Mayor Rob Ford will not attend World Pride in Toronto because he hasn't gone to a Pride parade yet and he is "not going to change the way I am," he said at the first mayoral debate of the 2014 campaign.
Mr. Ford, former city councillor David Soknacki and three other candidates answered questions from about 150 in attendance at the student centre at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus Wednesday night. The other three were Al Gore (not the former U.S. vice-president, but it is his real name) and musicians Robb Johannes and Richard Underhill. Only a fraction of those registered to run took part.
While all the other candidates present said they would be attending, or even performing, at the parade on June 29, the mayor declined.
"I'm not going to go to Pride parade. I've never gone to a Pride parade, so I'm not going to change the way I am," said Mr. Ford, who had received large applause upon his arrival.
He has not gone to a Pride parade during the course of his mayoralty, previously saying he traditionally spends the long weekend with his family at the cottage.
Mr. Soknacki said Mr. Ford's position shows he fails to represent Toronto's diverse community: "The mayor has to represent the wider community. It's very much a fabric of our life now, and the mayor has to represent all Torontonians."
The mayor's avoidance of the parade disappointed second-year University of Toronto Scarborough student Joseph Flett, who is gay.
"I feel that the mayor doesn't represent me or the larger community that I belong to in this city," said Mr. Flett, who plans to attend the parade. "I'm not surprised that he's not going, but it still hurts to hear that he won't be."
After the question about the Pride parade, transit options dominated the discussion.
"I believe that we in Scarborough are better served through an LRT," said Mr. Soknacki, who claimed an LRT is "better, faster and cheaper."
Mr. Ford quickly disagreed, saying he would prefer to extend the Sheppard subway line, and see a Finch line built.
"I'm a subway builder. I've never flip-flopped on that position," he said.
Despite much of the discussion revolving around transit, Mr. Ford said his top two issues for his campaign are creating jobs and lowering taxes.