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Globe and Mail - Oct. 02, 2009 - By Joe Friesen
Mississauga's hurricane Hazel
But the previously unassailable “Hurricane” Hazel is now facing serious questions about her conduct in a city land deal that involved her son, Peter. Her supporters say political rivals are using flimsy allegations to push the 88-year-old into retirement before next year's election, which she intends to contest. Opponents – including the ambitious former renegade Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish – say something smells at city hall, and they've voted for a judicial review.
Ms. McCallion, unbowed as ever, shot back at her critics yesterday, saying the allegations of wrongdoing can be reduced to one insignificant error. She also said she would welcome a one-on-one electoral battle with her tormentor, Ms. Parrish.
“My lawyer has told me, and so has the independent counsel, that because there was no debate and no decision, it was of no significance,” Ms. McCallion said. “I don't know why [the conflict of interest wasn't declared]. I wish I could tell you. … I may not have looked at the agenda as thoroughly as I should have.
“I've apologized. If I had to do it again, I would declare the conflict.”
Ms. McCallion said Ms. Parrish, who has made no secret of her ambition to take the mayor's chair, is the driving force behind these allegations.
“That's politics, I guess,” Ms. McCallion said. “She has said she wants to be mayor, and I would welcome her to run against me.”
Ms. Parrish, who was elected to council in 2006 after being ejected from the Liberal caucus, declined to pick up the gauntlet yesterday.
“You'd have to be pretty foolish to run against Hazel,” Ms. Parrish said.
“She's an icon. She was [caught in a conflict of interest] in 1982 and no one cared. She's a wonderful lady and she has served the city well.”
An external legal review found that the mayor failed to declare a conflict of interest when the $14.4-million land deal, which her son Peter brokered, came before council in May last year, even though she had done so on two previous occasions. Oddly, the meeting minutes said she did declare a conflict, but a video of the meeting proves she didn't. The city clerk said there was no political pressure to alter the minutes, but can't account for the error.
Ms. Parrish said more important than the failure to declare a conflict is the fact that Ms. McCallion met in private with a group of hotel developers who had hired her son. Such meetings are not clearly defined or regulated under the Municipal Act, Ms. Parrish said. They've asked that a judicial panel rule on how such meetings should be conducted.
“There's going to be another mayor some day. We've got to know what the rules are,” she said.
Councillor Carmen Corbasson said it's the private meetings in hotel rooms that worry her.
“Is that, or is that not, a conflict? It's a really slippery slope,” Ms. Corbasson said.
The hotel deal eventually fell through. The land has since been leased to Sheridan College. But Ms. Corbasson said an undisclosed sum was paid to the hotel developers to nix their deal. It's unclear who benefited from that payment.
“There's too many questions. We can't sweep this under the carpet,” she said.
Pat Saito, a fellow councillor, said it was probably a mistake to meet with the developers in private.
“In hindsight, she probably should not have done it, but I have great faith in Hazel. I seriously believe that in all the meetings she had she [acted] as mayor, and not as mother of one of the people involved with the developer,” Ms. Saito said.
Ms. McCallion said she attended only one private meeting, and city staff were present. They went to a Toronto hotel to see an example of the scale and type of development they were considering for the Mississauga site.
Myer Siemiatycki, who teaches politics at Ryerson University, said even the whiff of scandal around Ms. McCallion comes as a shock.
“Hazel McCallion is the iconic, matronly long-standing political leader not only in the Toronto area but in Canada,” he said. “There has certainly always been an air of propriety and the public interest around her before these allegations.”
Born in the Gaspé region of Quebec in 1921, Ms. McCallion went to secretarial school in Montreal, where she played semi-pro hockey. She became a political figure only after retiring. First elected mayor in 1978, she came to national prominence with her handling of the city's evacuation following a railway chemical spill.
The university library is named after her, her portrait hangs in the local hospital, bobblehead dolls in her image stand guard outside the council offices. After 30 years as mayor, she is Mississauga. Elected nine times, acclaimed twice, she has rarely received less than 90 per cent of the vote, remarkable in a dictatorship, let alone a heaving, multicultural city of 700,000 people.
She also oversaw a period of rapid growth, during which Mississauga became a magnet for corporate head offices.
She was found guilty of a “bona fide error in judgment” in a conflict-of-interest case in the early 1980s when a parcel of land she owned was put up for development. In that case, she participated in the debate before declaring her interest.
