The organizers of the upcoming Beaches Easter Parade have a message for politicians: stay away.
The Toronto Beaches Lions Club wants to make the parade a “political-free zone,” and is encouraging elected officials, including mayoral candidates, not to use the event as a campaign venue.
Officials said they want the parade to be about community and families, and not about the hotly-contested race for mayor.
Parade director Keith Begley told 680News they want to keep the “parade for what it originally was intended for, and that’s to celebrate Easter, and for the kids and chocolate, and the Easter bunny.”
He also said this will likely be a permanent change.
Mayoral candidates John Tory and Karen Stintz told the Toronto Sun they won’t be attending.
Mayor Rob Ford said he received an invitation from the parade organizers and has not yet been “told we’re not invited.”
“We still haven’t gotten a formal non-invite to the parade. We just heard it through the news,” Ford told reporters at city hall on Tuesday afternoon.
The mayor said he respects their decision.
“I’m not going to be there … If they don’t want us there, they don’t want us there,” Ford said.
“They’re probably thinking now that it’s an election year, there will be a lot of candidates there, no doubt, and they don’t want to turn it political, and I understand that.”
Ford said he plans to donate 10,000 eggs that he was going to give away at the parade to the Lakeshore Lion’s Club.
“If they want to donate to the Easter parade, I think [that’s] appropriate because that’s what I’ve been doing every year. But I am not going to tell them what to do with the donation,” he said.
It’s not yet known if candidate Olivia Chow will be at the parade.
Around 50,000 people are expected to attend the event on April 20.
In 2007, former councillor Sandra Bussin wore an Easter bunny costume to the parade, which she expensed to the city.
More recently, officials with the 2013 Toronto Santa Claus Parade asked Mayor Rob Ford not to walk in the Nov. 17 event because of an ongoing drug scandal and concerns he could cause a distraction. The decision was later reversed and he later was allowed to walk in it.
The municipal election will be held on Oct. 27.
Read the letter from the Toronto Beaches Lions Club below:
With files from Kris McCusker, 680News