Ford’s absence from Pride festivities is no blow to gay community
Big news from city hall: Mayor Rob Ford won’t be attending this year’s Pride parade, for the third year in a row.
But I doubt the gay community was wracked with despair, upon hearing that Ford plans to head for the cottage instead of the big parade and party on Canada Day weekend.
Ford has distinguished himself from predecessors David Miller and Mel Lastman by consistently refusing to take part in the parade or any Pride events since he was elected.
He won’t say so publicly, but they aren’t his kind of people, even if there are huge advantages to embracing Pride.
Miller and particularly Lastman made a lot of friends in the community by going in the parade every year, which created expectations that Ford would do the same, even if he was uncomfortable.
I covered Lastman’s first Pride parade, in 1998, and he wasn’t very happy about it, either. Before the parade started, he was sitting by himself in an antique fire truck in the staging area for floats, cooking in the sun and looking like a thundercloud.
I got along well with Lastman and often made small talk with him, so I jumped up on the truck and asked what was wrong. He mumbled that he’d rather be at home, keeping cool.
I walked the parade route behind the fire truck, along with a group of Lastman’s backroom supporters, and watched his face light up as the crowds cheered. It was like they knew it was a big step for him, and they wanted to show their appreciation.
It was a blistering hot day, and soon enough, people along the parade route were dousing the mayor with super-soaker water guns.
He didn’t like it at first, but went along with it, and was soon drenched to the skin, laughing and waving.
Lastman was animated when we interviewed him afterward, joking and saying he had a blast, and that he’d be back next year, but with an arsenal of high-powered water guns.
He kept his word, never missing a parade, and was always quick on the draw with his squirt gun.
For the first two years Ford was mayor, he was beseeched by friends and foes alike to at least show up at Pride event, even if he couldn’t stomach the parade. They’ll love you for coming, they said. Win-win.
Nope. Not a chance.
After the events of the last few weeks, and the consistent snubbing from Ford, I suspect his absence will barely be noticed, and may even be seen as a blessing.