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Perhaps, we could have a debate between Margaret Atwood and Don Cherry about the relative merits of arenas and libraries. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Perhaps, we could have a debate between Margaret Atwood and Don Cherry about the relative merits of arenas and libraries. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Ottawa Notebook

The Ford/Harper barbecue is no place for artists, Atwood says Add to ...

On the day that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced nearly $20 million in funding for the arts, he was feted at a barbecue by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who is in a battle royale with award-winning author Margaret Atwood for being anti-arts and sullying Toronto's reputation as a cultural centre.

The Ford barbecue, which took place at the controversial mayor's home Tuesday night, also included other prominent Tories and celebrity guest Prime Minister Stephen Harper, highlighting a growing relationship between the two men. Mr. Ford endorsed Mr. Harper in the election campaign and the Tories did well, breaking through in Toronto.

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"I would not have been invited, because I and my fellow artists are not welcome in Fords' Toronto," Ms. Atwood said Wednesday morning about the Tory barbecue. "We don't fit their idea of the kind of city they want to live in."

The author says that the "unwelcome mat has now played as a story around the world."

"It used to be thought that the mayor's job -- the one for which people elect that person -- included telling people what a great city his or hers is, and why people and businesses should come to it."

Instead, says Ms. Atwood, the Fords "seem to think they should tell everyone to stay away. Especially from the downtown core, which they seem to despise, but which where a lot of the art stuff is."

Ms. Atwood's dispute with the Mayor and his brother stems from recent suggestions that Toronto's libraries were threatened by budget cuts. This after Doug Ford told a radio host there were more libraries that Tim Horton's outlets in his ward. This is not correct.

She refers to the brothers as the "Twin Fordmayor (s)" as Doug Ford is a councillor and influential adviser to his brother.

When asked about Ms. Atwood's concerns, Doug Ford said that the famous author could walk right by him and " I wouldn't have a clue who she is."

Perfect. Ms. Atwood says she could have easily snuck into the barbecue then -- perhaps, to talk about the arts and funding with the PM?

"But maybe I could have just anyway and pretended I was someone else, because -- unlike all the people who said 'Way to go' when I was walking on the street last night -- the Twin Fordmayor(s) don't know what I look like and wouldn't have recognized me."

The Sun newspapers reported the appearance of the Prime Minister at the barbecue as well as the recent arts announcements by the federal Tories. Mr. Flaherty pledged $18,854,982 for 78 projects, according to the newspaper report.

The Finance Minister is also close to the Fords; the barbecue was to honour Mr. Flaherty for his efforts in the May federal campaign at making Toronto and Ontario "blue." Two MPs played host.

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