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City councillor: ‘Looks like drugs or gays’

Rob Ford fights municipal funding of HIV/AIDS programs

Toronto municipal councillor Rob Ford attacked city funding for AIDS prevention programs last month, saying that only gay men and drug users contract the disease.

At a city council meeting on Jun 29, Ford argued unsuccessfully in favour of cutting the city’s $1.5-million in grants to AIDS education and prevention programs. Ford, who represents Ward 2 Etobicoke North, has in the past attacked city funding for Pride and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) Youth Line.

“From what I know, if you’re not gay or an IV-drug user, you probably won’t get AIDS,” Ford told council, who responded with a collective groan. “I hear 90 percent of the cases are from being gay or doing drugs. We’re spending $1.5-million, and if you read through these groups, it looks like drugs or gays.”

Council eventually voted 26-2 in favour of funding the programs. The only other opposing vote came from Scarborough councillor Mike Del Grande.

In an interview the next day, Ford stood by his comments, although he lowered his 90 percent figure.

“I said what I said. I didn’t mean to offend anybody, but I don’t think it’s fair to give money to one disease and not another. There’s literally thousands of diseases that kill people.

“I did get the statistics that according to the World Health Organization, 70 percent of AIDS cases are through homosexual men having sex without using condoms, and those who use intravenous drugs. You probably won’t get AIDS if don’t fall into that category. Nobody’s been able to give me any statements that differ from that.

“To me, 90 percent of the funding was to hire people to give out lube and condoms at dance clubs and crack houses. I personally disagree with that. I think people are responsible for their own actions.”

Ford also voted against the rest of the $48.5-million in grants that the city is providing to community groups.

“We just don’t have the money,” says Ford. “If they want funding, they should go to the private sector or to professional fundraisers like Kiwanis.”

Councillor Kyle Rae, who chairs the Toronto Board Of Health subcommittee on AIDS, says Ford is deluded.

“Ninety percent of the people in the world who are HIV-positive are heterosexual,” says Rae, who is openly gay. “In sub-Saharan Africa, it certainly isn’t gay men or IV-drug users who have AIDS.”

Rae says council is tired of Ford. (According to 2003 election results, voters are not. Ford won the ward with 79.4 percent of the votes.)

“He’s got no understanding or sensitivity. Everyone in the room groaned, except Mike Del Grande. I think they’re embarrassed that we have a buffoon on council. I think he is fairly ostracized within council. It’s almost like we’re stuck with him.”

Last year Ford attempted to cancel a $100,000 grant that the city had given to Pride Toronto, which injects an estimated $80-million in the city’s economy each year. Ford also attempted last year to cancel a $3,000 grant to the LGBT Youth Line.

“People might think this is funny but I don’t know what it [transexual/trans-gendered] means,” Ford told council then. “I know what lesbian, gay, bisexual [is]. Transsexual and transgendered, can you explain what that means?… I’m a little confused. I’m not getting the answers. I don’t understand. Number one, I don’t understand a transgender. I don’t understand. Is it a guy that dresses up like a girl or a girl that dresses up as a guy? And we’re funding this?…. We’re funding this for, what does it say here, we’re giving them $3,210.

“I just want to know if we fund heterosexual youth that want to talk or have problems.”

Ford was most recently in the news when he was forced to apologize after going on a drunken, profanity-filled rant at an Apr 15 Maple Leafs game.

Ford faces two opponents in November’s municipal election, Ali Cadigia and Mike McKenna.