SAULT STE MARIE, Ont. — Doug Ford won’t say whether he’ll march in Toronto’s annual Pride parade if elected Ontario premier, prompting his rivals to question the Tory leader’s support of the LGBTQ community.
Ford said Friday that he has not yet decided whether he will attend and participate in the event if he wins the June 7 vote.
“When I get elected we’ll sit down and we’ll make that decision,” the Progressive Conservative leader said at a campaign stop in Sault Ste Marie, Ont. “My main focus is the economy, is making sure we create jobs and have this province thrive. I am zoned in on that.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Ford’s indecision sends a message.
“The perception of (Ford’s) message is that he’s not interested in supporting that community,” said Horwath, who has marched in the summer event. “That’s something he’s going to have to answer to.”
Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne compared Ford’s refusal to say whether or not he would attend Pride to his refusal to release a fully costed election platform, saying Ford seemed to be trying to say as little as possible.
“It would be great if all of us agreed that inclusion and acceptance of difference was what we believed in and we shared that value system,” Wynne said.
“I don’t know what Doug Ford thinks about the Pride parade, I don’t know what he thinks about a lot of things. But … as a member of the lesbian, gay, bi community I can tell you it’s important to have political leaders acknowledge that differences are OK and we can take pride in those differences.”
Ford, a former Toronto city councillor, has made controversial remarks about the Pride parade before, describing it in 2014 as an event where “middle-aged men with pot bellies” ran down the street “buck naked.”
At the time, Ford also accused critics of labelling him as homophobic because he didn’t attend the event.
“I think it’s good for tourism,” Doug Ford said in 2014 on a YouTube show he made with his brother, late former Toronto mayor Rob Ford. “But don’t try to put a gun to anyone’s head that disagrees with you. It doesn’t mean that they hate gays.”
Rob Ford, courted controversy by never attending the Pride parade during his time in office, saying once that the event conflicted with a scheduled family weekend at the cottage.
When Doug Ford ran for mayor of Toronto in the fall of 2014 he said he would attend and march in the Pride parade.
On Friday, he stressed he had not made up his mind on attending the colourful event.
“Reducing taxes, reducing hydro rates, putting money back into the people’s pocket. That’s my main focus for the next six days,” he said.
Former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown became the first Tory leader to head an official delegation in the parade in 2015. During his tenure, Brown said often that he was building a “modern, inclusive” Tory party.
It was a move that angered some social conservatives who helped him, as they helped Ford just a few months ago, to win the party leadership.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press