WATCH: Rob Ford vows not to attend World Pride in 2014. Jackson Proskow reports.
TORONTO – Toronto is set to host the World Pride festival this summer and one dignitary plans to skip the event, at least the parade part.
Mayor Rob Ford made his intentions clear when asked by a member of the audience at Wednesday night’s mayoral debate inside the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus.
“I’m not going to go to Pride parade,” he said. "I've never gone to a Pride parade, so I'm not going to change the way I am."
Toronto will host the week-long World Pride festivities in June which officials say is expected to be the second largest tourist event for the city behind the Caribbean Carnival.
“I’ve never attended it before, so I’m not going to attend it now,” Ford said.
Mayoral candidate David Soknacki, who was also part of the panel, took a different course of thought."Yes. If I get a super soaker, I'd be happy to be a part of Pride."
Ford has been unable to attend the city’s annual Pride parade in the past, preferring instead to spend that time away at the cottage with his family over the Canada Day long weekend.
World Pride Executive Director Kevin Beaulieu found the mayor’s comments “deeply disappointing and deeply troubling.”
“Our community is strong and we’re going to have a successful event regardless of any one individual who may choose not to show and support,” Beaulieu told the media at city hall Thursday.
Councillor Doug Ford defended his brother saying the mayor isn’t homophobic, but added he himself does not approve of “buck naked men running down the street” during the parade route.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told Global News he finds Ford’s comments “consistent” with his actions in the past regarding gay pride events and is unconcerned about the mayor’s words hurting the city’s reputation.
“What we’ve been through over the last year, I doubt it that his words this time has had that effect,” Kelly said.
Kelly maintains World Pride week will be a big tourism draw and an opportunity to bring Torontonians together.
“I’m looking forward to it very much because I think this is a chance to show Toronto is not only as an exciting city to visit, but a city that is open and caring to all its residents and to all its tourists.”
© Shaw Media, 2014