Comments by others, 23, to this web-page;
Kotter49 10/4/2009 5:57:55 PM
lindam2 10/3/2009 6:06:49 PM
Freefroggy 10/3/2009 5:25:21 AM
Arbyheretoo 10/3/2009 12:54:59 AM
As for Hazel, I find it distressing and, frankly, disgusting, the way people seem to have this great need to idolize other humans. Aside from the fact that it's wrong (from a Christian standpoint, so ignore that if you wish), it's just plain foolish. You 'most' likely will be disappointed by your hero at some point. Best to just be realistic and honestly assess your hero's character based on his or her deeds. We are, afterall, all imperfect. But we can often learn from each other even when we have the worst opinions of someone. Did Nixon famously declare, to Milton Friedman's horror, that 'We are all Keynesians now'?
Canadianraptor 10/2/2009 11:42:04 PM
Blue-man 10/2/2009 4:42:07 PM
As far as your homily goes, I've never taken interpretive history lessons or sermons on morality, preached by someone still in short pants, very seriously.
BTW, I have a disabled brother who cannot drive and who gets along just fine using Mississauga Transit to & from work, entertainment venues and friends' homes.
Sounds like you'd be much happier at Bloor & Yonge.
Dilip 10/2/2009 2:25:30 PM
Having said that, the legend around her ability to run the city well is greatly overinflated. For years the city could keep taxes low by surviving off developer levies that are quickly dissappearing now that there is so little vacant land left. After much growth, the city is only starting to see the need for social services that it had previously shunted off on Toronto. Homelessness and poverty are becoming greater issues for the city, and will require vision that so far Hazel has not shown.
As the city grew, no plans were made for transit, and city planning was essentially outsourced to developers. It is very difficult to survive in Mississauga without a car. This wasn't seen as a problem until too late in the game. Now that it is recognized as a problem the solutions are coming from outside the city level as Metrolinx and Go Transit work on the solutions. Mississauga Transit is seen by residents as something that must be used as a last resort. Instead of working towards a transit friendly vision, Ms. McCallion has been happy to allow the city to be completely car dependent.
After earning her spurs on the train derailment, she has had an uneventful career. Now she has become so associated with a city government that costs little and is thus greatly loved, that people are willing to look past scandals that if others committted would have them howling for blood. If it had been either Mr. McGuinty or Mr. Harper who had failed to disclose such a conflict, and then somehow the official record ended up showing that the conflict had been made, there would have been a public outcry.
Defending good government does not mean that we hold our fire when those we like are attacked. Ms. McCallion overstepped the bounds and made an error. It should not be swept under the carpet.
Blue-man 10/2/2009 1:29:31 PM
Ironically, Hazel has been very carefully non-partisan over the years & has been equally supportive or critical of MP's & MPP's of all brands in Mississauga.
If her son Peter got a fee from somebody in the deal (effectively a breakup fee) it was certainly not something orchestrated by Hazel and as we see, there was no deal done. No harm, no foul.
Hazel's been trying to get a 2nd hotel into "Downtown Mississauga" (Hurontario & Burnhamthorpe area) throughout the duration of her service as mayor. The market has never been sufficiently supportive.
As a 37 year adult resident (mostly in the Port Credit area) and having watched & known a number of councillors while unabashedly being a Hazel booster, this is a tempest in a teapot, or should be.
Or at least it is to all but the arrogant, sanctimonious hypocrite, Caroline Parrish and a couple of other councillors under her spell. She is a smarmy Liberal of the first water (despised, I'm sure, by many Liberal voters) and whose crass, political ambitions seem to be as deeply ingrained as her anti-Americanism.
This may be the banana peel on which her political career finally slips and falls and from which she will not recover. Like the freezing barn sparrow whose life is saved by falling into some fresh, warm cow dung but then commits suicide by opening its beak once too often with its cheerful chirping, thereby alerting the barn cat to its next meal, grateful & long-standing Hazel supporters will gang up on Ms. Parrish who better be prepared to die, politically, for her cause.
As mayor, Hazel has shown zero ego-driven involvement in community situations other than as a homer. She even packed in her chauffeur once to save costs for the city while driving herself to community social events & fund-raisers she could have skipped in favour of an evening's TV watching.
Hazel is unique in Canada.
jcfroz 10/2/2009 11:19:51 AM
OhPlease 10/2/2009 10:45:30 AM
This is not about who the next Mayor will be or could be in the future. This scandal should be investigated by a third party. There are many many questions here just hanging. As far as I read NO one has said anyone is quilty -- yes even your Ms. Parrish has not said anyone is guilty. So where is the "down in the gutter"? Let us all get to the bottom of something that clearly does not pass the smell test.
