The rainbow flag is now flying above City Hall to commemorate Pride Week, but Mayor Rob Ford wasn't there to raise the banner Monday.
Kristyn Wong-Tam, the city's only openly gay councillor, hosted the noon-hour event, which drew more than 25 other councillors, including Ford allies Doug Holyday, Michael Thompson, Peter Milczyn, Paul Ainslie and Frances Nunziata.
The mayor's brother, Councillor Doug Ford, was not among them.
Councillor Janet Davis, whose son is gay, chastised the mayor for skipping the formal kick-off to one of Toronto's biggest celebrations.
"He should be here," Ms. Davis said. "He should be here to raise this flag, read the proclamation and he should be at the parade. And if he's not, he owes an explanation to this community and to the rest of council and to the people of the city."
Even Mr. Holyday, the deputy mayor, said it would have been "appropriate," for his boss to attend the ceremony on City Hall's green roof, immediately outside his office.
"If it fits his schedule I think it would have been appropriate, but I don't know where he is today," Mr. Holyday said, adding the mayor's office had not asked him to go to the event in Mr. Ford's stead.
The Pride flag-raising has taken on a heightened political significance since the election of Mr. Ford, who, unlike most of his predecessors, has declined to march in Toronto's massive Pride Parade.
Mr. Ford has opted to keep his family's tradition of going to the cottage on the Canada Day Long weekend instead.
Mr. Ford told reporters Friday that the wouldn't attend the Pride flag-raising because he had another commitment. His press secretary said Monday that "the Mayor was unavailable," but he would not say why or where Mr. Ford was scheduled to be at noon.
"It's not a surprise," Kevin Beaulieu, executive director of Pride Toronto, said of the mayor's absence. "[Mr. Ford] said this last week and again a couple of months ago. I think it was a fantastic launch to Pride Week either way. The community's here and that's the most important thing."
In May, Mr. Ford showed up at the last-minute to a flag-raising to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, his first public appearance in support of the gay community.
In that instance, the mayor's office had earlier told Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, organizers of the May 17 event, that Mr. Ford was not available.
This time, with no surprise appearance by Mr. Ford, Councillor Shelley Carroll read the official Pride Week proclamation on the mayor's behalf.
When Ms. Carroll, a potential candidate for mayor in 2014, mentioned Mr. Ford's name, the colourfully dressed crowd laughed and booed.
Last year, the mayor did not attend anything at the 10-day Pride festival, which is supported by more than $123,000 in city grant funding and more than $300,000 in in-kind support for clean-up and other services at the parade.
Some 411,000 people attended and spent more than $43-million during the 2009 festival, according to an economic impact study published in November 2010.
"I think it's unfortunate [the mayor isn't here,]" Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker said. "But I think we had a quorum of council here. So I hope this community, the folks that were here, felt a lot of love and good karma."