Josh Matlow City Hall Diary
Last week, I, along with many of my council colleagues (of every partisan orientation), attended a ceremony to watch the Rainbow flag being raised at city hall. Although it was a hot and sunny afternoon, this celebration of equality was soon overshadowed by the storm clouds of political controversy.
Only days before, Mayor Ford announced that he intended to spend Canada Day weekend at his Huntsville area cottage, rather than attend Pride Week’s main event — the parade. While I empathized with his desire to spend time with his family, I was saddened by his decision.
Even if Ford had appeared at the flag raising (on a Monday, only yards away from his office), he would have sent a positive message to a community that has experienced rejection by parents, family members, friends, schoolmates, co-workers and politicians for far too long.
Since the mid-1990s, every mayor of Toronto has attended this ceremony to read a declaration of the City of Toronto’s commitment to our city’s gay and lesbian (later known as the more inclusive LGBTQ) community and to mark the beginning of Pride Week.
However, the night before the flag-raising, I still naively held out hope.
I imagined a scenario one would find in an ’80s teen movie (think The Breakfast Club meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) — the mayor, after overcoming initial hesitation, decides to surprise everyone by showing up. Then, a slow clap emerges from the crowd while Ford exclaims, “I’m your mayor too!” That’s what I believe a great mayor would have done.
Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly turn out that way.
It was council’s Speaker, Frances Nunziata, who ended up bravely reading the declaration on the mayor’s behalf. This certainly took some chutzpah.
When Nunziata started to speak, she received yells of, “Where’s the mayor?” When an argument broke out between Nunziata and some in the crowd, things started to get ugly.
At that moment, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (council’s only openly gay member), elegantly asked everyone to be respectful. She took the microphone and said, “It takes time, like with parents and family members, it takes time.” Adding: “And I have patience.” While the mayor wasn’t anywhere to be seen, in Wong-Tam, I saw a graceful leader emerge.
Every elected official would sometimes rather be with their family than attend a public event. However, we all knew what we were signing up for when we ran for office. And, if you run for mayor, being there for Toronto’s LGTBQ community, along with supporting a top tourism event that generates over $100 million for the city’s economy, comes with the job.
By the time this column is published the Pride parade will be over.
Maybe the mayor surprised us all — or maybe he didn’t.
Either way, millions will have celebrated equality and the diversity of our city. And even in Rob Ford’s Toronto, the Rainbow Flag still flies proudly at City Hall.
Josh Matlow is the councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s
To read this column on the star.ca, please click here.