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National Post - Sat. Sept. 30, 2006 - Natalie Alcoba,

Three running to replace McCallion

Time for change in Mississauga, challengers say

Grant Ouellette, who is running for Mississauga mayor against Hazel McCallion and two others,
wants to stop construction of high-rises around City Hall.
Photograph by : Peter J. Thompson, National Post

The three men running to oust Hazel McCallion in the November municipal election say it is time for a change in Mississauga. It is not likely to happen.

Ms. McCallion has, for 10 elections, always come out on top. For the third consecutive election, the tireless 85-year-old has no plans to run a campaign.

"I believe I win the election the day after the last one by being out in the community and doing the job from day one," she said. Last Saturday, she started her day at 8 a.m. and returned to her home by midnight, having attended eight community events.

Ms. McCallion has faced anywhere from three to four competitors in the past three elections (she has been acclaimed twice in her career). In 1997, she earned just more than 94% of the vote, in 2000 just over 92% and in 2003 nearly 92%.

Less than 26% of eligible voters cast a ballot in Mississauga in each of those elections.

Donald Barber, long-time environmental and civic activist, is running for mayor for the fourth time.

In 1997, he came in second, with nearly 3% of the vote; in 2000 he came in third with 2.8%. This year, he faces criminal charges for allegedly causing a disturbance outside a council meeting and assaulting a security officer. He allegedly pushed and stepped on the foot of the officer who was escorting him out in June.

"A lot of people will typify me as someone who is out there as a rabble-rouser," he said in a Port Credit coffee shop yesterday. "I'm a democratic activist."

He said the number one issue in this campaign is Ms. McCallion's age. At 85, there is no guarantee she will be physically fit to fulfill her full, four-year term, said the 50-year-old single man who uses the Internet to spread his campaign message. Mr. Barber said he wants to "restore accountability" to City Hall.

Roy Willis, a 70-year-old grandfather who has lived in different Mississauga neighbourhoods for 40 years, notes that he has run for a seat on Mississauga council seven times, and always lost. "I never give up," he said in a recent interview not far from his Port Credit condominium.

"I feel there has to be a change in today's society. New ideas have to come forward and I don't believe new ideas are coming forward," he said.

But the retired leather importer admitted that running for mayor of Mississauga is a daunting task. "You're up against an icon and money-wise, you might as well take $100,000 and throw it in the creek."

The self-described rookie of the race is Grant Ouellette, a father of five who audits corporations for Ontario's Ministry of Finance. He considers this the first step in a political career that he intends to take to Queen's Park.

Mr. Ouellette wants to put a stop to the construction of monster high-rises around City Hall. "You can look and see the high-rises from almost anywhere in Mississauga," said the Meadowvale resident. He would propose capping the construction of downtown high-rises to 15 storeys.

All four candidates agree that transportation is among the most pressing issues facing the city right now.

Ms McCallion said Mississauga is improving its transit service with the help of provincial funding. She said the city has spent millions of dollars on its waterfront and rejuvenating community centres. "We're still debt free," she added.

As for her competitors, she doesn't consider any a serious threat.

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