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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 01:29 GMT
Canadian gaffe-prone mayor to retire
Toronto
Toronto grew under Lastman's tenure
The mayor of the Canadian city of Toronto, famous for a string of verbal gaffes and his flamboyant style, has said he will not seek another term in office.

Mel Lastman, who once said he feared being boiled alive by natives on an official visit to Africa, announced his retirement after a 34-year political career, including two terms as mayor.

I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me

Mel Lastman, Toronto mayor
"I have decided that this will be my last year in office, because, ladies and gentlemen, Toronto's future is secure," the 69-year-old former furniture salesman told a meeting of business people.

Despite his shortcomings, Mr Lastman has remained one of the most popular politicians in a city where residents warmed to his no-nonsense approach and eccentric behaviour.

'Tanned time-bomb'

Mr Lastman, a self-made multi-millionaire, is well-known for public gaffes, which have earned him the nickname of the "tanned time-bomb".

Mel Lastman
Lastman has a reputation for committing faux-pas

They include comments made before leaving for Kenya in 2001 to promote Toronto's bid for the 2008 Olympics, when Mr Lastman told a reporter: "What the hell do I want to go to a place like Mombassa?... I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me."

Critics blamed Mr Lastman's remarks for the city losing the contest.

The mayor has also threatened to kill a journalist and once implored the UK pop group the Spice Girls not to split up.

Mr Lastman courted controversy when he was photographed welcoming Hell's Angels motorcyclists to Toronto, and he was ridiculed for calling in the army to deal with a snowstorm in the city.

Paternity suit

Two years ago, Mr Lastman was at the centre of a $4 million paternity suit, when a former mistress claimed he was the father of her two sons.

Mr Lastman paid the woman $17,000 in exchange for her withdrawing the claim.

The scandal did little to damage Mr Lastman's popularity, which his critics said was always more important to him than policy.

But Mr Lastman earned a reputation for fighting provincial and federal government for more money for the city, which grew into a world-class centre for culture and entertainment under his tenure.

Mr Lastman once said temporary insanity drove him to take up politics.

"I was a happy guy, I was running a business, I had 40 stores and was making a hell of a lot of money but I was bored and needed something else to do," he said.

See also:

23 Jun 01 | Africa
03 Jun 98 | Entertainment
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