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Doug Ford slams 'political games,' says Mayor Ford was invited to business dinner

Rob Ford at the 126th Annual Toronto Board of Trade Dinner

Tom Sandler for the Globe and Mail

The day after the Toronto Region Board of Trade says Mayor Rob Ford arrived uninvited to its annual dinner, the mayor's brother shot back, accusing the board's president of "political games."

Councillor Doug Ford said Tuesday that his brother had been invited to the dinner, and singled out board president Carol Wilding.

"Really, what the board of trade should be doing is working with all politicians. Carol Wilding has decided not to. She's turning this into a little political game of hers," Mr. Ford said. "I can assure you, the people of the board don't share her values," he added.

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The Toronto Region Board of Trade said the mayor arrived unexpectedly on Monday evening for its annual dinner, an important event on Bay Street's social calendar that drew around 1,300 people to a vast ballroom at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Organizers said Mr. Ford was not on the list of guests, who were assigned to seats at tables sponsored by leading companies and institutions at a cost of about $4,000 a table. One board official called the situation "awkward" in the extreme.

The mayor was ushered to an empty seat at a table in a back corner. Table mates said he stayed for about half an hour, then left without waiting to eat dinner.

"We did not invite the mayor," said Ms. Wilding. She said it would have been wrong to do so, given that the board issued a statement in the midst of the crack-smoking scandal last fall saying the mayor should take a leave from office for the sake of the city.

"I think it would be disingenuous to extend an invitation when under current circumstances our statement holds," she said.

In place of Mr. Ford, the board invited Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who assumed many of Mr. Ford's powers when city council took steps to sideline the mayor after the scandal erupted. Mr. Kelly was seated at a prominent table and had his photograph in the dinner brochure.

Ms. Wilding said that when Mr. Ford arrived, there was no question of turning him away. Instead, "we graciously hosted him. We thought he was a guest of someone, but apparently he wasn't so we found him a seat."

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Mr. Ford seems to have another version of events. A statement on his Twitter account on Monday night said "Thanks to Carol Wilding, President of the @TorontoRBOT for taking the time to personally invite me to tonight's event." It included a photograph of a letter of invitation dated Nov. 11.

A board spokesman said that the letter was sent inadvertently. He said the mayor's office did not send an RSVP and that the board left a voice message with the mayor's office confirming that he was not invited.

In her speech to the dinner crowd, Ms. Wilding appeared to refer to the Ford scandal when she said that Toronto was perceived to have taken a step backward in 2013.

"We were, and remain, preoccupied with the question of leadership within the region," she said.

Asked if people who show up to the dinner without an invitation are charged for attending, Ms. Wilding laughed and said, "That's a good question. I don't have a lot of people who show up uninvited."

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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

National Food Reporter

Ann Hui is the national food reporter at The Globe and Mail. Previously, she worked as a national reporter and homepage editor for theglobeandmail.com and an online editor in News. More

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