Mel’s ire bad for the public health

Rating: NNNNNWatching Mayor Mel fly off the handle over the latest media fire, dirty eateries, I fade back to Claude.

Rating: NNNNN

Watching Mayor Mel fly off the handle over the latest media fire, dirty eateries, I fade back to Claude Rains in Casablanca, whose character, police captain Louis Renault, is “shocked!” to find gambling at Rick’s bar – just as someone slips him his winnings.

I’m not at all suggesting that Curly’s on the take – just that it’s ridiculous to believe that the mayor, for gawd’s sake, is in the dark until he sees a Toronto Star exposé on the city’s substandard inspection system.

Suddenly, he’s shocked! into action.

Hey, it’s obviously a style that works, given Mel’s successful quarter-century in politics. But it’s a hell of a way to run a city, especially when you consider its limited resources and bull-headed tax-freeze policy.

Don’t get me wrong. The Star deserves kudos for exposing the fact that the public is being put at risk because the city health department doesn’t have its act together.

But as some councillors are quick to point out, even scarier than rat turds in the quiche is the underlying reality that the city is beginning to fail us. The city’s ever-dwindling Meloonies can only be stretched so far.

“City council cannot continue to ask public health to absorb cuts but turn around and demand more inspections of retirement homes and restaurants,” argues councillor Irene Jones.

Mel doesn’t seem to get that. He sold himself as a fiscal conservative, yet he’s legendary for making decisions off the cuff and acting like he’s got money to burn when it suits his political purposes – among which, making Toronto sparkle for big-spending tourists appears to be paramount.

Remember last summer’s $2-million police blitz against the homeless? And how about Olympics fever?

Which reminds me of that other tightwad-cum-political-opportunist, Mike Harris, who says he’ll be happy to do whatever he can to help Mel crack down on dirty restaurants.

He’s like the schoolyard bully offering you a band-aid after he’s beaten the stuffing out of you for no good reason.

OK, Mikey, if you want to help out, how about popping for more restaurant inspectors? And while we’re at it, throw in a few more millions for transit and social services. Maybe you could also take a crack at paying down our rising debt, which the mayor doesn’t talk about if he can help it.

If that fails, there’s always the Olympics, which Mel says will solve all our troubles. But if it turns out to be a bust, costing the city billions, you can expect the mayor to be shocked! Just shocked!

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