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March 6, 2009
Mayor William Lyon Mackenzie struggles to maintain control in Council Chamber as the Reformers and Tories debate

Toronto Mayor William Lyon Mackenzie endured barbs and had to duck as a shoe was thrown at him during a re-enactment of a council debate this afternoon in the City Hall Council Chamber. The event was part of Toronto’s 175th anniversary celebration.

Mackenzie, played by actor Eric Peterson, used wit in his efforts to control a raucous chamber as members of the Reform and Tory parties exchanged conflicting views during this mock 1834 council session.

A crowd of approximately 200 people packed into the chamber to watch the spirited debate in language reflecting the time period, in an era where horses were a key mode of transportation. Council members, played by students from Gordon A. Brown Middle School and Cosburn Middle School, debated the need for a Toronto coat of arms to forge its own identity and break from use of the traditional Union Jack English flag, and the need for new sidewalks along Queen Street - to be made of wooden planks.

William Lyon Mackenzie made it no secret that he wanted to break free of England’s control, referring to the new lieutenant governor as a fool.

“You see we’re all in this lasso, pulling in our frustration this way and that in despair. But if we want to pull him off his horse, we can give it a tug that puts him on his ass,” Mayor Mackenzie said.

Late in the debate, Tory member George Munro accused the mayor of favouring the Reformers, and when asked to apologize, Munro refused, tossing his shoe and narrowly missing the mayor.

The 45-minute performance earned a rousing ovation, and the student actors breathed a sigh of relief.

“It was a lot of fun and worth all the work,” said Cosburn student Barbara Karapostolakis. She admitted being so nervous about the day’s events that she couldn’t eat breakfast. “Then I got here and went through the rehearsal and felt better. It was a lot of fun and worth all the work.”

She admits she couldn’t wait the see the final part - the shoe tossing - pan out in front of the crowd. “I couldn’t wait for it to happen. It was like the incident with (former U.S. President) George Bush.”

The students researched their roles the language of the era. But Karapostolakis notes that some things keep coming up 175 years later, like taxation (and shoe tossing). “Politicians go through a lot,” she said. “And people are never really satisfied. There’s so much pressure to do what the community wants to make them happy.”

Throughout the day the City will profile interesting, candid moments from the event. They will be written by Rob Andrusevich from the City's Strategic Communications Division. Rob is a former newspaper reporter.



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