Tina gets a kill - Former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman dies @ 88
Mel Lastman, the brash, outspoken pitchman-turned-politician whose array of gaffes, missteps and personal scandals did little to diminish a remarkable career as mayor of Canada's largest city, has died at the age of 88.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirmed the news in a Saturday evening tweet, describing Lastman as a "true leader and builder" for Toronto.
"He was a great Mayor and he touched many lives," Ford said.
"Mel, you will truly be missed. My thoughts are with the Lastman family at this difficult time."
Reacting to Lastman's death, federal Conservative Party Leader Erin O'Toole described him as a "remarkable leader," while Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said he had a "wealth of knowledge" on Toronto, Ontario and Canada as a whole.
A staunch defender of all things Toronto, the diminutive Mayor Mel wore his love for the city on his sleeve during a raucous six-year reign as mayor, which followed 10 straight terms — 25 years — as the mayor of the suburb of North York.
His shoot-from-the-lip style earned him a reputation as a lovable bumbler, one who summoned the army during a snowstorm, pleaded with the Spice Girls to stay together and even threatened to kill a journalist.
But none of it — the bug-eyed rants, the off-colour remarks, the illicit affair with a woman who claimed her two 40-something sons were his illegitimate children — seemed to diminish Lastman's popularity.
In 2001, with the eyes of the world on Toronto's bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games, Lastman told a newspaper he was apprehensive about a diplomatic trip to Kenya because of his fear of snakes.
"What the hell would I want to go to a place like Mombasa?" he later said. "I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me."
The 2008 Games went to Beijing. Whether Lastman's remarks had anything to do with the decision remains a point of lingering debate.
Lastman's reputation went global in 2003 when Toronto was in the grips of a deadly SARS outbreak. The city's tourism industry suffered a major blow when the World Health Organization warned people away.
At the height of the crisis, Lastman's public appearances bordered on the bizarre. He got his facts wrong on CNN and knew nothing about how many people in the city were in quarantine or had SARS symptoms.
And when the discussion turned to the WHO, Lastman appeared to know nothing about the international health agency at the heart of the controversy.
They don't know what they're talking about. I don't know who this group is. I never heard of them before. I'd never seen them before," he said.
"Who did they talk to? They've never been to Toronto. They're located somewhere in Geneva."
Officials in Lastman's office hailed the appearance as a victory as the "little fireplug of a mayor" assured the world Toronto was safe to visit.
During a string of massive snowstorms in January 1999, Lastman — fearing his city's snow-removal equipment to be inadequate — summoned the Canadian Forces to help Toronto deal with more than 100 centimetres of snow.
There were no major problems that required the brute force of the 400 soldiers who answered the call, so armoured all terrain vehicles were used to ferry blood supplies to hospitals and clear the way for emergency vehicles.
There was no shortage of spice in Lastman's personal life in 2000, when he admitted to having had a 14-year affair with Grace Louie, a married employee of his furniture store, that ended in 1974.
Louie launched a civil action against Lastman seeking child support for her sons Kim and Todd, then in their 40s, whom she alleged were fathered by Lastman during their lengthy affair.
The court later dismissed the $4.5-million civil action because Louie waited 30 years to bring her claim forward. Lastman never confirmed or denied being the father, but did admit paying Louie $27,500 in 1974 to keep quiet about the affair.
Lastman's wife Marilyn, his childhood sweetheart, stuck by him through the ordeal. She died in January 2020.
The pair were known in the city for throwing flashy parties, including a bar mitzvah for their son Dale that saw a posh downtown hotel transformed into the court of King Arthur, complete with moat.
But Lastman had humble, working-class beginnings before becoming the flamboyant millionaire mayor of Toronto.
He grew up poor, becoming a threadbare salesman before borrowing $2,000 to open an appliance store which he eventually transformed into furniture giant Bad Boy, which now has seven locations across Ontario. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/former-toronto-mayor-mel-lastman-dies-age-88-1.6282854