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Mayor Ford’s WorldPride snub speaks louder than homophobia denials

Mayor Rob Ford says it was the disease of addiction talking when he made all those racist, sexist and homophobic remarks. While a person is under the influence, he told an interviewer after returning from rehab last month, "You do things, you say things that just aren't you." If that is so, how do we explain his disgraceful performance at City Hall on Wednesday morning?

City council was paying tribute to the organizers of WorldPride, the inspiring celebration that brought throngs of visitors to Toronto last month. City manager Joe Pennachetti and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly each praised the festival for the gift it gave to the city. Everyone on council stood to deliver a warm standing ovation. Everyone stood again to congratulate Kristyn Wong-Tam, the city councillor and gay-rights activist who helped promote the festival.

Everyone, that is, but Mr. Ford, who stayed stubbornly in his corner council seat as others rose to their feet. It was an unmistakable snub from the mayor – the same mayor who has declined since taking office to march in the Pride parade; the same mayor who tried to have the rainbow flag hauled down from a flagstaff at City Hall when it was raised to back gay rights in Russia.

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So much for the idea that he didn't really mean it when he made those vile remarks. His sullen boycott of the WorldPride ovation gave the lie to that dubious claim. We saw the real Rob Ford on Wednesday, unmasked by his own hand. As Ms. Wong-Tam said, he "couldn't even fake it" when other councillors gave their ovation. "Clearly Rob Ford once again stands alone in a corner pouting by himself and that's where he belongs. That's where he should stay."

Only when the Pride speeches and ovations were over did Mr. Ford rise from his seat, to make a presentation to musician Liona Boyd. He was happy to congratulate a guitarist for her contribution to music, but not the organizers of an event that brought millions in tourism revenue to the city and raised Toronto's reputation as a tolerant, welcoming place. It is a reputation he seems determined to sully.

Confronted by reporters about his little boycott, he insisted, with a dismissive laugh, that he is not a homophobe. "I'm not. You guys have asked me this question for 14 years and you know the answer. I'm not homophobic. I'm not homophobic." He has an odd way of showing it.

If there was some other explanation for his sit-down strike, he could have easily said so. But he refused to give any reason for his refusal to stand up. Instead, he said that he always stood up for the taxpayers, then went into one of his spiels about how much money he has saved them. His brother Doug, meanwhile, told reporters they were on a witch hunt. He said his brother backed funding for Pride and even, gracious, had gay people on his campaign staff. "He doesn't care if you're gay, straight, white, purple, pink," he told CP24 television.

Then why could he not bring himself to do a little thing like get up from his chair to toast the organizers of a wonderful event like WorldPride? The mayor's behaviour should give pause to those voters who are still planning to vote for him in the Oct. 27 election. Recent polls show that around one in five has that intent. Perhaps they think they are voting for low taxes or subways or better customer service at city hall. But if Mr. Ford's display at city council is anything to go by, they are also voting for bigotry.

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About the Author
Toronto columnist

Marcus Gee is Toronto columnist for the Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper.Born in Toronto, he graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1979 with a degree in modern European history, then worked as a reporter for The Province, Vancouver's morning newspaper. More

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