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Mayor Ford unavailable for Pride Week flag-raising

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford photographed while talking to reporters in the public park behind his house where he confronted a Toronto Star reporter who, Mr. Ford claims, was taking photos over his wooden fence.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has confirmed he won't attend the official flag-raising to mark the start of Pride Week on Monday.

"No, I won't be able to [attend,]" he said Friday. "I've already committed to something."

The mayor said earlier this year that he would keep his family's tradition of going to the cottage on the Canada Day long weekend, rather than march in the Pride Parade.

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However, he left the door open to attending other official Pride festivities, including the flag-raising that takes place just outside his office on City Hall's podium roof at noon on Monday.

In May, Mr. Ford surprised everybody by turning up unannounced at a flag-raising to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, his first public appearance in support of the gay community.

The mayor's office did not reply to messages asking where Mr. Ford plans to be Monday.

Kevin Beaulieu, the executive director of Pride Toronto, said the mayor's absence wouldn't dampen the celebrations.

But it's still important for elected officials to "engage with the queer community," he said.

"The best way to do that is at Pride," Mr. Beaulieu said.

Mr. Ford made the comments Friday in his first media scrum since the finale of his weight-loss challenge Monday.

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Torontonians will soon have one less regular opportunity to hear from their mayor: Mr. Ford will be taking a summer hiatus from the radio show he co-hosts with his brother, Councillor Doug Ford.

This Sunday's broadcast will be the pair's last until Sept. 9.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ford told reporters Friday that he will reluctantly vote in favour of the first city-wide increase to on-street parking fees since 2007.

"Nobody's happy about it, but I think it's reasonable," the mayor said of the Toronto Parking Authority's request to raise parking meter rates by 25 to 50 cents an hour, depending on location.

As well, the mayor said he would back a proposal to allow street food vendors to expand their offerings beyond hot dogs.

Mr. Ford also received some unwelcome news Friday. The full board of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority formally rejected his bid to buy parkland adjacent to his Etobicoke home.

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The mayor and his wife had hoped to purchase the parcel to build a better security fence.

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