FordFest 2023 was, unfortunately, not your father’s FordFest. It was over-politicized – and not necessarily free…

Maybe it was the overcast skies; perhaps it was the on-again/off-again rain showers, but FordFest 2023 was truly a sad affair this year.

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Staged at Thomson Memorial Park in Toronto’s Scarborough region last Friday, FordFest is an annual summertime event that has been put on by the Ford family for decades. But for whatever reason, it didn’t have the same feel-good vibe this year. And attendance was noticeably lower.

Maybe the drop-off in attendance was due to the fact that so many members of Ford Nation learned the hard way that Doug Ford is not Rob Ford, Doug’s dearly departed brother and former mayor of Toronto. Indeed, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Doug turned on his base who were protesting the COVID-19 lockdown mandates outside Queen’s Park. Doug angrily referred to those freedom fighters as “a bunch of yahoos.” Lovely.

As well, FordFest in previous years was very much an apolitical event. FordFest is supposed to be all about free hot dogs and hamburgers and ice cream and kiddie carnival rides. All of that was back at this year’s event, but FordFest was nevertheless heavily politicized.

Case in point: Toronto mayoralty candidate Mark Saunders and his supporters – along with numerous Mark Saunders election signs – were in attendance (Premier Ford recently endorsed the ex-Toronto Police Chief, after previously stating he would stay out of the campaign.)

Other mayoral candidate staffers in attendance complained that the presence of Saunders lawn signs was offside, noting that city rules state candidates are not allowed to use city facilities for election purposes. Indeed, last month, mayoral candidate Anthony Furey was frogmarched off Nathan Phillips Square, home to Toronto City Hall, when Furey attempted to conduct a brief press conference.

That was astonishing given that Nathan Phillips Square was the venue for an illegal occupation by activists and hobos for several weeks in 2020. Then again, in John Tory’s Toronto during the COVID lockdowns, it was always a matter of “one rule for me, one rule for thee.”

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