If Rob Ford skips Pride to go to the cottage every Canada Day, why was he campaigning in East York on July 1, 2010?
Above is a photo of Rob Ford on Canada Day 2010. It was taken on Woodbine Avenue, 1.5 km north of the Danforth. To be clear, Rob Ford’s family cottage is not located on Woodbine Avenue.
On the morning of Thursday, July 1st, 2010, Rob Ford—then a candidate for mayor—marched in and campaigned at the East York Canada Day parade. On this particular day, the annual family tradition that keeps him a 200 km drive from Pride did not keep him away from a different set of local festivities.
“Yeah, he was there. He was campaigning, so of course he was there,” laughs MPP Michael Prue (Beaches–East York), who also attended the annual event. “He showed up to the parade, he was not scheduled to be there, but he was big and as bold as life. He marched his part in the parade, he stopped and shook hands all along the parade route.” Prue, a former city councillor who also served as the final mayor of East York, says he first spotted Ford near the East York Civic Centre at Coxwell and Mortimer, and that he continued along to the parade’s terminus in Stan Wadlow park, near Woodbine and Cosburn. “He was in the park, I would think, for 15 or 20 minutes, going around to the booths and shaking hands with everybody, and then he left.”
Councillor Mary Fragedakis (ward 29, Toronto–Danforth), who herself was out campaigning, concurs. “He was definitely there. And his cards were all over the place. That’s one of the things I remember. It’s like… it’s great, the City is gonna have lots to do to clean up… there was a lot of ‘Ford for Mayor’ marketing material lining Woodbine.”
“Yes, Rob Ford was at Canada Day 2010 in [East York] with an entourage,” says Councillor Janet Davis (ward 31, Beaches–East York) in a message. “He walked in the parade and handed out literature.”
One year after that event, Rob Ford was seven months into his mayoralty. On Wednesday, June 22, 2011—in a scrum following a luncheon at the Board of Trade [pdf]—a Toronto Star reporter asked him if he would attend his first Pride parade as mayor. Ford’s complete response, as originally reported by the Star (and as preserved by TorontoLife.com) was as follows:
“I’m going up north, no. I’ll be up at the cottage,” he said.
“You know what? It’s been a tradition with my family going back. We’ve been in Huntsville for the past 30 (years), as long as I remember, since I’m a little boy. We always used to go up north to our cottage and I’m carrying on the tradition that my father had.
“Last year I was there (at the cottage) during the campaign. We’re there every year and we’re going to continue there.”
Now, it’s possible that the Ford family tradition exclusively concerns the Canada Day weekend. Or that, because the East York parade ran from 9:45 a.m. to noon, Ford headed up to Fawn Lake afterward. But, as is frequently pointed out, the Pride festival itself is ten days long; there are plenty of other events he could attend. Last year, it was rumoured he would appear at the PFLAG brunch on Sunday, July 3rd, the morning before the parade. This year, it was rumoured he would appear at the Toronto Police Service’s Pride Week reception, on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 27th [pdf]. He showed up at neither.
“If I knew then what I know now,” blogger Val Dodge wrote last year, “I would have taken a picture of Rob Ford campaigning at the East York Canada Day Parade” the year prior.
When I tell Dodge that I’ve finally gotten my hands on one, he expresses relief: “I’d lost hope that such a beast existed.”
Such a beast does exist, thanks to East York resident Stan French. French’s son Randy is the technical producer on Goldhawk Live, where the image was first broadcast. Two months ago, when Rogers TV’s municipal affairs roundtable devoted an episode to Pride, a man claiming to be acquainted with the Ford family phoned in to stress that the Canada Day getaway was a legitimate tradition of theirs. That Rob Ford was at the cottage “every, every single, every single July 1st, ” host Dale Goldhawk recalls the man saying. That was when Goldhawk presented photographic evidence to the contrary.
Back in 2010, French “innocently took a picture,” Goldhawk tells The Grid. “And then when the whole issue came up, he passed that up the line to [producer] David Bradshaw and I, and we thought, well, we can certainly believe the source in this case.”
“Stan gave us the picture because he thought that we could make good use of it,” says Bradshaw. “Now, obviously [Ford's] campaigning, that’ll be his comeback. But he’s always said, every single Canada Day weekend, I have been at my cottage.”
Dodge (a former Torontoist colleague of mine) says his own sighting of Ford is “still seared into my brain. We (Ward 29 Bikes) were in the parade travelling up Woodbine just a couple of blocks from the end of the route. He was glad-handing on the west side of Woodbine near the Cosburn intersection and crossed over to the east side directly in front of Jane Pitfield, who was riding a trike just in front of us in the parade.” (Pitfield, a former councillor and 2006 mayoral candidate, tells The Grid that she indeed remembers Ford being there.)
“I didn’t notice any specific reaction to his presence from spectators,” Dodge continues, “but I can say that the sighting sucked the fun right out of our ride. Our group had two reactions: we couldn’t believe he’d attend an event that was closing down city streets, and it was probably as close to downtown as his campaign would get. And then we passed him and went back to waving and smiling.
“Hearing him say the next year that Canada Day at the cottage was some sort of inviolable family covenant just confirmed to me his somewhat loose relationship with the truth and/or reality.”
On April 18, 2012, following a cricket-related event at Metro Hall, Rob Ford broke it to reporters that his family tradition would again conflict with Pride: “No, no, I’m not attending Pride. It’s on Canada Day, I’m going up to the cottage, like I’ve done for as far [back] as I can remember.”
That apparently isn’t too far back. Last Sunday, on his radio show, Mayor Ford agreed with brother Doug that what Toronto could really use is its own Canada Day parade.