Rob Ford's decision to skip the Pride parade again this year hasn't stopped a pro-gay family group and several city councillors – including his own brother – from urging the mayor to attend at least one event that would demonstrate his support for gay and lesbian Torontonians.
Councillor Doug Ford said Wednesday afternoon that he is "always encouraging" his brother to make an appearance at the 10-day festival, which runs from June 22 to July 1 this year. Last year, the mayor did not attend any Pride events.
But Rob Ford, who plans to spend the parade weekend at his family cottage, wouldn't have to make time during the official festivities to please his critics.
The Toronto chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (Toronto PFLAG) has already written to the mayor four times, beginning in February, inviting him to raise a flag in Nathan Phillips Square to mark the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17 or attend a brunch on parade day.
As well, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has offered to host a Pride reception for Mr. Ford that would feature business leaders and be a "safer space" for the mayor.
"I've always thought that the mayor is a shy man," said Ms. Wong-Tam, a lesbian councillor who first pitched the reception idea to the mayor in a letter Feb. 7. "And now [after]17 months on the job, I also have made the observation that he's insecure. He needs to know that this is going to be an okay space for him, which is why I thought maybe with the business community he might find that to be a safer space as opposed to coming out to the parade which has a million people staring at him."
Pride Toronto sent formal invitations to the mayor and city councillors this week, according to Kevin Beaulieu, the organization's executive director.
He said Pride is also inviting Dalton McGuinty, whose office said it was too early to determine whether the Premier will attend.
"The Premier has attended Pride week events in past – and we look forward to receiving this year's invitation," press secretary Neala Barton said by e-mail.
Mr. Ford confirmed Wednesday that he will not march in this summer's Pride parade.
"I'm not sending any message," he said, responding to a reporter's question about his decision at a news conference promoting new smartphone applications for reporting graffiti and vandalism. "I'm spending it with my family up north like I have for 25 years."
Mr. Ford left the door open to attending other Pride Week festivities, saying he takes his schedule "event by event."
The mayor said much the same thing last year, but didn't appear at a single Pride event, despite intense public pressure and a private meeting with Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, whose late son was gay.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, a frequent critic of Mr. Ford, said the mayor is entitled to a private life, including a weekend away at the cottage.
But he doesn't want to see Mr. Ford "snub" the entire celebration again this year, especially with World Pride coming to Toronto in 2014.
"If he misses the parade and attends the flag-raising, I think we'll all see that as a step forwards," Mr. Vaughan said.
"I've attended Pride. I support Pride … I donated a few thousand dollars to Pride. I will continue to do that and I think it's a great event for the city of Toronto."
- Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor's brother
"He chose to be the mayor. He asked for this job. And this job is to represent the most diverse city in Canada … I don't think it's right for the mayor to be selective of who he wants to represent."
- Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam
"It [the mayor skipping the Pride Parade]actually sends a message that even those who should represent all of us, don't represent or recognize some of us."
- Irene Miller, president, Toronto PFLAG
"It would be nice if he were to attend at least one event, but it's his decision."
-Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, an ally of the mayor