Toronto City Hall gallery welcomes the new mayor

Supporters of Rob Ford celebrate in the public gallery as the new mayor is inaugurated at Toronto City Hall today. (OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA)

When Rob Ford walked into the council chambers at Toronto City Hall, Antionette Wassilyn fluttered her arms around her heart; she seemed star struck by the new mayor.

“Oh my gosh. He’s the best Christmas present Toronto could get,” she said. “I’m just so excited to be here.”

Wassilyn was among the 300 people gathered in the lobby of City Hall today, to see the swearing-in ceremony of the new mayor and city council. She took the day off and arrived at 10:30 a.m. (the event didn’t start until 2), so that she could get front-row seats inside council chambers.

“There’s just no way I was going to miss this day,” she said.

Ford supporters dominated the rotunda at City Hall. Sally O’Keefe got a special invitation from the Ford campaign team, because the 12-year-old had ordered lawn signs during the election campaign.

“I got an email asking me to come. It’s so cool to be here,” O’Keefe said, adding that she raced to City Hall with her mother as soon as she finished her school exam.

The ceremony itself was short, lasting only an hour.

Councillors who endorsed Ford’s platform got loud cheers and applause from the public gallery, while others from former mayor David Miller’s camp were booed.

Spectators at Toronto City Hall watch on TV screen as newly inaugurated Mayor Rob Ford (left) congratulates his brother Doug Ford, the new councillor in Etobicoke. (OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA)

Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, got the loudest cheers after Rob Ford.

But when it was time for Coun. Adam Vaughan and Miller’s former budget chief, Coun. Shelley Carroll to shake hands with Ford, the crowd in the lobby booed.

The crowd’s jeering was reminiscent of election night, when Ford’s supporters booed his rival George Smitherman. This time, Ford was away from his supporters, behind the closed doors of the council, and not present to prevent the jeers. Ric Fuller, a Ford supporter, criticized the outbursts.

“I just don’t think that was appropriate,” he said. “It’s in poor taste and sets a bad precedent … If you don’t like a councillor, just sit quietly.”

Some of the loudest cheers came for Don Cherry, who sported a bright pink jacket for what he called “the pinkos” in Toronto.

“I’m being ripped to shreds by the left-wing pinko newspapers out there. It’s unbelievable. One guy called me a jerk in a pink suit, so I thought I’d wear that for him too today,” Cherry said.

The hockey commentator was Ford’s special guest at the ceremony and placed the chain of office around Ford’s neck. Karen Steeles was a supporter of Joe Pantalone for mayor; she didn’t approve of Don Cherry’s role at the ceremony.

“First of all, the guy shouldn’t even be here, because he isn’t a Torontonian,” she said. “But he’s impossibly rude. If these are the kind of comments we are getting on day one, then I don’t see it getting any better as council continues.”

Ford gave only a short speech, promising good customer service, an accountable government and a transportation plan. The ceremony ended with a standing ovation for the new city council.