The money here is in the millions. The son was going under financially and if the deal timed out no settlement. Enter the city rushing to buy the same land -- boom a nice setllement from OMERS to Mr. McCallion. The best part is that it would all have remained secret had the city lawyer not been given a copy of Mr. McCallion's affidavit. Then a copy of OMERS affidavit. Suddenly what was a secret is not anymore. I am sure Ms. McCallion's lawyers will say she is innocent. However, that is why we have courts and impartial judges. What about letting a judge decide?
John Smith1 10/2/2009 10:28:28 AM
Yeah, yeah, on with the mythology of Hazel. If you understand development, you would know the land purchases and primary future use were well in place while Hazel was still sitting in Streetsville squaking against the province that there should be no such thing as the City of Mississauga and Region of Peel.
Hazel stepped into socio-economic context and nothing more: a massive population shift in a geographic area nicely positioned close to T.O. and on the way to U.S. border along QEW. Doing so in a time when massive development charges could be used to offset tax requirements sure helped.
If Hazel had bucked the trend and helped shape a ciy built on sustainable density and transportation instead of unfriendly neighbourhoods and garage door housing, then one could praise her. If Hazel had not ignored decline in some older areas rather than just building palaces in new development charge areas, then one could praise her. As it stands, her legacy is one of the ugliest urban sprawl cities going.
This latest charge of conflict of interest is nothing new.
Scrappy T 10/2/2009 9:20:27 AM
Arbyheretoo 10/2/2009 9:08:55 AM
OhPlease 10/2/2009 8:58:18 AM
Scrappy T 10/2/2009 8:51:57 AM
OhPlease 10/2/2009 8:45:48 AM
Now lets go to the Enersource meetings -- why do that? Well these meetings feature the Mayor (not declaring a conflict) and OMERS the exact same guy dealing with her son. The OMERS item is worth 20++ million and the land deal was for 14+ million. If you think this is minor then what is major?
Symon Says 10/2/2009 8:37:50 AM
14thCTR 10/2/2009 8:19:23 AM
D. in Hamilton 10/2/2009 7:57:14 AM
Mississauga's tax base and city structure are the envy of every city in Canada bar none. And it was that old laddie's guts and determination that made it that way.
I could only hope she would have replaced Dalton McGinty at the provincial level, or Ignatieff at the Federal level.
APFG 10/2/2009 7:45:16 AM
Carolyn Parrish is a political fool. She was an embarrassment as a member of parliament and a detriment to Canadian/ US foreign relations.
Hazel should get a Parrish doll and stomp on it outside of city hall.
Lord Gurr 10/2/2009 7:33:07 AM
It's funny, but Parrish truly is the bully. All huff and puff when unchallenged but the instant the victim shows some backbone they back down.
Hazel made it clear, 'you want my job, take me on' Parrish crawled back into her rathole when confronted.
I've found it annoyingly obvious from day one that Parrish is trying to fashion her brand of politics around how she thinks Hazel is perceived. She has calculated that Mississauga enjoys a tough as nails, no nonsense straight shooting politician and reckons she can fit that mold nicely....so rather than continue on in Prov or Fed politics, she scurries back to Muni and will try and win a job for life because she believes her brash attitude aligns well with the Hazel way of doing things. What Parrish doesn't understand is that Hazel is beloved because of her heart and her professionalism.....Parrish has shown neither in her career and mistakenly believes that being an outspoken rude blowhard is somehow comparable to being someone who clearly cares.
Parrish has not accomplished anything of merit in her political career and is simply using the gritty performer angle as an in. I hope the people of Mississauga see this act for what it is and never allow such a person to represent them. Mississauga has been spoiled for so long not having to worry about who's in the captains chair and whether that person is capable....the time will come when Mississauga will have to decide and it's then that Parrish needs to be shown the door.
Parrish is a complete embarrassment to the City as a councillor, she would be more so as Mayor.
Please Carolyn Parrish...go away and don't come back. Your fireworks won't be missed.
Bill Robertson 10/2/2009 7:11:19 AM
Wellsy 10/2/2009 2:16:41 AM
I would like to congratulate to the snits who dug into the archives and found one instance of an omission of a potential conflict in a land deal that never even materialized.
When informed of the ommission, Hazel acknowledged the error and moved on. What else can she do? This occurred over a generation ago - really, it's not relevant today.
That said, I hope the public will take note of this as a reminder of the type of aggressive and brutish behavior Carolyn Parrish has shown herself to be so comfortable in displaying. Having lost her stage to curse those "damn Americans", she's apparently decided to start sticking pushpins in Hazel McCallions legacy (perhaps she lost her George W. Voodoo Doll...).
Well done Ms. Parrish, you've managed to yet again prove that you are a brute and bully. Stay classy.
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