When the Mayor shows up at your event, uninvited, and demands to be seated, how should you react? Welcome to Toronto’s version of the reasonable accommodation debate.
On Monday night, the Toronto Region Board of Trade held its annual dinner. The Board, which is the chamber of commerce for Canada’s largest metropolis, is a private organization. It can extend an invitation – or not – to whomever it likes. This year, its invitees included Norm Kelly. He’s Deputy Mayor of Toronto, and now exercises many of the powers traditionally held by the mayor. Among those the Board says was not invited was the diminished Mayor, Rob Ford. He says he got an invitation; they said it was sent in error and rescinded long ago. But reality TV stars can’t live outside the spotlight, so he showed up nonetheless. The Board, meeting boorishness with politeness, found him a seat. He left before dinner.
You’d normally expect a board of trade to want the mayor of its largest municipality at its annual dinner. Then again, you’d also normally expect a mayor not to smoke crack on video, not to get publicly drunk in various corners of the city, and not to be so closely connected to various characters distressingly well-known to police. This is not a normal mayor and these are not normal times; that’s why Toronto City Council stripped him of as many of his powers as the law allowed. It’s also why, last November, the Board called on Mr. Ford to “put the city first,” admit that he “cannot effectively fulfill” the duties of office, and take a leave of absence. He hasn’t, he doesn’t and he won’t. Which is why the Board didn’t invite him to break bread with them. As president Carol Wilding put it, “I think it would be disingenuous to extend an invitation when under current circumstances our statement holds.”
This is not the first time that Mr. Ford has been snubbed by a private organization, and it surely will not be the last. Last year, the annual Santa Claus Parade even asked him to not march in the procession, to avoid creating a spectacle. But spectacle is what this man delivers, invited or not. He still won’t come clean on his record of lying, he still doesn’t recognize that his powers were legitimately diminished by a democratically elected council, and he still doesn’t understand that his is a public office, not a private playpen. The next election is nine months away. Until then, innocent bystanders should be prepared for more collateral damage.