06/24/2014 08:58 EDT | Updated 06/24/2014 09:59 EDT

Toronto's Pride Week A Rainbow-Coloured Cash Cow

Rob Ford is expected to be back in the mayor’s office at the end of this month, just in time to once again miss Toronto’s annual Pride festivities.

But the avowedly pro-business mayor may want to trade in his Leafs jersey for a rainbow-coloured flag all the same, given the rapidly growing importance of Pride events to Toronto's economy.

Last year’s Pride Week in Toronto generated $286 million in economic activity, creating more than 3,400 jobs, says Pride Toronto co-chair Sean Hillier, citing data from Research House. The event even helped Ford keep his low-taxes promise as well, bringing in $61 million in tax revenue. And this year’s numbers are expected to be significantly larger.

To put those numbers in perspective: The Toronto Maple Leafs, the single most valuable NHL team, earn annual revenues in the $140-million range. To be sure, the economic impact of the Leafs is more than just the team’s revenues -- there are bars and restaurants and many other service industries that benefit from Leafs fans. But Pride and the Leafs are now on a similar scale, economically.

Another sports comparison: When Toronto hosted the Grey Cup’s 100th anniversary party in 2012, a 10-day event, it generated about $133 million in economic activity. So Pride is certainly bigger than football in Toronto.

Pride organizers estimate the crowds at recent parades at around one million people, though that number is likely exaggerated. All the same, with Toronto hosting World Pride this year, organizers are expecting a record large crowd.

As recently as 2009, Pride Week was estimated (by a different research company) to be worth $136 million to Toronto’s economy, less than half what it’s worth today. No wonder sponsors like TD Bank, Hilton, Air Canada and Telus are lining up to fund this year’s event -- and get their name up in lights at Pride venues.

Some businesses, for better or worse, have come to rely on Pride for their survival. Vince Moneva, manager of Cafe California, located in the heart of the gay village, told the Globe and Mail that Pride “represents our profit for the year … If it wasn’t for Pride, we wouldn’t be able to survive.”

So from a policy standpoint, Ford might want to trade in his Leafs jersey for a rainbow flag.

We're not holding our collective breath, though.

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