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Refunds issued for Rob Ford speech event after mayor got stuck in elevator

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media at a press conference on Jan. 22 2014.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Members of a business audience who waited nearly an hour to hear Toronto's controversial mayor deliver a speech were issued full refunds Monday for the inconvenience of the delay.

Rob Ford was on his way to speak to the Economic Club of Canada last week when he got stuck in a freight elevator — with no cell phone service — for 45 minutes.

Several members of the crowd of about 200, who had paid $89 each to hear the mayor speak, left before his arrival.

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Economic Club president Rhiannon Traill — who was stuck in the elevator with Ford and several other event organizers — said the refunds were an apology for the wait guests had to endure.

"We just pride ourselves on trying to be as efficient as possible and that's definitely not our regular service," she said.

It's the first time the club has taken such a step but Traill added that the event was affected by "extraordinary circumstances."

Ford was not involved in the club's decision to issue refunds.

"It really has nothing to do with the mayor or the speech that he delivered," said Traill. "It has everything to do with the fact that I was stuck in an elevator with some of the senior management and of course our speaker was stuck and our guests had to wait for about an hour."

Traill said that while stuck in the elevator, Ford was "really calm and nice about the whole thing."

"There was nothing anyone could do other than wait to be rescued so we waited and tried to make as light of it as possible," she said, adding that the group called for help using the elevator's built-in emergency system.

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The group had taken the freight elevator to "avoid all the traffic" in the lobby of the hotel where Ford's lunch-hour speech was being held.

Dozens of reporters had crowded into the venue in anticipation of the speech, which was being delivered just days after a YouTube video surfaced showing the mayor in a rambling, profane rant in a Jamaican accent.

Ford admitted last week that he had been drinking during the videotaped incident, which he characterized as a "minor setback" that came after repeated vows last year that he had given up alcohol.

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