Lastman is "down but not out" as far as city politicians are concerned,
though a Star-EKOS poll on his leadership also offers some hope for future
The poll of Toronto residents, conducted by EKOS Research
Associates last week for The Star, suggests a dramatic slippage in
Lastman's traditionally high support. But a solid majority of those
surveyed — 62 per cent — are opposed to his immediate resignation.
When asked if they'd vote for Lastman if an election were held
today, 47 per cent said yes, 53 per cent no.
In the 2000 election, Lastman won 80 per cent of the votes in an
But the poll found that most city residents remain confident
Lastman can lead the city and negotiate a new deal with senior levels of
Lastman couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.
The mayor "is down but not out," said Councillor Paul Sutherland
(Ward 33, Don Valley East), himself a possible mayoral candidate in 2003.
Even potential rivals acknowledge that Lastman's popularity remains
unexpectedly strong. "The only thing that surprised me was his
resilience," said Councillor David Miller (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park).
"Given what's happened over the past while — particularly the
scandals that result from the sort of deal-making atmosphere he's created
at city hall — I would have thought he might even be less popular," Miller
said, referring to contracts with MFP Financial Services and others that
are under investigation.
Councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) said
the poll results show Lastman needs "to wake up and smell the coffee.
"He can't afford any further erosion of his support. Clowning
around and failed photo-ops have really hurt his credibility," McConnell
"People are really looking for strong visionary leadership ... and
he either needs to show that kind of leadership or he should get out of
While 34 per cent would like to see Lastman resign immediately — a
figure McConnell called "quite dramatic" — the fact that 47 per cent would
vote for him today suggests he still has strength.
"We should all be so lucky to have 47 per cent of decided voters,"
Councillor Betty Disero (Ward 17, Davenport), a Lastman supporter,
said the poll results may simply reflect the attitude of voters in the
middle of a council term.
"I think that's pretty good, given the fact we're middle term,
because people during middle term want to send some kind of message. Maybe
this is a message," Disero said.
Councillor Jack Layton (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth) said the decline
in support is interesting because Lastman has "enjoyed extraordinarily
high popularity over many years."
"It's the beginning of a slippage, for sure, and I'm sure he is
going to take it to heart and see what he can do to turn that around."
Councillor Brad Duguid (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre), considered a
Lastman loyalist, said the poll was taken "at the worst possible time" —
just after Lastman's much-publicized handshake with members of the Hells
Angels at a downtown hotel.
"So if this is rock bottom for him, then that's not so bad. There
are some politicians across the country that would die for these numbers."
Two other councillors expressed dismay that Lastman continues
fairly strong in terms of public support.
"I guess I'm still astounded that so many people still support
(Lastman). Some people pay attention and other people maybe aren't," said
Councillor Doug Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre).
Councillor Brian Ashton (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest), whose
relations with the mayor have deteriorated rapidly over the past year,
called the survey's positive results "frightening" and "frustrating."
"It's frightening because the city is bumbling in a leadership
vacuum, like a headless chicken. We need a champion who's got great ideas,
boundless energy and razor-sharp management skills," Ashton said.
"The public seems so passive to the future of this city," he added.
"It looks like he is more than hanging on, he's still sitting on the
throne. I just don't know what type of throne it is."
But Holyday said the numbers are encouraging enough for possible
contenders in November, 2003, when the next municipal election will be
"I personally would not mind running against Mel. The only deciding
factor for me was whether or not I could raise the money. If I could raise
the money, I would be prepared to run against anybody," Holyday said,
adding he does not expect Lastman to seek re-election.
McConnell called the poll results "a good-news story" for those who
may challenge Lastman's leadership.
"If somebody was thinking about running for mayor, even if Mel
Lastman runs again, it would be worth running against him," Miller said.
Sutherland said the poll results suggest a strong contender could
beat Lastman. "If there was one other candidate running of good stature,
(Lastman) is in trouble," Sutherland said, adding the result might well be
different if several serious candidates opposed the mayor.
Layton cautioned those who believe Lastman is vulnerable.
"Anyone would look at the poll and say ... (Lastman) may not be
unbeatable. But knowing Mel, he's the type who's going to say, `Oh yeah?
Just watch me,'" Layton said.
"Nobody should ever underestimate his ability to come back and win
over an element of the public that has been very loyal to him."
The results of the telephone poll of 404 Toronto residents,
conducted on Jan. 16 and 17, are valid within 4.9 percentage points, 19
times out of 20. |