Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is creating an annual spectacle in which he parades less than desirable characteristics in front of the people of Toronto. Who knows precisely what those characteristics are – pigheadedness, fears, angst about homosexuality?
Mr. Ford has said he would have no problem attending the annual Pride parade on July 1 that brings thousands of people and millions of dollars in economic activity to his city – except that he and his family have a tradition of being at their cottage on Canada Day. Fine, let the Mayor enjoy his summer reverie. But apart from signing a Pride Week proclamation, he still refuses, in his second year in office, to raise a flag against international homophobia, in the public square in front of City Hall. He went to no events during Pride Week last year. The flag will be raised – he just won’t be the one to do it.
A mayor should represent all the people.
That includes people like Brian Burke, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ gruff, formidable general manager, who will be at the flag-raising. His son, Brendan, who was killed in a car accident two years ago, was gay. Gay people are part of Toronto families like anyone else. The professional hockey world has begun to fight homophobia, thanks to people like Mr. Burke.
The contrast between Vice-President Joe Biden speaking up for gay marriage on a weekend TV show, and Mr. Ford, is hard to miss. One man showed the capacity for personal growth, and one the lack of that capacity. One stirred admiration, and hope for change; the other, disappointment.
People expect their elected officials to be capable of growth in office. Mr. Ford, sadly, appears unchangeable on this issue.
And why won’t he raise that flag? What is the risk in raising it? He simply won’t do it, and by his refusal provokes questions about his tolerance. This is at a time when he is struggling at City Hall. He could not get his transit strategy through City Council. Why would a mayor court those questions and virtually ask for negative publicity when nothing, in narrow political terms, is at stake? It doesn’t make sense. All the more reason to wonder: Why step on his own foot yet again?