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Pride Toronto, meet Rob Ford

Mayor-elect promises no arts & culture cuts in 2011

Mayor-elect Rob Ford

Pride Toronto (PT) executive director Tracey Sandilands and mayor-elect Rob Ford met face to face for the first time on Nov 24. It happened at a meeting of city arts and culture administrators at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

Sandilands documented the encounter in a Nov 24 blog post on Gay Guide Toronto. Ford’s attendance was a surprise, Sandilands tells Xtra. He arrived with Jeff Melanson, executive director of the National Ballet School of Canada, who has just been appointed special advisor on arts and culture to the mayor’s office. The meeting was brief, about 15 minutes.

PT was the only gay and lesbian organization represented, but Sandilands says she is pleasantly surprised Ford attended the meeting at all.

“He said he is not very knowledgeable about the arts and culture sector, but he is willing to learn,” she says. “So that’s promising.”

Ford told the group he would not move to cut arts and culture funding in 2011, but he made no promises for 2012. He supported a city council motion earlier this year to cut city funding to PT. The motion passed but was amended so PT got its funding for 2010. Still, the future of city support for PT remains unclear, and Ford didn’t say anything about Pride at the AGO meeting. Sandilands says that’s a conversation for another time.

Sandilands describes Ford as “very friendly and amiable.” He told her, “It is a pleasure to meet you at last.”

“He didn’t seem guarded at all,” says Sandilands. “He was completely open and relaxed. He was very friendly and receptive. He was very warm and seemed to be in a great mood.

“I intend to make full use of the opportunity to get to know him and work with him and hopefully partner with him in his vision to make Toronto attractive to economic development,” she says. “Hopefully we will be able to cultivate that relationship, which has not existed in the past.”

Sandilands says she hopes Ford will be a friend of PT, and perhaps even take part in the 2011 celebration. Most of all, she says, she hopes to have the new mayor’s ear once council gets down to business next month.

“I intend to send him a Christmas card and welcome him into his new position as mayor once he takes office,” she adds. “I’ll hopefully get some face time with him in the new year, perhaps to get him involved in Pride festivities.”