Taking aim at Rob Ford tonight seems like shooting fish in a barrel.

As I write, he is being abandoned in Shakespearean proportions, not only by those who never liked him, but also by his closest supporters.

My own tragic liaison with our ill-fated Mayor was early in his leadership when I was invited to the Mayor’s “Arts Awards” lunch.

I was really excited to attend this event. We shaggy, ill-kempt artsy types were seated at round tables with spiffy business people, with whom we could hobnob and cook up meaningful partnerships. I thought it was truly a stroke of genius on the part of the Mayor’s office, to pair up artists with successful business people, bringing together communities of two distinct stripes: creative people who need help to bring their passionate artistic dreams to life, and enlightened, clear-thinking business people who realize what an amazing benefit the arts community is to Toronto: one group wanting to make cool stuff happen; the other group seeing the obvious economic opportunity.

I’ve often fancied there might be a mathematical proof for this; an equation that represents the economic benefit that one little concert gives to a community. My own organization, Pax Christi Chorale will employ dozens of professional musicians for our upcoming concert. We will purchase musical scores, pay rent to our concert venue, print programmes, throw a reception. I myself will probably buy a new outfit for the concert and get my hair done before the show – you’d be surprised how much economic activity that generates! I’ll take concert guests out to dinner, buy copious amounts of coffee on the go, take cabs to rehearsals. 80 singers in the choir will spend as much as I do, and the 600 people who attend will buy a ticket, pay for municipal parking and have a treat after the show. We’re now talking about many thousands of dollars flowing through local business, providing employment and enriching the life of our city, which is good for everybody.

So then, ambitious artistic endeavour = economic activity. The mathematical equation must be quite straight forward, whatever it is.

Anyway, what happened on that memorable day, at the Mayor’s Arts Award lunch? It was weird.
We were seated at fancy tables with a lovely lunch in very distinguished company, anticipating the Mayor’s speech to the 200 eager guests. The MC took the podium and announced that unfortunately, Mayor Ford could not be here today because he had been called away on important business.
What business could be more important than stimulating Toronto’s vibrant arts economy, we all wondered? There must be a substantial crisis that would pull him away from this powerful opportunity to garner positive press coverage and get business done.
Turned out that our Mayor didn’t show up to that lunch date because he was coaching football.

So, let’s assess. Rob has taken a bit of crack, been hammered in public, grabbed some ass, betrayed his colleagues, deceived his family.

And he stood us up for lunch, and that’s just not cool.

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5 Responses to Lunch with Mayor Ford

  1. Definitely the Opera says:

    Good points made here, Stephanie. One teenie correction: it’s the staff of Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation that organize the MAAL and strategize the seating. The Mayor just shows up–and lends his name to the event. I used to work for TAC/F and the night before the MAAL (when almost all the RSVPs are finally in and the seating must be firmed up before early tomorrow morning) is usually a very late night for the 3-5 key staffers working on MAAL (the ED, the DO, the Foundation manager, the EA). Ah the late nights of the day before MAAL during the Miller administration… I almost miss them now. And you’re right, that was exactly the idea: to seat the artists with the potential sponsors, supporters, audience, whether from the business world, banking, large charities like the UW, or the politicians.

    So essentially the Mayor, his office (Miller would usually bring one or two staff) and the Councillors just show up the day of. The Mayor lends his name to the event, and attends, and makes good noises and hands over the awards.

    [A whole different thing is the Mayor’s Ball, which Ford’s office did take over last year and hired professionals to throw it as a proper big fundraising event, but I can’t imagine it continuing year after year… whereas the MAAL is here to stay, is my understanding, whoever the Mayor happens to be]

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      Thanks DtO. It was a great event, notwithstanding the absence of the host (or pseudo-host.) Thanks for your late night work to make it seem effortless.

  2. Tricia Haldane says:

    Very well put, Bella….and definitely not cool!!

  3. John Parker says:

    I have had lunch with Rob Ford. All quite pleasant. But he lost out on more by missing lunch with you than you lost out on by missing lunch with him.

  4. John Parker says:

    (And the comment above by Definitely the Opera is quite right: A lot of initiatives bear the imprimatur of the mayor that have little or nothing to do with the mayor at all. It is done on the assumption that an element of divinity of some sort it thus attaches.)

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