Mayor Rob Ford paid a rare visit to an exclusive downtown Toronto club to deliver his campaign message – but only after the room was cleared of all reporters.
Members of the press were asked to leave Monday night's gathering at the University Club of Toronto, co-hosted by the Society for the Young & Politically Engaged. The event was held in a panelled room lined with Group of Seven paintings at the club's building on University Avenue. It attracted a well-dressed crowd of young and grey-haired professionals who sipped wine and gin and tonics while they waited for Mr. Ford to arrive.
Some expressed curiosity about seeing the city's controversial leader up close for the first time. The mayor's brother and campaign manager, Doug Ford, is frequently critical of what he describes as Toronto's "elites," a group in which he places the mayor's main rival, John Tory.
Organizers of the event sent out a press release last week inviting the press, but 10 minutes after Mr. Ford was scheduled to talk, members of the media were asked to step into the hall.
Mr. Ford's campaign organizers were not properly informed about the media, said Sean Lawrence, the chair of the club's programming committee. "Their understanding and what has transpired was different," Mr. Lawrence said.
Mr. Ford's campaign spokesman would not discuss why media were asked to leave. "The club has explained things to you and taken ownership of this," Jeff Silverstein said.
A spokesman for Mr. Ford's office later provided an e-mail from Nico Barrett, general manager of the club. It read in part, "We have invited no media and have made it clear to our members and members of [the Society for the Young and Politically Engaged] that there are to be no television or radio reporters invited."
Mr. Barrett also writes that there will be a dinner following the speech. "The Mayor is welcome to attend – but I suspect his schedule wouldn't allow for this," the e-mail states.
Mr. Ford last week invited reporters to follow him as he campaigned on two occasions and earlier Monday rode on the Sheppard subway line with the media on his way to a campaign event outside the Don Mills subway station.