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TORONTO'S MAYOR UNDER SIEGE

Mayor Mel Lastman was re-elected in November by a 10-to-1 ratio.

But just a few months later, he is fighting a $4 million lawsuit brought by the children of a woman with whom he had an affair and who claim he is their father, and he faces a mutiny among his supporters in the City Council over $200 million in cuts needed to balance Toronto's budget.

Once the dominating force on the Council, Lastman is increasingly isolated from other Council members as they consider how to bring the city's spending in line with its revenue.

"Start cutting," he railed against the Council. "They're sitting there doing nothing, and they've got to start moving."

But Lastman's plans for curtailing city spending have been limited to eliminating cookies from the Council tables during meetings, closing the gift shop at City Hall and removing some animals from the city-run petting zoo.

In response, Council members voted to get rid of his personal car and driver, freeze his salary and cut his office budget by about $65,000.

During the mounting budget crisis, Lastman has lashed out at his critics, the police union and Ontario Premier Mike Harris for the city's financial woes.

This stand has alienated many of those who once supported him. Harris has adamantly refused to offer the city more than $32.5 million, and Council members are openly talking of voting in a bloc and reducing Lastman to a lame-duck leader.

Though the budget must be finished in about a month, Lastman's proposal that the Council find about $65 million in cuts and raise residential property taxes by 5 percent and commercial and industrial rates by 2.5 percent could still leave the city $90 million short.

If the city doesn't balance its budget, critics say, tax rates could go up by as much as 77 percent within the next five years.

"There's unrest in the ranks (of Council members) that could lead to mutiny," said Council Member Joe Pantalone, one of Lastman's main supporters during his first term.

Besides his political troubles, Lastman's lawyers are locked in a courtroom battle with Grace Louie and her two sons, Kim and Todd, who claim in a lawsuit that Lastman abandoned them to a life of near-poverty while Lastman's two legitimate sons lived with the abundance befitting children of a millionaire businessman.

Lastman knew about the "tremendous poverty two of his four children were living in," but avoided his obligation to support them, their lawyer, Paul McInnis, told Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto.

"With a flick of his wrist, he could have changed this situation, but he didn't," the lawyer said.

Lastman's lawyer is trying to have the case dismissed.

In December, Lastman publicly acknowledged his 14-year affair with Louie, which ended in 1971, and claimed that she had agreed in 1974 to settle all claims against him for about $18,000. He has not commented on whether he is the father of her two sons.

Louie and her sons are seeking more than $1 million each.

The sons, one a real estate agent and the other an insurance broker, are "not statutory children under legislation," said Lastman's lawyer Sheila Block, adding that the legal time limit for such claims is six years.

But Louie's lawyers say the 1974 settlement was made when she had little choice but to accept.

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