TORONTO - The first thing Mayor Rob Ford is going to hear when he opens the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show is how it will be his turn this summer to deliver a Toronto Lake Ontario Salmon to Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.
The 91-year-old Hurricane Hazel got Toronto’s mayor real good last year when she hooked an 18-pound Chinook off Port Credit and with the help of Great Ontario Salmon Derby Chair Walter Oster, delivered it personally to Ford at Toronto City Hall.
It was a classic.
“We are pretty sure we can get Mayor Ford on a boat with us this year,” Walter said on the eve of Wednesday’s opening of the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. “There are some pretty big salmon off Toronto Island or out near Scarborough Bluffs that he could even the score with.”
There is such a good feeling around the Sportsmen’s Show where there are no political correctness police and it’s OK to talk fishing, hunting and the outdoors.
One of the reasons for the positive mood is that it signifies the coming spring. Another is having Ford there.
“It means a lot,” said Walter. “He is doing such a great job and is such a super guy.”
Now Walter — as a business man and entrepreneur — says that about most politicians of any political stripe. But this time it was with a little more zeal.
“Things came close to getting messed up,” said Walter.
Three years ago, thanks to previous Mayor David Miller’s war on guns, the Sportsmen’s Show — which sells hunting rifles and equipment — found itself no longer welcome at the Direct Energy Centre at the CNE.
Imagine the stupidity?
“The show was there for 62 years,” said Walter. “It also brought millions to the city.”
No matter. Despite decades of bringing honour and tourists to the city, they were kicked to the curb.
They moved over to the Front St. convention centre — which is provincially operated and not bound by silly city rules or bylaws.
“We certainly didn’t ever want to leave the CNE but we had no choice,” recalls Walter, who has been chair of the board at the MTCC for 13-years. “It has worked out well because we now get more people coming to the show who take transit and with a $5 after 5 p.m. program, we get lots of business people from Bay St. coming in for an hour or two before they take the GO train or subway home.”
Starting Wednesday and running until Sunday this will be the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show’s third year at the new location.
It’s also the show’s 65th anniversary.
“I ordered in from Rapala a rod and reel package with our 65th logo on it,” said Walter.
Each day, they will hand out 65 of these rods to the first 65-people who come through the doors who are 65 or older. He hopes a bunch of seniors who don’t get rods will end up with one of these or one from any of the 450 top-flight exhibitors.
“For seniors, there is no fishing licence charge so it’s affordable fun. The GTA has great fishing where you don’t need a boat to catch a nice bass or pike or even trout or salmon.”
Walter gave me a rod that I am going to pass along to one of you for a senior in your life. I will choose a winner by e-mail Wednesday and please make sure it’s for a senior who could really use it. Send your e-mails to email@example.com.
Mayor Ford is expected to be there Wednesday at 9 a.m. with Toronto Sun Publisher Mike Power and together they will hand out this great prize valued at $100.
There seems to be plenty of criticism of this mayor but one legacy he won’t have is of being a leader who almost killed the Sportsmen Show.
And if he can match Hazel this summer on that salmon challenge, he will also restore Toronto’s honour.