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Popular despite his wacky ways, Lastman keeps the Midas touch
Karen Palmer
CITY HALL BUREAU
Is support waning for the mega mayor?

A recent Toronto Star-Ekos poll shows 62 per cent of Toronto voters feel Mel Lastman is doing a good job.

Another 25 per cent labelled his work ``average'' while the remaining 12 per cent said the mayor was doing a poor job.

The results of the poll were collected Oct. 10-12, at the height of a contentious garbage debate, and are valid within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Enthusiastic support of a mere 62 per cent is a real down swing from the February Angus Reid poll that showed Lastman had an astonishing 84 per cent approval rating, a figure that left the motormouth mayor - gasp! - speechless.

But coupled with the average rating, it could be read that the mayor has 87 per cent of the city on his side, the kind of public popularity that provincial and federal politicians can only dream about, says Ekos senior director Christian Boucher.

``The results are very clear: People think he is doing a good job,'' Boucher said. ``He is a very experienced politician.''

Boucher attributed the mayor's overwhelming support to the fact that the political landscape is barren, with no other contenders for the public's affections in sight.

``There are no other major players who can defeat this person,'' Boucher said. ``Given that the public does not see any other alternatives, they'll say they like his politics.''

Since taking office three years ago, Lastman has alternately charmed and chafed people with his light-hearted, and sometime light-headed, approach to leadership.

Lastman's popularity is highest among households earning more than $60,000, at 68 per cent, and lowest among households earning only $20,000, at 54 per cent.

The former refrigerator salesman became the butt of numerous jokes when he called in the army to help clear city streets after a particularly vicious snow storm.

His credibility took another downturn when, to no avail, he wrote to Geri ``Ginger Spice'' Haliwell, encouraging her to rejoin the popular Spice Girls group in time for their Toronto concert.

His proposals to line the streets with moose and maybe separate from the province were met with equal incredulity, and yet city staff are plugging away at plans for an independent Toronto while more than 300 painted moose have taken over city sidewalks.

It would seem the mayor's popularity is as irrepressible as his curly locks.

His commitment to a three-year tax freeze won him fans, while his war against squeegee kids, support for Community Action Policing and battle to ban all-night, underground raves was also favoured.

``In this case, for the civic election, I think it's going to be a walk in the park for this politician,'' Boucher said.


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