THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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National Post - Dec. 3, 2009 - By Megan O'Toole - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hundreds of residents packed into the Mississauga Convention Centre last night for an emphatic tribute to Hazel Mc-Callion, complete with live jazz and a photo slideshow of the smiling Mayor cutting ceremonial ribbons, swinging a golf club and posing with family.
Event organizers, identifiable by their "Friends of Mayor McCallion" badges, encouraged attendees to fill out ballots asking council to "do the right thing" by cancelling a judicial inquiry they believe is an outright attack on the city's beloved long-term Mayor.
"It is a witch hunt," prominent local businessman Harold Shipp declared, noting Ms. McCallion has "brought great fame and fortune to all the people who live here."
Star sportscaster Don Cherry also made an appearance, recalling Ms. McCallion's powerful presence one of the first times he met her -- "my type of broad," he said to laughter.
The Mayor herself entered like a rock star, flanked by several of her closest council allies as the band struck up a rousing rendition of James Brown's "I Feel Good" and attendees erupted into chants of: "Four more years."
She thanked the crowd for their support and said while she had enjoyed many pleasant events over the years, "tonight really does it."
Ms. McCallion has recently become caught up in a widening scandal involving her son's company, World Class Developments. Councillors voted last month to press forward with a multi-million-dollar inquiry that will probe, among other things, the Mayor's role in allegedly suspect business dealings.
The crowd at last night's rally, however, remained staunchly opposed to the process, circulating a petition calling on council to put an end to it. For many, Ms. Mc-Callion is a trusted leader, one who grew Mississauga into Canada's sixth-largest city while keeping it debt-free. They are averse not only to the ballooning cost of the inquiry -- which the night's emcee labelled an "act of treason" -- but also to the effect it may have on Ms. McCallion, 88.
"We are the wind in Hurricane Hazel," organizer Patrick Mendes said. "We will not let our Mayor down."
Resident Betty Merkley, one of a diverse stream of speakers who took to the microphone in short bursts, said council's insistence on pushing forward with the inquiry was politically motivated. Some suggested Councillor Carolyn Parrish, who led the charge for the inquiry, has her sights set on the Mayor's chair.
"The bigger you are, you're always after the bigger people," Mr. Cherry said.
The fierce opposition at last night's rally mirrored a recent council meeting that drew many of the same residents.
But getting lost in all the sound and fury, Ms. Parrish says, is that the scope of the inquiry extends well beyond the Mayor, with a judge set to examine a host of murky city business dealings.
"I'm sure Hazel will enjoy the big rally but I can't see the connection between the two events," she wrote via email.
The taxpayer-funded judicial inquiry was intially forecast to cost about $2-million, but the city solicitor has since confirmed the price tag will soar well past that. In addition to looking at Ms. McCallion's involvement in a multi-million-dollar land deal between her son's company and pension giant OMERS -- a project that came before council -- the inquiry will examine myriad layers of allegedly suspect business deals involving all three entities: the city, OMERS and World Class.
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