Rob Ford: Man of the (lunch) hour

Emma Teitel on lunch with the mayor of Toronto

(The Canadian Press)

Earlier today, just before lunch, some 200 members of the Economic Club of Canada gathered in the basement conference room of a Toronto hotel.

The non-profit business group has hosted Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton and Viktor Yushchenko, among others. Today its members paid $900 a table to hear from the notorious Rob Ford.

And so they did — eventually.

Each table setting boasted a Rob Ford fridge magnet and business card. And yet the man of the lunch hour was nowhere to be found.

Ford was MIA at 11:45 a.m., when the lunch was scheduled to begin. He was also MIA at noon, 12:30 and 1 p.m.

Twitter feeds from reporters on the scene went from “Rob Ford will give a speech” to “Where in God’s name is he?”

Meanwhile, the guests were antsy having devoured all the dinner rolls. On Twitter, some wondered whether they would soon devour each other.

Related post: We sent a sketch artist to cover the political circus

Turns out Ford got stuck in an elevator. The president of the Economic Club, also trapped, says the mayor was “calm” and “gracious” throughout the 45-minute ordeal. (No Patois-laced ranting, no crack, just a big guy stuck in a lift.)

Long after the rubber chicken had been cleared and dessert had been served, Ford lumbered to the lectern. “Afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I want to thank the Economic Club of Canada for getting me locked in the elevator for 45 minutes.”

It was meant to be a joke—I think—but had the cadence of a dig. So did the rest of Ford’s speech—which touched on everything from lower taxes to “fancy streetcars,” (the mayor’s nickname for light rail transit).

Ford isn’t known for his public-speaking chops, but today’s speech today was by far one of his worst. His address to the Economic Club was not unlike every other of his laboured stump speeches. Today, though, he seemed unusually combative.

Ford has a habit of loudly articulating the second or third word in each sentence (“I do NOT smoke crack cocaine, nor am I an ADDICT of crack cocaine). Today it was so pronounced that he sounded peeved — even when touting his accomplishments: “Ask yourself. Are we better now than we were three years ago? ABSOLUTELY.”

Maybe so. The only problem — at least for this lunch crowd — is that no one seemed better off than they’d been two hours earlier. In the words of one club member, “We were all very hungry.”