Rob Ford, the Mayor of Toronto, is wrong to say no to the Gay Pride Parade. As the chief magistrate of an open-minded city in an open-minded country, he should take part in an open expression of homosexual life. He ought to say yes.
Mr. Ford's duty is to represent the city - a city of ethnic pride, of religious pride, and of gay pride. The Gay Pride Parade is a celebration of the city's diversity, and it is an important part of Mr. Ford's job to lead in expressing that diversity and that pride.
Mr. Ford says he has hitherto spent every Canada Day with his family at a cottage. That's an evasion. Asked if he would go to the parade, at The Globe's editorial board during the election last fall, he said, "Why not?" but then added, "Every Canada Day, we go up to the cottage. If I'm available, I'll go [to the parade] If I'm not, I won't." In other words, he doesn't offer a reason not to go. Canada Day is Friday; the parade is on Sunday. He has not explained why he can't leave the cottage a few hours early.
The facts strongly suggest discomfort on issues related to homosexuality. He will not even attend a flag-raising next week (before Canada Day) for the parade. He wouldn't go to a ceremony for an international day opposing homophobia. He even spoke out, as a city councillor, against spending money on AIDS prevention.
All that is all the more reason why he should go. He should, as The Globe's city columnist Marcus Gee argued on Thursday, grow. The former mayor Mel Lastman, who went, reluctantly, and had a gay old time (or at least a grand one), is urging him to go. Perhaps Mr. Ford is apprehensive about how he will be treated. Heck, the police chief, Bill Blair, attends, and scrapes through somehow.
Mr. Ford would learn something at the Parade. He would probably have a good time. He might, afterward, conclude that he shouldn't have made a big deal out of it. When and if he goes, others like him will say, "If Rob Ford could go to Gay Pride, well then. . ."
He should go, this year. He needs to change his mind.