Is Rob Ford's Ford Fest party a campaign event?

This year, Mayor Rob Ford's summertime barbecue event happens to match up with election season. So does that make it a campaign event?

Ford family barbecue claimed in 2010 as campaign expense

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (right), seen here at a Conservative Party BBQ in August 2013 with his brother Coun. Doug Ford, is hosting his 'Ford Fest' public community barbecue in Scarborough this Friday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is hosting his family's annual public party, Ford Fest, this week in Thomson Memorial Park in Scarborough.

But this year, Ford's summertime barbecue season happens to match up with election season. So does that make it a campaign event?

At least three of his mayoral opponents say so. They want the city to reject the permit for the Ford Fest barbecue, saying it is during an election and thus a campaign event.

On Tuesday, the mayor's brother and campaign manager, Coun. Doug Ford, said the permits for the park had arrived without any problem.

The city said the event is not listed as a campaign event, and thus is not treated as one. "The permit as requested is for a special event to which the public will be invited," said city spokesman Jackie DeSouza. "In that respect, it is similar to many of the hundred-plus community events that have already been held this year by other councillors in city facilities or parks."

But Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and John Tory have called on the city to reject the permit for Ford Fest.

They are citing municipal election rules that state "no permits, licenses, leases, or any other agreement for the use of City of Toronto facilities, including civic squares and parks, will be issued for the use or promotion of a particular candidate, political party, registrant or a supporter of question on a ballot during an election."

But Ford said that is not the case. Ford Fests are a family tradition that began in his mother's backyard. They happen every summer no matter if there is an election or not.

"It's frustrating to hear people spin it into a campaign event," the mayor said on Monday.

"We're going to continue to have it every single year just to give back to the community."

In the last municipal election, the mayor declared Ford Fest a campaign expense. Ford listed three events — "Ford Fest 1," "Ford Fest 2" and "Ford Fest 3" — as campaign events. The only expenses he listed were food and alcohol.

This upcoming Ford Fest will not have alcohol, said Ford. The mayor said there wasn't enough time to organize that portion of the party. "I'm not drinking, I cannot drink," he said, acknowledging his struggles with alcohol abuse. "But I’m not going to be this guy holier than thou and say you can't drink."

The mayor recently spent two months away from his job to seek treatment for substance abuse.

Doug Ford says alcohol may be on the menu at future Ford Fests.

This is the 19th year the Fords have organized a summer party. It was started, the mayor said, by his late father, Doug Ford, Sr., a businessman and former MPP.