Where was Mayor Rob Ford on Monday, when the Toronto Pride flag went up at City Hall? No one seems to know for sure.
And that’s not okay.
The mayor couldn’t even be bothered to come up with an excuse for why he skipped out on the welcome ceremony for a world-renowned cultural festival that injects millions of dollars into the local economy. A ceremony that was held only steps away from his City Hall office—one which a majority of his council colleagues made time to attend.
When asked about the conspicuous absence, Ford’s press secretary copped out. “The mayor was unavailable today,” he offered, with no further explanation. There were no tales of an important meeting, a dentist appointment, car trouble, a family emergency, a surprise football game, or an attack by a comedian.
It’s not as if the mayor couldn’t make time for other events this week. Yesterday, as TTC Chair Karen Stintz announced a radical vision for Toronto transit expansion, Ford made several token appearances. He stopped by the Molson Brewery to take a look at their new beer bottles. He held a caterpillar in an Etobicoke yard and expressed his annoyance with moths. He chatted on AM radio with former Ontario Premier Ernie Eves. He was around.
This kind of inconsistent and inexplicable behaviour is unacceptable, especially coming from a guy who campaigned on the need for openness and accountability in government. Even setting aside the mayor’s alleged homophobia, we’re still left with an elected official who routinely shirks his responsibilities without explanation, only showing up for events that meet his personal litmus test for relevance, comfort and convenience.
And don’t kid yourself, things like the Pride flag-raising are explicitly part of the mayor’s job description. The City of Toronto Act lays it out pretty clearly: the mayor is supposed to “act as the representative of the City both within and outside the City, and promote the City locally, nationally and internationally.” Further, he’s charged to “participate in and foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the City and its residents.”
By most accounts, Ford is doing a lousy job of meeting those responsibilities, with this Pride snub serving only as the most recent example. Where his predecessor made a habit of sharing his schedule with the public and holding regular press conferences and media events, Ford keeps his calendar entirely private and makes few scheduled appearances. As of late, he’s all but withdrawn into a world all his own—a world that seems opaque to most of the people he’s supposed to serve.
I’m sympathetic to the demands of the office and the challenges Ford faces in his position, but that doesn’t excuse this kind of behaviour. It’s totally possible that Ford had a legitimate excuse for not showing up for the event on Monday—and for once again skipping every other Pride event—but his status as a public figure means that he has an obligation to at least share that excuse with his constituents. He owes us an explanation.
If that seems unreasonable, consider this: how would the pre-2010 Rob Ford react if he got word that there was a manager at City Hall—drawing a not-too-shabby salary of $167,769.94, plus benefits—who often went missing without explanation? Who refused to share his general whereabouts and schedule of meetings with his employer? Who failed to meet the full responsibilities of the position?
I’d bet that the old, gravy-fighting Rob Ford—the one the people liked and the one the voters elected—would have called for that guy’s head. He would have ranted and raved about the lack of public accountability. He’d have called that guy a giant waste of taxpayer money.
And here’s the thing: he would have been right.