Friday, July 25, 2014

All eyes on Ford Fest 2014

TORONTO - A fired up Mayor Rob Ford thanked thousands who showed up at Ford Fest Friday but avoided any campaign lines that might land him in hot water.

Ford chose his words carefully in a short speech to the throng of supporters who showed up at Thomson Memorial Park in Scarborough for what is now an annual event.

Telling them anything he said would get him in trouble, Ford instead stuck to a short thank you.

“Friends thank you so much,” he said, vowing to hold another Ford Fest next year. “I can’t wait to be here next year. Promises made, promises kept.”

The crowd cheered wildly for the embattled mayor. Long lines for autographs and pictures with the mayor and Councillor Doug Ford stretched across the park.

Mayor Ford was mobbed by supporters and media as he arrived at the event, as people chanted “We love Ford.”

But the love-in also grew heated several times as Ford Nation shouted down people in the crowd who spoke out against the controversial mayor.

A crowd of supporters surrounded LGBTQ activists as they talked to reporters, ripping up a sign they had brought to the event and shouting homophobic slurs.

“I would like people to see the way we’re treated by Rob Ford supporters and Rob Ford,” Poe Liberado said.

“This is the response that we get for existing and this is the response Rob Ford has given us as a community,” she said as a man screamed at her, telling her to go home. “The LGBTQ community in Toronto is massive. There would be lots of people here if it wasn’t so dangerous.”

At one point Toronto Police interceded, leading one of the activists out of the crowd. The mayor’s chief of staff came to check on the activists and ensure they were unharmed.

But Ford supporter Iola Fortino said she couldn’t understand why the activists showed up. The night was supposed to be about Ford Nation, she said.

She supports his decision not to attend World Pride. He is sticking to his principles, she said.

“When he says he’s not going to World Pride that is the biggest thing you could do for us Mayor Ford and we thank you,” Fortino said. “We feel oppressed in every segment of society.”

Council’s move to strip Ford of his powers was a “disgrace,” she said, adding that she thinks Ford has owned up to his addiction problems and is ready to move on.

“I love Mr. Ford, he’s real to me,” Fortino said. “The other politicians are not real and I can see through them.”

Tracey Cook, the city’s executive director of municipal licensing and standards, said there would be two bylaw officers and a supervisor at the event along with parks staff.

Licensing staff were there to ensure the conditions of the permit were being followed.

“One of the conditions in the permit speaks to no signage and also speaks to not handing out political or campaign materials — that’s a condition of the permit,” Cook said.

Bylaw officers were on the lookout for signs or materials with “electioneering” type of language like “vote for or re-elect,” she said.

“If it simply says, Ford Nation, Ford Fest, (or it is a) business card or magnet that’s considered informational and that is fine,” Cook said.

A ticket for a violation of the park bylaws would be around $200, she said, but bylaw officers would typically start by just asking for the activity to cease.

Bylaw officers, however, were not policing what the Fords said or did at the event.

“If there is a problem with anything said by anyone at the event then they are to follow that up with the integrity commissioner,” Cook said. “My bylaw enforcement officers are not the campaign police. We are there to ensure the parks bylaw is adhered to, the permit conditions are adhered to.”
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