This is the story of a strange document passed to me by Councillor Joe Mihevc in mid-July. Dubbed the “pre-Pride report,” Mihevc described it as “commissioned by Mayor Rob Ford’s office before Pride.” There is nothing really new, surprising or even particularly interesting in the document itself. It advises bridge building and dialogue between the mayor and gay people, that sort of thing. (Read it for yourself below.)
But if it’s authentic, it does represent an effort on Ford’s part to work with the city’s queer people. And it raises obvious questions.
Firstly, Ford has so far not followed a single one of the recommendations outlined in the report. In fact, he has done pretty much the opposite. If Ford had sought that advice only to reject every single part of it, it would be interesting and newsworthy.
Secondly, who does Ford turn to when he wants to know about gay people? Who represents our interests to the mayor?
But here’s the thing: Mihevc emailed me the document on the condition that I wouldn’t report the author’s name. He delivered a Microsoft Word document bearing no page numbers, no letterhead, no date and no indication of authorship. It’s short, and the information it contains lacks nuance and detail. It is riddled with spelling and grammar errors.
All that raised suspicions and questions about the document’s provenance and authenticity. So Xtra’s editorial director, Matt Mills, and I decided we needed to learn more about it.
The first order of business was to find out who the author is. Mihevc told me willingly enough, though a promise is a promise.
The author said he wants to remain anonymous because he “does business” with the city, and if he were exposed as an advisor to the mayor on the gay community, he says, relationships could be compromised. He described himself as having a long history of advising city hall, specifically former mayors Mel Lastman and Barbara Hall, on matters pertaining to Toronto’s gay and lesbian communities. He said he is also a freelance writer, having penned several articles on Toronto mayors.
Still, it seems very odd that the identity of somebody who professes to speak for the gay community should be a secret. How can a faceless somebody bear any credibility or gravitas?
The second order of business was to get a comment from the mayor’s office. Ford usually avoids media types, especially me, so I was shocked when he returned my call on the evening of July 21.
He sounded baffled. “What is this? I’m not familiar with this report. I personally get sent hundreds, thousands, of reports to my office.”
“The recommendations were apparently commissioned by your office as a way to bridge the gap and make amends with the gay community,” I told him.
“I don’t have any problem with the gay community,” Ford retorted, as I relayed the background.
He told me to follow up with members of his staff — which went nowhere — and asked me to send him a copy of the document — which I did — and then he rushed me off the phone.
I sighed as I hung up. Regardless of his assertion that he “has no problem with the gay community,” the fact is that Ford displays clear apathy to queer or lefty causes at best and outright hostility at worst, and has for years.
As for the mysterious pre-Pride report, most of the details surrounding it and the questions raised by it will likely remain a mystery.
The larger issue is that Pride has become a red herring issue for the mayor. He makes ideologically based decisions without any public consultation, while ignoring facts and hard evidence. Funding for vital social programs is on the chopping block. The gravy he speaks of will be stripped from the backs of marginalized people, victims of abuse, newcomers, poor seniors, people with HIV, youth at risk, the homeless, hungry children, and queer institutions like ACT, Buddies and The 519.
The people in our city who survive on next to nothing are being asked to make sacrifices so the middle class can be relieved of a $60 vehicle registration tax, and possibly the land transfer tax. This is irresponsible government.
Read the report for yourself: Pride Recommendations