Posted by: pafmurray | May 28, 2009

Velo QC/Le Tour’s Defence in The Gazette Against Big Bad Murray Doing Something For the Benefit of Humanity

On May 20 the following article appeared in The Gazette

Below is my response, interspersed with the article. My comments are in red and the article appears in black.

Please bear in mind that the more money raised for worthy causes, the longer that people will live, and the less that they will suffer. That includes you and those that you hold near and dear!

Max Harrold,

Columnist

The Gazette

Hi Max,

I am copying this to Marina Orsini as she is the spokesperson for Le Tour de l’Ile de Montreal

My comments are interspersed in the article (below) that you wrote. I thank you for the balance. I will send you award winning columnist Andre Picard’s column from the Globe and Mail later. I wonder if he bothered to check the facts before printing his award winning articles. He sure did not when he wrote about me!

On June 7, the Tour de l’Île bicycle event’s 25th edition will close dozens of streets as 30,000 cyclists roll through nine Montreal boroughs, Westmount and Town of Mount Royal. The event promotes cycling as a healthy family activity Healthy? Helmets are not mandatory in any Velo QC event that I am aware of. and it generally goes off without a hitch. About 2,600 volunteers help guide cyclists through the 50-kilometre stretch of roads in an impressive co-ordination of goodwill, public resources and physical fitness. The fee to join is relatively low, at $24, and participants are happy they did it.

But for 17 years, Murray Levine has been a thorn in the backsides of Tour de l’Île organizers. The Montrealer has decried the event’s lack of official support for charity. He points out that in other cities, amateur sporting events – like marathons – endorse causes. Even the Montreal Marathon invites their participants to raise $$$ (and for Marina’s “cause”).

In an opinion article he wrote recently in The Gazette, Levine also slammed the event because it “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.”

Levine, founder of the Philanthropic Athletes Foundation, said the tax dollars and publicly funded logistics support (like police redirecting traffic from closed-off streets) should alarm people since the event does not officially endorse raising money for charity. I believe that there should be some quid pro quo for all the “harm”, expense and inconvenience.

Participants can raise money on their own, but the event’s cause is cycling, the Tour says. But part of Levine’s message is the embarrassing statistical fact that Quebecers contribute notably less per capita to charities than other Canadians. Over 20 yrs ago I encouraged 10 major charities and their equivalents in Canada to encourage their supporters to enter events and raise $$ for them. 9/10 in the US thanked me. 1/10 in Canada thanked me. The idea caught on in the US but has yet to do so in Canada.

According to the Fraser Institute’s 2008 Generosity Index, Quebecers donated the least (0.33 per cent) of their personal incomes compared with other Canadians. And Canadians overall gave much less than Americans.

So why can’t the Tour de l’Île lead by example on this? The Gazette spoke to Patrick Howe, public relations director of Vélo Québec, the non-profit, provincial cycling advocacy group that organizes and stages the Tour de l’Île.

Gazette: Why doesn’t the Tour de l’Île support charities?

howe: It’s false to say that we don’t. There have been private sponsors of Tour de l’Île participants for years. Not with the help of Velo QC. They threatened to sue me for infringing on their trademark. As mentioned earlier they essentially attacked the LGHF exec director in a Gazette article yrs ago for welcoming people to cycle in Le Tour and raise $$$. (Here is a link to an article on the same topic in The Montreal Mirror from 5 yrs ago )Big deal! They can show that to their sponsors. Childish! Adults get flat donations not tied to distance..We’ve had Karate teams doing the event instead of selling chocolate bars to raise money for their teams, for example And athletes in events that use my concept have raised over $1 million each on some occasions., and others raising money for different charitable causes. Some just do it to prove they’re in shape. And Vélo Québec is executive producer of the MS Bike Tour for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. And Velo QC charges the MS Society for what they do. We also have 10 children with new hearts who are from Ste. Justine Hospital who may participate this year. We’re eager to help them in any way possible. Except to invite the 45,000 participants of the events to raise $$ for kids’ hospitals. Everyone gets a participation certificate and with that paper, it’s proof that they did it.

