TORONTO -- This was supposed to be a big year for Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman, the fast-talking, eye-winking former furniture salesman who has parlayed his panache into a three-decade political career.
Lastman won a landslide victory in November for a second three-year term as mayor of Canada's largest city following 10 straight terms as mayor of the North York suburb.
Also, Toronto is a finalist to host the 2008 Olympics, with the announcement of the winner coming in July. Using money Lastman secured last year from the federal and provincial governments, workers are starting soon on a key component of the bid -- the redevelopment of dilapidated port facilities and warehouses along Lake Ontario.
All that could be overshadowed, though, by a court case in February on what had been a hidden aspect of Lastman's past, from the days when he did television ads for his Bad Boy chain of furniture stores: A former Bad Boy employee and two of her sons are seeking $4 million from Lastman in a lawsuit that alleges he fathered the pair during a 14-year extramarital affair that ended in 1971.
Now grown men, the two who claim Lastman is their father say they grew up in poverty -- lacking food and forced to work as teen-agers to help support their mother -- while Lastman ignored them and lived lavishly.
Lastman, 67, admitted the affair at a hastily arranged news conference on Nov. 30, calling it a "terrible mistake" as his wife of 47 years, Marilyn, stood at his side. But he neither confirmed nor denied being the father of Kim and Todd Louie, the adult sons of Grace Louie, and said he would fight the lawsuit.
The Louies and their mother insist the suit has nothing to do with trying to harm or strong-arm Lastman. They say they filed their court action after the Nov. 13 mayoral election to prevent that perception.
"We have only recently learned that Mr. Lastman is our father," Todd Louie said in the brothers' only public statement on the lawsuit. "He has known about us all our lives and knew of the poverty we suffered.
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