal fortitude to do. Dorval banned events like Le Tour from their streets unless participants are invited to raise funds for charity.

Shortly afterward, Kirkland followed Dorval’s lead. Côte St. Luc, Dollard des Ormeaux, and Laval all decided years ago not to allow Le Tour back because of the great inconvenience.

Why doesn’t Vélo Québec wish to co-operate with charity? Because, it says, the event is “a social and humanitarian cause and does not need to associate itself with any other causes.” By the same premise, the New York City Marathon is also a “social and humanitarian cause,” but what did the marathon organizers have to say about cooperating with charity in 1993? “Sponsors have reacted favourably to our fundraising relationship with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Rather than stealing deserved attention from sponsors, it gives their commitment a new dimension – not only are they sponsoring a major sporting event, but they are sponsoring an inherently good, charitable major sporting event. This only enhances their reputation and public perception and increases the value of their sponsorship. … It is safe to say that our fundraising arrangement with MSK has been a great success and has earned the NYC Marathon even more prestige and respect than it already owned.”

Le Tour saw the above letter 16 years ago! So what is the real reason behind Vélo Québec saying no to charity? In 2007, the median annual receipted charitable contribution of a tax filer in Quebec was $130, by far the lowest in Canada.The medians in the four provinces with less disposable income than ours ranged from $300 to $360. Thirty-four per cent of Quebecers 15 or older do some sort of volunteer work. The percentages in the rest of the provinces vary from 42 per cent to 54 per cent. Quebec has the dubious distinction of being the worst jurisdiction north of the Rio Grande for both charitable giving and volunteerism.

As one who is leading a campaign to increase the median annual contribution in Quebec, I have found that there is unfortunately little desire to improve the situation. McGill University and the McGill University Health Centre do not suffer as a result of the low median contribution of Quebecers, but the Université de Montréal and the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal certainly do.

Côte St. Luc, Dollard des Ormeaux, and Laval were recently asked to consider allowing Le Tour to return, providing the participants were invited to raise funds. Côte St. Luc and Dollard des Ormeaux both replied “No.” Laval’s mayor has informed me that its decision will be made by the city manager. About 15 years ago, Laval told me that they banned the event because, “We found no benefit whatsoever for the citizens.”

If Laval found no benefit, and the event did not cost Laval anywhere as much as it does Montrealers, then why would Montreal and the island suburbs spend $602,050.87 on an event that has so many negative connotations?

The 25th annual Tour de l’Île is scheduled for June 7. Please do yourself a favour. Contact your mayor and councillor today and tell them to ban Le Tour immediately, unless it co-operates with charity. If you do it may cause a couple of million dollars to be raised for something worthwhile.

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