Premier Doug Ford is taking heat from critics for deciding to skip Toronto’s Pride parade for the second time since being elected head of the province.
“Premier Ford has always said he will attend Pride Toronto’s parade when our front-line police officers are allowed to participate in uniform,” press secretary Ivana Yelich said Monday, referring to an initial 2017 decision by parade organizers to bar uniformed officers.
“He wishes all the organizers of Pride Toronto all the best for a successful month and festival weekend.”
Opposition leaders said Ford is missing a chance to help smooth relations between the community and police by not attending the June 23 event that draws tens of thousands of revellers to downtown streets.
“The premier should be there and he should be using his position to help bridge the gap and bridge the divisions that exist, not create more of a wedge,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told reporters.
It will mark the first time since 2013 that a premier of Ontario has not attended the parade. Kathleen Wynne attended last year, after her election defeat but before Ford was sworn into office in late June.
Parade organizers said in a statement they are “disappointed” Ford — who as a Toronto councillor in 2014 slammed the event for including “buck naked men” — has chosen not to join in the festivities.
“We all must bring more openness to these important conversations for this community if we are going to move forward.”
In 2014, then-councillor Ford described the parade as “middle-aged men in pot bellies, running down the street buck naked…Do I condone men running down the middle of Yonge St. buck naked? Absolutely not.”
Pride boosters have noted a small percentage of parade participants are nude.
Police in uniform were first banned from the parade following a protest at the 2016 parade by Black Lives Matter over concerns about racial profiling. Last year, the ban continued over concerns about the unexplained disappearances of men that led to fears there was a serial killer on the loose and that police weren’t taking the issue seriously. A suspect, Bruce McArthur, was arrested in January 2018 and has since been convicted in eight murders.
Green Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford is making a “deeply disappointing” mistake by avoiding the parade.
“It’s another indication that he’s clearly a premier for the last century. Its 2019. I think every political leader in Ontario should be standing up for LGBTQ-plus rights.”
Ford will “soon be out of excuses” for skipping the parade, added Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough-Guildwood).
“It’s about the whole community coming together and the premier should absolutely show up.”
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1