3 more years and he’ll be out of office anyway, in the meantime let’s count the days.
Stuff that Mayor Rob Ford has found time for on his busy agenda in recent months:
• Presenting a key to the city to McDonald’s Canada founder George Cohon.
• Buying a dozen boxes of vanilla and chocolate cookies from Girl Guides.
• Inspecting fallen concrete under the Gardiner Expressway.
• Unveiling a new bus stop on the Danforth.
• Attending the Good Friday procession in Little Italy.
• Proclaiming Jane Jacobs Day.
• Confronting a Toronto Star reporter on public property beyond his backyard fence and — it would appear — scrolling through the guy’s dropped cell phone.
Yet Ford was MIA Monday for the raising of the rainbow flag formally launching Pride Week in Toronto.
Of course, the mayor’s presence was never expected. Ford said a week ago he had other commitments and would not attend. What these prior engagements might have been weren’t revealed. My city hall bureau colleagues were unable to find Mayor Waldo yesterday at the prescribed hour. Twenty-six councillors convened for the occasion on the rooftop podium, along with a provincial minister, some clergy, former mayor Barbara Hall, lots of media and a diverse array of interested spectators.
Among those was a fellow offering “The Embarrassing Rob Ford Tour’’ — a free-of-charge guided stroll focusing on art work inside city hall, with mortifying mayor commentary thrown in — and a black-clad group that staged a “die-in’’ on the ramp just below, bringing attention to the fate of persecuted gays globally.
One overheard snippet of conversation from amidst the milling crowd: “Yes, it was the first Jewish lesbian shotgun wedding. The baby’s due in September.’’
There were those applauding Israel as the only Middle East country where gay rights are protected. There were those wearing T-shirts slamming “Apartheid Israel’’ for its continued occupation of Palestinian territories.
Men in tight-fitting bicycle shorts and business suits, women in baggy overalls and gypsy skirts, kids in strollers, parents of gay children, elderly couples — same-sex and heterosexual — teens in Doc Martens, the outrageous and the modest.
A microcosm, really, of the city and Ford is mayor of it all, an inconvenient truth that he chooses to ignore when that doesn’t suit.
There were boos when Councillor Shelley Carroll channelled Ford for the officiating. “I, Mayor Ford, on behalf of Toronto city council, do hereby proclaim June 22 to July 1, 2012, as Pride Week in Toronto.’’
The thing is, had Ford surprised everybody by showing up, he would undoubtedly have been heartily cheered, just as he was when he made an unexpected appearance last month at the flag-raising for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It wouldn’t matter if those present take a dim view of Ford and probably didn’t vote for him, though it would be imprudent to make even those generalizations — surely there are gays who ascribe to his politics and for whom the Ford nitty-gritty appeals.
But Pride Week, under this year’s banner of “Celebrate and Demonstrate,’’ is a feel-good event. The message is inherently anti-ill will. And the gay community would have deeply appreciated any kind of shout-out from Ford.
The mayor should understand this, yet fails repeatedly to embrace opportunities of inclusiveness that actually matter, that aren’t merely photo-ops. Yet again, as he’s already stated, Ford will take a pass on the Pride Parade this weekend because, as oft-stated, he traditionally spends Canada Day with his family at their Huntsville cottage.
That’s just not a good enough excuse. Ford goes home to his wife and children every night. It’s not like they don’t see enough of him. Sometimes, being mayor means putting the job ahead of family and, if unwilling to do that, then don’t run for the office. If it’s true, as has been rumoured, that Ford is uncomfortable around the exhibitionism that is a feature of the parade — scantily clad men, a pungent aroma of sex, which is mostly the gay community taking the mickey out of itself — then arrangements could easily be made to put the mayor far from “offending’’ participants. He really does need to confront his inner prude. Maybe Ford has body issues?
But by cold-shouldering the parade, as he did last year, Ford merely reminds everyone of his divisive clumsiness, the lack of sophistication he wears as if it were a badge of virtue, his small-mindedness. Further, it’s simply dumbass to snub an event that brings upwards of $135 million in economic benefits to the city and province and — as the third-largest gay pride celebration on the continent — immense cachet as well. This week’s cornucopia of activities includes everything from musical acts on five stages to art installations, book readings to erotic wrestling, and even a kids zone, all of it contributing to a lively jumble of entertainment and education.
In two years, Toronto will host World Pride. Perhaps by then another mayor will approach it with a higher regard for all of the city’s citizenry.
Ford does not make us proud.