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* Hazel McCallion - Mayor of Mississauga *
- 2009 -
* Conflict of Interest & Judicial Inquiry *

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Opening comments:  More at the end.

This the longer & more detailed story, along with a picture of Hazel and the titled "In search of skeletons", published on Halloween - who says the media can't poke fun at the dear old Mayor of Mississauga.

Pictures - of the Oct. 28, 2009, Council Meeting dealing with the Judicial Inquiry.

To the main Judicial Inquiry page - to the Hazel McCallion page.

National Post - Oct. 31, 2009 - By Megan O’Toole,

In search of skeletons

A pending inquiry into the City of Mississauga's business dealings threatens to
damage the political legacy of 88-year-old Mayor Hazel McCallion.
Peter J. Thompson, National Post

Bitterness filled the air as hundreds of citizens packed a meeting of Mississauga council this week, an unusually fierce demonstration of solidarity.

Residents openly pointed fingers, professed to be "chagrined" and "appalled" and strongly admonished council against pursuing a $2-million-plus judicial inquiry that targets --among others -- the city's cherished long-term Mayor, Hazel McCallion.

Yet an extraordinary sense of despair lay beneath the fury;  a feeling that something was furtively eating away at the city's deep roots, and the woman who planted them.

"It is very disturbing for myself to see the reputation of our beloved Mayor being attacked and her integrity questioned," resident Nabil Nassar avowed, while others rhapsodized about the "best leader in the world" and the "Michael Jordan" of mayors.

"I'm sad," resident Jim Murray told the assembled.  "I'm very sad."

The public has for decades cheered the Mayor who brought them a local miracle:  kept their city debt-free even as it grew into the sixth-largest in Canada. Now it looks like Ms. McCallion's run could end in recriminations, bitterness and a wide-ranging, costly inquiry that will drag skeletons from the closet and expose the deals done over the years.  Many people just do not want to know, and especially, do not want to pay.

"No murder's taken place," resident Mike Douglas said.  "Most constituents simply want this done, over.  Let's get past it. ...  We're trying to go forward and we're digging up imaginary dirt from the past."

The Mayor herself was absent at this point, having declared a conflict-of-interest and left the room.  But before she disappeared, Ms. McCallion, 88, breezed across the stage with microphone in hand to present a host of awards, chatting amicably with city staff and professing how "proud" she was of their teamwork.

In many ways, she has become the city's grandmother.  And that's what makes it even harder for Councillor Carolyn Parrish, who has led the charge for the inquiry.  Residents have booed and heckled her, accusing the Ward 6 councillor of ulterior motives; particularly, her own desire for the mayor's chair.

To the contrary, "I hope [Hazel] runs again," Ms. Parrish said yesterday.  "If in the distant future I wanted to run for mayor, this inquiry will be remembered by those who so passionately love her. ...  I'm therefore hurting my chances to win in the future, but so be it."

From the outset, the inquiry has been painted as an attack against Ms. McCallion, probing whether she violated conflict-of-interest rules in relation to a multi-million-dollar development project arranged by her son, Peter.  Once, in 2008, Ms. McCallion did not declare a conflict when the project was before council, though in several other meetings she did.

The Mayor's supporters have been adamant that this was a simple error, and their protestations have been so loud that the seven councillors pushing for the inquiry agreed to drop that angle.

But where one piece falls off, many others materialize.

The inquiry has now evolved to the point that its scope is difficult to define.  It will examine myriad amorphous layers of allegedly suspect deals involving a number of different entities doing business in the City of Mississauga.

The city solicitor confirmed the inquiry's projected cost will soar past the initial estimate of $2-million as those layers are peeled back, a burden the taxpayer will bear.

But it must be done, say the seven councillors who want a judge to examine any and all recent dealings involving the city, pension giant OMERS and World Class Developments, Peter McCallion's company.

In one concrete example, councillors want to know the details of an undisclosed settlement paid by OMERS to World Class after a land deal between the two fell through.  The city stepped in to buy the same parcel of land, spurring a challenge from World Class, and ultimately the settlement.

In another example, councillors are asking a judge to look at a deal between the city and Borealis, a subsidiary of OMERS, "which was surreptitiously altered to the great disadvantage of the city," Ms. Parrish says.  The agreement gave Borealis a 10% stake in Enersource, the city-owned utility, and Ms. Parrish contends the Mayor signed that deal without being made aware of the change.

"We'd like to know who was responsible for that change," she said.

But the inquiry has also been expanded to look at "whether any existing or former elected or administrative representatives of the City of Mississauga had a direct or indirect personal economic interest, or other conflict of interest, that might have influenced their actions" in any of the matters the judge will examine.

The scope is broad, to be sure.  For its part, OMERS says its members can "rest assured that all of our dealings with the city have been carried out to the highest standard, always protective of the interests of our plan members."

Peter McCallion could not be reached for comment.

Councillor Maja Prentice, one of four staunch opponents of the inquiry, says the process has become increasingly unwieldy and caused unprecedented divisions among a traditionally united council.

"Nobody got everything they wanted, but we were always able to come to a conclusion that everyone could support -- sometimes reluctantly -- but we could support it," she said.  "And we don't seem to be able to do that anymore."

It was a strange echo of Mr. Murray's sentiments.

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