He’s remembered by many as having a larger-than-life personality with a passion for building Toronto’s community.
Toronto’s first mega-city mayor, Mel Lastman died at the age of 88.
His legacy is unforgettable for many, as they continue to pay their respects and offer condolences.
“He was charismatic, and always part of the community,” said Monica Biggs, who was using the ice rink at Mel Lastman Square on Sunday.
“Always visible and outspoken,” she said.
Several people in North York’s popular square say his legacy will forever live on in the region for what he did there.
“Definitely a passionate community builder,” says Jodi Mosko who was born and raised in North York.
“He did great for the city of North York and the city of Toronto,” she says.
That’s something the former mayor was credited for by Toronto Mayor, John Tory, as well.
“He was a kind, good-hearted man with a larger-than-life personality who always wanted to do the right thing for people,” Tory said in a statement.
“Before amalgamation, he spent much of his life serving the people of North York and building up North York. That part of the city wouldn’t be thriving as it is now without the work Mel Lastman did over many decades.”
Most notably, Lastman served as mayor for the newly amalgamated Toronto from 1998 to 2003. That was when Toronto became a mega-city, fusing North York, York, East York, Etobicoke, Scarborough and the Downtown.
That’s something his former Chief of Staff, now provincial Minister of Long-term care, Rod Phillips, says he doesn’t think anyone else could have done it so smoothly.
“I honestly don’t know if anybody else could have done it,” said Phillips when remembering his time with Lastman.
“The city exists as a cohesive community because Mel Lastman and the council did what they did. He was the leader of that group.”
Serving seven terms as mayor, combined, Lastman also has a reputation for being unfiltered and not shying away from conflict.
“What you saw was what you got. He wasn’t trying to hide who he was,” says Mike Colle, who was a mayoral campaign worker for Lastman, and is now a city councillor.
“If there was something that he felt was something he had to do for the city of Toronto or North York, he would let them have it.”
One decision everyone will remember was calling in the army in 1999 to help dig out the city crippled by snowstorms. Colle says that was just Lastman wanting to help, no matter how.
“He was in a real panic to try and help people,” said Colle. “He didn’t care if it was never done before, but he said we gotta do it.”
Prior to entering politics, Lastman opened the first Bad Boy furniture store in Scarborough, Ont.
His wife, Marilyn, died in January of 2020 after a short fight with illness.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford tweeted his condolences Saturday night after learning of Lastman’s death.
“He was a great Mayor and he touched many lives. Mel, you will truly be missed. My thoughts are with the Lastman family at this difficult time,” read Ford’s tweet.
Tory said he has asked for all official flagpoles at Toronto City Hall and other city buildings to be lowered to half-mast in honour of Lastman.
A funeral will be held for Lastman tomorrow.
With files from David Lao and Matthew Bingley