As we once again plunge into the waters of speculation about whether the elected leader of Canada's most diverse city will skip one of its foremost cultural festivals, let's make things really simple: the Mayor of Toronto should absolutely attend Pride Week.
That Rob Ford is the guy wearing the chain of office doesn't change that. When he said his oath last year, Ford accepted responsibilities that go beyond his individual whims and quirks of character. Per the provincially-legislated City of Toronto act, one of Ford's mandated responsibilities is to “participate in and foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the City and its residents.”
In other words: attending Pride Week is part of the job.
And no, he doesn't have to go to the parade. He's got a legitimate conflict with his family's longstanding tradition of attending their cottage on Canada Day weekend. There's no need for anyone to challenge that. Pride is a ten-day long celebration made up of dozens of individual events. Some – like the flag-raising at Nathan Phillips Square – take place within spitting distance of his office at City Hall. Ford's got lots of options.
Considering some of the other events the mayor has made time for over the past year – Santa Claus parades, Donald Trump photo-ops, food court openings, launch of the Sun News Network – there's no buying an excuse that he can't find twenty minutes on his schedule to make an appearance and thank everyone for coming.
Sure, the sight of Rob Ford waving the rainbow flag might feel a little empty and self-serving, but there's something to be said for the pure symbolism of the mayor of the city endorsing a cultural event that, not long ago, was considered abhorrent. To understand the heft of Ford's office, watch how excited visiting kids get at City Hall when Ford wades into the gallery to greet them. They're legitimately thrilled that they get to meet the mayor and get his business card.
There's an intrinsic importance – a power, a legitimacy – that remains tied to the position he holds, even despite the chaos and controversy that surrounds him.
But don't take my word for it. Even Ford voters want the mayor to attend Pride. A series of focus group sessions run last summer by Environics Research looked exclusively at people who had supported Ford in the 2010 election. Their findings were varied, but one thing stood as a constant, as noted by Framed in Canada's Trish Hennessy:
Finally, every single focus group raised one common issue as being the biggest ‘knock’ against Rob Ford, the mayor: his refusal to make an appearance at the Pride Day parade. While they found his candor refreshing enough to lend him their vote, now that he’s mayor, they’re beginning to apply a higher standard – one reflective of the office.
Even the vaunted forces of Ford Nation think the mayor should go to Pride. He should listen.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/ford-for-toronto-matt-elliott/2012/04/18/rob-ford-skips-pride.html on 2012-04-18T00:00:00.000Z