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Mississauga News - Oct. 13, 2009 - Guest Column by Tom Urbaniak is the author of Her Worship: Hazel McCallion and the Development of Mississauga.
Hazel will fight
Fans of the Montreal Kik Cola women’s hockey team knew it almost 70 years ago: Hazel Journeaux plays offence.
Rarely has there been a cornered or retreating Hazel McCallion. When it happens, it’s not pretty.
The current conflict of interest allegations against McCallion probably won’t be a career-stopper for the 88-year-old mayor. If a violation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is found to have been the result of a “bona fide error in judgment,” a stubborn McCallion will claim total vindication, as she did in 1982 when Judge Ernest West ruled she had breached that statute but without corrupt intent.
If there has been any error or wrongdoing in this case, would McCallion take full responsibility? I’m not so sure.
As president of the Anglican Young People’s Association of Canada (1949-51), she won rave reviews for making herself visible. Her colleagues called her an “inhuman automaton” because of her energy. But when the Calgary bishop wrote to criticize her on a membership issue, she avoided the missive, then tried to shift the focus to the western delegates.
McCallion lost her first municipal election, when she ran for deputy reeve of Streetsville in 1965. At no point did she concede defeat with grace. For the next two years, she used her newspaper, The Streetsville Booster, to attack her opponents mercilessly and sometimes personally.
McCallion sat on the raucous 1974-76 council that was described by one reporter as a hotbed of “big-city politics.” She was an ally of inexperienced Mayor Martin Dobkin. She was an ally in offence, that is, but not so much in defence. The young Dobkin was often left all alone to handle withering attacks from the old guard.
And in 2001, an obstinate McCallion had to be prodded by media and multicultural groups over a period of many days to finally issue a grudging, partial apology. She had been quoted in The National Post complaining that Credit Valley Hospital’s emergency room “is loaded with people in their native costumes.” She insisted that she had been taken out of context and was referring to illegal immigrants.
McCallion has admitted to mistakes, but the admissions have been pre-emptive rather than conciliatory gestures. Rather than facing strong activist groups or opposition on council, she has always been able to sense subtle changes in the public mood and get in front of the parade before anyone else showed up.
This is how, a decade ago, she restyled herself as a critic of urban sprawl. But when the “Our Future Mississauga” planning exercise revealed last year that “there is a stronger appetite for change than the politicians may realize,” McCallion responded by blaming the people for being inconsistent in their aspirations. It was not vintage Hazel.
McCallion’s idols are former Ottawa Mayor Charlotte Whitton and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Both secured their places in history, but neither left office in glory.
McCallion’s handling of events over the next few months may determine if history repeats itself.
Comments by others, 4, to this web-page;
Think About It Oct 16, 2009 9:59 AM
The Mississauga Muse Oct 15, 2009 10:35 PM
WHOA! Veeeerrrrrry impressive summary of Hazel McCallion! You just sold me your book! Next. I have over $2,100 worth of Freedom of Information documents on McCallion's Mississauga. Staff emails, scribblings, notes --you name it. One remarkable behind-the-scenes expose. Especially how Staff draft City policies and then once approved by Council non-comply. Window-dressing only. Absolutely irrefutible evidence that it's not McCallion or Councillors who run Mississauga but City EMPLOYEES! Freedom of Information reveals two remarkable topsy-turvy "Lead Canada in Management" worlds. What the public is suckered into believing. And the Reality!
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