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How Toronto's Leadership Can Reverse LGBT Ill Will Created By Rob Ford

06/09/2014 05:31 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:07 EDT

June is Pride month, with celebrations around the world embracing LGBT communities, culture, contributions and inclusion.

Sending a loud and proud message of LGBT-acceptance is more than just a moral obligation, it's good business, as we saw last week with YouTube's #proudtoplay campaign, and Nike's #betrue line. It's also good press, or in some cases, damage control, as per Jonah Hill's rush to a tearful apology on Jimmy Kimmel after he was recorded directing homophobic language at a photographer.

For Toronto, this year's Pride presents a similar opportunity to re-establish our city's brand when it comes to LGBT inclusion. Toronto is hosting World Pride after a difficult year in the global press that many argue has harmed Toronto's image internationally. One obstacle has been Mayor Rob Ford's refusal to attend pride, and opposition to City Hall's decision to fly the rainbow during the Sochi Olympics as a show of support for LGBT athletes around the world.

More recently, he was recorded stating that he could no longer vote for the Ontario PCs because leader Tim Hudak supported flying the rainbow flag over the provincial legislature, a stance that prompted city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam to conclude of Ford's attitude toward the LGBT community, "he actually hates us."

But, Toronto may have finally turned a corner, thanks in part to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. Kelly has visibly embraced the gay community as have many mayoral candidates, and helped return an atmosphere of partnership and acceptance to Toronto's highest office.

If marketing is selling a brand to the world, Toronto's leadership on LGBT issues could play an important role in reviving the city's international appeal after the Ford ordeal. LGBT acceptance, both in government and society, is good for our society, but also our economy.

In the United States, widely covered wins for gay marriage have results in a projected 492-million dollars for California in the next three years in gay wedding and tourism spending. Hawaii stands to benefit 217-million, and countries like Japan that appear to be softening toward acceptance still stand to benefit from the good press around the world. The UN World Travel Organization notes in their LGBT Report that, "the approval of legislation in favour of equality for same-sex couples sense a powerful brand image of tolerance, respect, progress and open mindedness."

For Toronto, the first Canadian city to perform same sex marriages, our reputation and success is built on a foundation of acceptance and equality for all. When Toronto was featured as a world-class destination for gay travel in the New York Times last week, it hopefully marked the return of the brand as an inclusive metropolis.

And, if not convinced by the positive energy created by Pride every June, Pride brings a welcome influx of cash to a city desperate for transit, infrastructure and social funding (among other things). In 2013, the 10-day festival generated 286-million in spending, created or maintained 3.470 jobs, and generated 60.9-million in revenue. After the Rob Ford saga, it seems like LGBT rights have elevated Toronto on the world stage and brought good publicity to Canada's largest city.

Want to continue the conversation? Attend the discussion at Pilot PMR on June 11th with David Whitaker, CEO of Tourism Toronto, Kevin Beaulieu, Executive Director of World Pride, Diana Khong, Community Manager at Inside Out LGBT Film Festival and Sarah Lilleyman, editor of Globe Toronto. More info over at Pilot PMR.

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