Toronto Mayor Rob Ford got a cool reception when he met with the mayors from Canada's largest cities in Ottawa on Wednesday. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford drew the ire of several other mayors, who had travelled to Ottawa from Canada's largest cities on Wednesday to discuss housing and infrastructure needs, when he left the meeting early and returned late so he could lunch with a friend at a local pub.
At the end of the day, Ford said he felt good about his visit to Ottawa, which was made worthwhile by a face-to-face meeting with Candice Bergen, the federal minister responsible for housing.
"I met the other mayors and we shared a lot in common, but I'm glad that I met with the minister," Ford told reporters at the end of his meeting with the mayors today. "That's why I came here."
Ford, who is running for re-election as Toronto mayor, had previously shunned the big city mayors meeting, dismissing the group as "a lefty caucus."
In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said "it was helpful to have the biggest city represented by their mayor."
But Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, appearing on that same panel, questioned what Ford's presence brought to the mayors meeting today.
"He left the meeting early, got there late," Watson told host Evan Solomon.
"It was his first meeting. He should have been spending all of his time in the room focusing on the issues," Watson said.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, who also spoke on the same panel, did not comment on Ford's attendance specifically, saying only that it was "really encouraging" to have nearly all the mayors together with 20 out of 22 mayors present.
Ford was spotted leaving the Clocktower Brew Pub through the back door before returning to city hall a couple of hours after he left.
The embattled mayor stopped along the way to sign autographs and pose for pictures. "If you're ever in trouble, drop by and say hi," Ford joked.
Quebec mayors shun Ford
Ford received a particularly cool reception from the Quebec mayors, who had harsh words and little patience for his antics.
"I don't want to say to my people, to my kids that I'm working with a guy that is mayor and is smoking crack," Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume told reporters during a news conference after the mayors' morning meeting.
"He's got the right to be there but I don't care about him," said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre 'It's a caucus, not a circus."
The Quebec mayors, who have seen their share of controversy in their own cities over the past couple of years, said they hoped Ford's presence would not distract from the issues at hand.
Ford stole the spotlight earlier in the day when he held an impromptu news conference Wednesday morning, before his meeting with the mayors.
"I'm not here to ridicule the Federation of Canadian Municipalities," Ford said about the group that is organizing the event. "I don't believe it's productive to get together and bash, provincially or federally, whatever your political leanings are."
Ford pre-empted the Ottawa mayor when he raised the issue of Canada Post, a topic Watson had asked to be put on today's official agenda a few weeks ago.
"People have told me: 'Rob, I want my home delivery.' And I do too, and so does my mom," Ford said.