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Former mayor Mel Lastman urges Ford to attend Pride

The pressure is on for Mayor Rob Ford to attend this year’s Pride Festival, and even former mayor Mel Lastman has weighed in.

On Wednesday, Ford said he would not be attending the Pride Parade on July 3 and would instead be going to the family cottage in Huntsville, Ont.

“Once Ford does go into it, and does it, I think he’ll like it. I think he’ll have a lot of fun. They’re happy, they’re celebrating their gay pride day, and they want him there,” Lastman told CityNews.

Pride, which celebrates the LGBT community, is one of just eight festivals that has been officially designated a City of Toronto Signature Event. Toronto’s Pride is one of the largest such events in North America, with approximately three million people participating in the 10-day festival.

Lastman said he did not attend Pride during his first year in office in 1997, but the next year, he went – and despite his initial reluctance, enjoyed himself. His change of heart was sparked by his family.

“My son said, ‘Look dad, you’re the mayor of all the people, and you should be there.’ And I was there. And I’m glad I was there. I enjoyed it,” Lastman said.

Lastman said he thinks Ford should attend – if not this year, then definitely in 2012.

On Thursday, Ford was at the re-opening of an Etobicoke business. He once again told reporters that he would not be attending the parade.

“My wife and my kids come first, and I’m going up to the cottage. End of the story. I don’t know what more you don’t understand. It’s very straight forward,” Ford said.

Ford has also reportedly turned down invitations to numerous other events during Pride, including a private brunch hosted by Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam.

Wong-Tam represents Toronto Centre-Rosedale, which includes the Church Wellesley Village — the home of Pride. Wong-Tam, who is gay, told CityNews she had reached out to Ford’s staff, but “they haven’t taken me up on that offer.”

The co-chair of Pride Toronto is also urging Ford to reconsider his plans.

“We hope he changes his mind and the invitation is always open,” Francisco Alvarez told CityNews.ca. on Wednesday.