Pride Toronto got a financial boost of nearly $400,000 one week ahead of the event's kickoff.

"I'm pleased to announce a new recipient of the Marquee Events Program," said Minister of State Diane Ablonzcy Monday during a news conference at the Gladstone Hotel.

The money is to go towards improving infrastructure and services for people with disabilities during the 10-day festival, along with improving marketing and programming efforts.

"The disabilities spending (is) something that's been needed for quite some time," said Tracey Sandilands, executive director of Pride Toronto.

"Because the economy's a little bit weaker, we want to make sure that these events continue to be competitive on the world stage," Ablonzcy said.

The program providing the funding helps support events that draw mass numbers of tourists to Canadian towns and cities. Pride had 1.5 million participants over 10 days in 2008, providing $91 million in tourism revenue for city businesses.

Tourism Toronto president David Whitaker said the money will mean an extra edge at a very competitive time.

"Strengthening Pride and strengthening the festival will give us a better platform to attract more visitors in the future," he said.

Miss Carlotta Carlisle, a Pride week performer, told CTV Toronto: "I think it's great that not only is the government recognizing this is a great opportunity financially for the city and the country, but it's also showing that they're still very supportive of our community, especially considering we are one of the few countries that does allow gay marriage ..."

One boost the money will provide for Pride will be a big new headline act for this year -- but that's staying a secret for now.

In other festival news, the Unstoppable El-Farouk will be the grand marshall of the Pride parade.

El-Farouk came to Canada in 1974 and Toronto in 1989. In the subsequent
20 years, he has represented those seeking protection based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and HIV status.

"Canada isn't known as a racist or phobic society, but it exists here. It may not be articulated as in other places, but there are still issues such as glass ceilings based on gender and people of colour being underemployed," he said in a news release.

El-Farouk had received a 2006 award from Pride Toronto for Excellence in Spirituality.

He had been promoting queer Muslim awareness through Salaam: Queer Muslim Community.

"In Canada, we need to continue to push to make a more equitable society, to manifest a society we desire and all deserve. It is important for us to make a positive impact not just as role models but regarding societal shits and changes as well," El-Farouk explained.

"Look at the equal marriage debate in the United States, they look to Canadian jurisprudence when evaluating that issue."

With a report from CTV Toronto's Michelle Dube