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"Five axiomatic propositions of Canadian Nationalism vis-a-vis the Americans:

1. Boy, we hate Americans.

2. We really do.

3. Really.

4. I'm not kidding. We really hate them.

5. So how come they never pay us any attention?"

--Will Ferguson, Why I Hate Canadians, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1997, p.105.


Sunday, February 03, 2002

Meet My Mayor. (First in an occasional series on political life here in Canada.) Toronto is a cosmopolitan city of more than three million residents. As the largest city in Canada, it often compares itself with its counterpart in the U.S., New York City. Since NYC’s former mayor, Rudy Guiliani, has been in the news a great deal in the last six months, I thought it would be useful to offer to non-Canadian readers a glimpse of Toronto’s mayor, Mel Lastman.

You can go here for the official profile of Mayor Lastman. As the site notes, “Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman is the longest-serving mayor of any major city in the world and one of the country's most popular politicians.” You can also go here for some of Mel’s recent speeches.

One speech that you won’t find on the site is his off-the-cuff statement from last June, as he and his wife embarked on a goodwill mission to Mombasa, Kenya. You see, Toronto, Beijing, and Paris were in a heated competition to host the 2008 Olympics, and Mel spearheaded a team of Torontonians on a visit to Kenya to persuade key African International Olympic Committee members to vote for Toronto. (Toronto was perceived as having a good chance of winning over Beijing, given Canada’s general propensity not to mow down rebellious students, export goods made from forced prison labor, etc.) In an apparent effort to lay on some of that famous Lastman charm, Mel gave the following remarks to a reporter just before getting on the plane:

“What the hell do I want to go to a place like Mombasa?" Lastman said. "Snakes just scare the hell out of me. I'm sort of scared about going there, but my wife is really nervous. I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me.”

Needless to say, some folks took exception to this statement. As Marx Kahenda, Kenya’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., said shortly thereafter, "I don't know how he was elected, but it appears that something has gone very wrong since that time.” About 2,999,998 very ashamed people in Toronto agreed. For the record, Mel did apologize.

From Mel’s official profile: “Always outspoken and often controversial”

By late 2001, the fallout from this gaffe had begun to subside. It was at this point that Hell’s Angels from all over Canada decided to converge on Toronto to celebrate the biker gang’s expansion of its illegal activities into the Greater Toronto Area. Seeing as how the Hell’s Angels and other biker gangs are heavily involved in drug trafficking and violent crime throughout Canada, most Torontonians were not too thrilled about this turn of events. It was no doubt evil mischance that led Mel to wander into the hotel where the Hell’s Angels’ convention was taking place, and to graciously shake hands with one member of the gang in full view of a slew of photographers.

When confronted with furor over his welcoming to the city a bunch of criminals whom his own police department has been trying to keep out, Mel was shocked, shocked to learn that the Hell’s Angels were involved in any nasty behavior. Of course, this would be easier to swallow if the mayor were not on the Toronto Police Services Board, and if this Board had not overseen the publication of the 2000 Toronto Police Services Annual Report, which includes the following quote in its two-page spread on outlaw biker gangs: “The outlaw biker community in the Greater Toronto Area is now effectively controlled by four outlaw motorcycle gangs, three of which have international status. They are the Hell’s Angels, …”

By now you’re probably saying, “Look BSilv, Rudy's made his share of mistakes too. Look at his recent relationship with a woman other than his wife."

To which I say, "Enjoy this news story":

“Melvin Lastman won fame, fortune and a start in politics as the fast-talking television spokesman for his discount appliance stores, Bad Boy. But since Mr. Lastman was re-elected mayor of this city in November, voters have learned that the elfin, 67-year-old may have really been a bad boy.”

“A former lover has filed suit against the mayor, saying they had had an affair for 14 years as well as a secret family. Grace M. Louie, flanked by two now middle-aged and balding sons, demanded $4 million for herself and her boys, Kim Louie, 42, and Todd Louie, 38.”

“'I am mortified and ashamed,' a tearful Mr. Lastman responded at a news conference in December as Marilyn, his wife of 47 years, held his hand.”

From Mel’s official profile: “Toronto's ‘little mayor with a big heart’ has been busy in other areas, too.”

So the next time any Canadian friends start to make fun of U.S. elected officials, just remind them of Toronto's pride and joy. Who could possibly be a worse mayor than Mel Lastman? As Mel's Bad Boy retail chain slogan says, "Nooooobody!"

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