Gazette: How would you support them?

howe: We’ll offer logistics support, (like) where they should be in the starting line of the event. We’ll gladly point them out to journalists covering the event. We want to publicize this type of effort. So why not on their website and actually invite charities to use the event?

Gazette: Isn’t that a clear choice to support them over other groups?

howe: We want to help them, and other good causes, but we’re not a charitable foundation. Neither is the Montreal Marathon but they support Tel-Jeunes We can’t actively endorse and support a charitable cause. I have not asked them to do that. We’re way too busy organizing the event. It takes a full year to organize all our volunteers, work with all the municipal officials and emergency responders, to stage the Tour de l’Île. As soon as one year’s event ends, we have to start planning the next year’s event. Plus, we have all our other (provincial bicycle touring events) to do. You know, some of our participants tell us they are raising funds and we say: “Great.” But others don’t want us to choose a cause for them. Our main cause is not charity, it’s cycling and promoting that as a healthy, pleasant activity for the whole family. My concept is to invite the participants of an event to raise $$$ directly for the charity of their choice. I asked Mayors to insert a form in the mailing of Le Tour asking the participants to raise $$ directly for the charity of the participants’ choice.

Gazette: If people are raising funds for charity on their own already, why not explicitly invite them to do that as part of your marketing?

howe: We have so many messages to get out already regarding the bike tour. Once again, this (raising money for charity) is not our role. We’re happy if people want to raise funds, but we don’t plan on actively promoting this. But for instance, if people want to raise money for the Italian earthquake victims, that’s great. We encourage them to do that. Only Mr. Levine has made this an issue … and it’s been quite disturbing to us at times. He protested in front of our offices carrying a black coffin on which he had written the name of our president and executive director. The coffins were white and had the first names of children 2+3 yrs old to show how Velo QC would not even raise $$$ for the benefit of dying children

Gazette: Is Levine shifting attention away from what the Tour de l’Île is really about?

howe: You know, we have a very noble cause of our own – cycling – and it’s nothing to feel bad about. Our participants have a lot to feel proud about. Levine is right to point out that Quebecers raise less money for charity than other Canadians and Americans and Britons. There is an Anglo-Saxon tradition of giving to charity that

isn’t as present here. Quebecers seem to think that they pay enough in taxes and that this is their way of supporting charities. It’s statistically proven. What is proven? That we feel that with what we pay its enough and we do not have to give to charity? The taxes in other places are not significantly less but people give far, far more. Meanwhile the median annual charitable contribution of NB where half the people are franco is $300 and in QC its $130. QC has more disposable income than NB, PE, NS and NL . Their medians range up to $360. Volunteerism is worse by far here as well. When the Quebecois gave to the church they did not give to the same extent as did poorer non-franco parishes, according to Father John Walsh (if he recalls telling me that).

Gazette: So what can you do to help change that?

howe: People should give more to charity, or volunteer, or raise money. The most successful form of fundraising is when an individual asks those that they know to make a donation. That is why I go after events to welcome their participants to raise $$$. Velo QC is not unique. For eg. NYC’s 5 Boro Cycle also has 30,000 participants and their mission is the same as VQ’s and they have numerous events BUT they now cooperate with charity.

Gazette: Do you have a duty to help charities because you accept public funds?

howe: We have a duty to promote cycling. We get 84 per cent of our funds (Vélo Québec has a $14-million annual budget) from individual subscribers, members and participants. The city of Montreal gives us $500,000 a year (in services for things like extra police) for the Tour de l’Île. (It is $602,050 and that is from the Greffier’s Office.) If we were a (charitable) foundation, we would have to raise our participation fee so that we could also give money to a specific cause. But people like us partly because our participation fee ($24) is so reasonable. That statement is pure unadulterated crap. Nobody has asked them to donate $$$

Thank you infitiment for asking Patrick the questions. It is too bad that I was not there to debate. Feel free to forward this to him as it may actually enlighten him as to what I have been asking for.

They can benefit greatly by doing as I have asked them to do. They need not be worried about saving face. I am not out to harm them BUT I am there to increase philanthropy and volunteerism in Quebec.

I have already offered to meet with Patrick through a friend but Patrick ignored the message.

Cheers,

Murray

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