City issues permit for annual barbecue, because it's just a “special event open to the public," not a campaign event.
On Friday, Scarborough’s Thomson Memorial Park will welcome Ford Fest, Rob Ford’s annual barbecue. This will come as a surprise to some, as City rules dictate that permits for City property and facilities cannot be issued to candidates during an election campaign. But in the permit application, the fest was referred to as a “special event open to the public”—rather than an opportunity for campaigning—so the City has indicated that the event will not contravene existing policy and issued the permit.
Of course, it will be “up to the mayor and Councillor Ford to ensure the policy is adhered to at the event,” said City spokeswoman Jackie DeSouza. All that means is that certain beloved Ford Fest traditions will have to be suspended this year—like the ones involving asking attendees to vote for Rob Ford, asking attendees to campaign for Rob Ford, and giving out T-shirts in exchange for contact information.
Another tradition Ford will have to forgo this year? Listing the fest as a campaign expense, as he did in 2010. (The fact that it had been listed as such in the past will not work against him this year: “The City can’t use the 2010 financial filing to determine the nature of an event in 2014. The nature of an event can change from one year to the next, as this one has over the years,” read a statement from the City.)
Ford’s election rivals expressed frustration with the City’s position. “It’s a campaign event, pure and simple,” said David Socknacki. “It’s not a family celebration. It precludes other uses of the park. And it dedicates public space for a specific campaign. It’s wrong.” A spokesman for Olivia Chow suggested that if an exception has not been made in this case because of the mayor’s position, “then Olivia will probably be holding ‘special events open to the public’ in parks across the city.”
The City has confirmed that the permit has now been issued.