Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, dogged for the third day by charges that he is homophobic, tried with his brother to shift the focus back to his fiscal record, claiming to have “spendaphobia.”
The term, floated first by the mayor’s brother and campaign manager, Councillor Doug Ford, on Friday morning, was repeated about an hour later by the mayor.
“I got spendaphobia. I got spendaphobia,” the mayor said after a ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square to mark the one-year countdown to the start of the Pan Am Games.
“Let’s talk about how much money I’ve saved the taxpayers and I got subways built. And I contracted out garbage. You don’t want to talk about that, do you?” the mayor said when asked why he did not stand up with other councillors earlier this week in recognition of the organizers of the WorldPride event.
“People are concerned about their pocket books and the taxes I’ve saved,” he said.
Mr. Ford took the unusual step of wearing his chain of office, usually reserved for formal occasions such as Remembrance Day, to two events on Friday. He also posed for pictures in the square after his Pan Am address while about a dozen City Hall security officers and members of his staff looked on.
As well as staying in his seat during the WorldPride ovation, Mr. Ford provoked charges of homophobia this week after he cast the only vote against a study into a possible shelter for LGBT youth.
The mayor said he is not homophobic.
On Friday morning, Councillor Ford was asked to explain the reasons for his brother’s actions.
“Rob’s a spendaphobic, not a homophobic,” he told reporters, explaining that he was opposed to spending money on a separate shelter for LGBT youth as well as staff training.
“There are so many groups that need special attention out there. We can’t fund every group or we wouldn’t have any money left,” the Etobicoke councillor said.
When it was pointed out that standing up during the ovation would not have cost money, Doug Ford said the mayor was acting on principle.
“He’d be criticized for not being principled and either way if you stand, you don’t stand,” he said.
He later elaborated: “Rob Ford has decided not to go to the gay Pride Parade and all of a sudden he’s going to get up and he’s going to be applauding the Pride Parade. You can’t speak out of both sides of your mouth. If you aren’t going to go to the gay Pride Parade, … I think it’s a little bit of hypocrisy if you decide to stand up, that’s my opinion,” he said.
Councillor Shelley Carroll had a different take, noting that the shelter item council voted for this week was only directing staff to do a study. The mayor is “read-the-report-o-phobic,” she said.
The city’s controversial leader, who returned from a two-month stay in rehab the day after WorldPride ended, delivered his Pan Am remarks from the main stage at Nathan Phillips Square. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne addressed the crowd from the other corner of the square. A spokeswoman for the TO2015 organizers would not say who decided that the Premier would speak at the other location near the new countdown clock.