The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale makes it official:
Mayor Rob Ford will not be making a surprise appearance at the Pride parade on Sunday.
Ford’s spokesperson, Adrienne Batra, told CP24 that Ford would remain at the Muskoka cottage where he is spending time with his family.
Ford said on June 22 that he would miss the parade for the cottage gathering. Pride officials, councillors, former mayors and Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, a gay rights advocate, were among the people who had urged him to reconsider.
Ford is the first Toronto mayor to miss the parade since June Rowlands in 1994.
Not only did the mayor miss the parade — forgivable, given his commitment to a family tradition — but also dozens of other Pride events that took place over the past week, ranging in complexity from a pub brunch on Bay street to a flag-raising taking place a short walk from his office. His only concessions to this major cultural event — an event that draws a hundred million dollars of economic activity — was his scrawled signature on the mayoral proclamation and a lone message posted to his Twitter account, which is managed by assistant Tom Beyer. (Who did, in fact, attend the parade.)
The bottom line: thousands of people came to the city over the past week to spend money and experience Toronto, and yet the mayor, for no good reason, did not publicly welcome them. Even if you can look past the social ramifications of the mayor snubbing the LBGT community, this just feels like bad manners.
Most of the apologist arguments on this issue were pretty weak — Pride is nothing but a dog pile of debauchery so why should the mayor attend? or Why are so-called open-minded, pro-choice liberals trying to force the mayor to do something? — but one school of thought stood out as particularly ignorant. Best espoused by the Toronto Sun’s Peter Worthington, it went like this:
Why would anyone in the gay community want Ford at their parade?
If a million citizens turn out to watch the goings-on, participate and relish the get-together, surely that’s more significant than having a reluctant mayor in attendance.
I suspect he was invited simply and only so he could be booed.
The answer to “Why would anyone want Ford at the Pride parade?” is really simple. It’s because, love him or hate him, he is the Mayor of Toronto. And with that title comes the responsibility to represent all the people of Toronto. Even if you take issue with the person sitting in the chair, you respect the office. The office means something.
You see it at council meetings, when classes of students drop in to the gallery. When the mayor approaches those groups — and, to his credit, he always does — the kids go nuts. They may not understand the procedural slog that is city government, but they get that this man, handing them business cards for some reason, is an important guy. He runs the whole city.
It wasn’t important that Rob Ford attend a Pride event. That’s getting too granular, too specific. It was important that the Mayor of Toronto attend a Pride event.
Sue-Ann Levy, of all people, sums things up nicely in her latest column:
But he and his advisors allowed the fiasco to escalate by ignoring suggestions for him to stop in at safe events, like an awards ceremony Wednesday evening, and even to hold a private event in his office.
Clearly they don’t understand the fine nuances of being a mayor of all the people of this city.
A true leader doesn’t shrink from one powerful group just because they didn’t vote for him.
He does the right thing.
A commenter to Levy’s column responds with “fag fest is over.” Which brings up the other sad part of this whole thing: Ford hasn’t even made a token gesture to disavow the notion that he agrees with the homophobic horde that is gleefully championing his time at the cottage.