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In Defence of Canadians Rights & Democracy

* Hazel McCallion - Mayor of Mississauga *
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Scanned, recopied or Internet copy, if there are errors, please e-mail me with corrections:

Opening comments:  More at the end.

    "Three powerful women are showing way in political game ... sit down to tea one afternoon and conspire to take over Metro's border towns and turn them into boom towns."  Maybe that is what happened -  Freudian slip.

    One thing is for sure this is a classic example of how the media campaigns for Hazel McCallion - it should be illegal!

    "old stereotypes can weigh in a woman's favor." - now we get to the meat of the matter, what people think they are getting but are really not.  They also try to claim women are so much better at managing money then men but in really both use the same old tricks - put-off repairs till they are a crisis point and it is someone else's problem.  Click here for more.

Toronto Star - Jan 2, 1988. p. E1 - By Kim Zarzour

Women on the move Boom town mayors:

Three powerful women are showing way in political game

No, they didn't sit down to tea one afternoon and conspire to take over Metro's border towns and turn them into boom towns. [1]

Granted, all three were mothers and homemakers with aprons and proud of it.

They did laundry, baked bread, chauffeured the kids and sometimes had tea with neighbors.

But these women had confidence and intelligence and opinions they couldn't help but voice and that's why they now run three of Canada's fastest-growing and most affluent municipalities: Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga; Carole Bell, mayor of Markham; Lorna Jackson, mayor of Vaughan.

Still, they are political exceptions in a male world, a field where "alderman" is still the accepted title in many towns, despite attempts by some to change it to a genderless title.

The three female mayors in Metro's dynamic suburbs are pioneers.  And although they have a great deal in common, they did not know each other until after they rose to the top.

Now, they're women with clout, leading more than 600,000 people and running operating budgets of almost $250 million. Developers beat at their doors, machines clear their fields.

The land they oversee - a total of 300 square miles - is dotted with temporary, colorful little sales presentation offices, harbingers of still more luxury condominiums and subdivisions.  Their few remaining empty fields sprout small white signs that announce this or that development proposal.

Because they're eclipsed by Metro's big shadow, McCallion, Jackson and Bell hum along in the background - most of the time.

But they all predict that one day soon they will come into their own, become major centres unto themselves; their residents will no longer need to go to downtown Toronto for work, entertainment or anything else.

McCallion, Bell and Jackson are exceptions in a traditionally male world, says Janine Brodie, associate professor of political science at York University and author of Women And Politics In Canada.

Until recently, women rarely ventured into politics, Brodie says.  Over the past decade they've moved into the local levels, but still they are highest in number in small towns and unimportant positions, she says.

Of the 4,895 people elected to council in Ontario, 4,175 are male.  The remaining 15 per cent are women, according to the provincial ministry of municipal affairs.  Of 839 municipal governments in Ontario, only 58 are headed by women.

Within Metro Toronto, council leadership remains a male bastion.  Barbara Greene, who lost to North York Mayor Mel Lastman in the last election, thinks that's because it's more expensive than in the suburbs.  As well, the growing suburbs may be younger and more sophisticated, says Carole Bell.

* * *

Last May, Hazel McCallion's doctor told her to slow down.  Might as well tell a fish to climb up on shore.

The 67-year-old Mississauga mayor was suffering from exhaustion and told to take it easy.  Well, she hasn't, she says, because she can't.

"It's easier said than done," she says, shrugging her tiny but commanding shoulders; shoulders that bear responsibility for Canada's fastest-growing, and ninth-largest city.

In fact, on a recent Tuesday morning, McCallion was up at 7 a.m. wishing public works workers a merry Christmas.  She doesn't sit still for long; even during an interview she's opening drawers and sifting through papers as she talks.  And after the interview she heads to another room.  A half dozen men who have been waiting outside file in.

She'll keep up her busy pace this day until her head hits the pillow at midnight.

For the almost 10 years she has been mayor of this city of 401,400 McCallion has kept a busy schedule.

At first glance, McCallion is a diminutive, gray-haired, grandmotherly woman - but with no-nonsense determination.  She has been called the Iron Lady of Mississauga and Hurricane Hazel.  Her most popular portraits are those in which she wears a construction hat; she calls a spade a spade and plays hard ball with the big developers.  They call her "tough but fair," and she's proud of that.

She's an avid angler (she has a big mounted salmon on her office wall), and a hockey player (her position: centre.)

But McCallion also does her own laundry.  She raised three children and still makes sure there's some sort of meal ready for her family in the evening.

"Sometimes you do get tired," she admits, adding she can get by with only a little sleep.  "Any number of women can do this.  They just haven't offered themselves, and I have. . . . It all depends on whether you have confidence in yourself, and know what you're doing and show that you've done your homework."

Like Lorna Jackson and Carole Bell, McCallion liked being with her father when she was young. As a 10-year-old, she helped him with his bookkeeping in his fish-processing business "down home" on the Gaspe.

In 1948, she was the first girl to be national president of the Anglican Young People's Association of Canada.  Then the first woman president of Streetsville District Chamber of Commerce.  After 20 years as office manager for a builder of petrochemical refineries, she was elected chairman of the Town of Streetsville Planning Board, then moved up the ranks of local politics to become Mississauga's first female mayor in 1978.

It doesn't bother her that she's also still a housekeeper and mother; it's just part of her generation, she says.  But it does call for good organization, long hours, a slow cooker and a timer on the oven.  "You can do a lot if you plan things well."

Her sex makes no difference to her job, McCallion maintains, but she admits she's an oddity in her generation.  "I've been through it when it was really tough going; I just plowed along."

This non-feminist approach is common among many municipal politicians, says Janine Brodie.  That means that though their numbers are increasing, they don't appear to be making especially pro-female policy changes.

Rather, they are helping by being visible role models, she says, and with luck, paving the way for women in the higher levels of government.

* * *

While McCallion's office is subdued grays and maroons, Lorna Jackson's is a sunny display of chrome and pastels.

Jackson, 52 and a mother of three, is loyal to Vaughan and likes to promote it.  When she gets the chance, she jumps to point out the growth rate; rated Canada's fifth highest in value of building permits.

Once the suburban underdog lined with warehouses and storage facilities, the town of 77,800 is gaining fast and can now afford to be fussy about development.

Jackson is thrilled that as mayor since 1981, she's had a hand in that.  "I feel proud," she says, "that in the six years I've been here I've helped form a city out of farmers' fields."

It's probably the most exciting place to be, she says; helping guide a town through its largest growth period, a time when the municipality could make it or break it.

She admits it's unusual that this growth is being led by a woman - an Anglo-Saxon Protestant one - especially considering the community, which is highly ethnic (about 95 per cent Italian in some areas).

There are still some lingering concerns in Vaughan, and in any community, that a woman's place is in the home, she says.  That's why it must be seen very clearly that the husband and family are behind her, she says.

"You can't be seen as hysterical. You have to regulate your voice.  It can't sound screechy . . . so people won't think you're easily upset or ruffled.  But at the same time you can't be seen as too bitchy. . . . It's a very fine line you have to walk.  You need a close relationship (with the community) when they first elect you, and you've shown you can do it and you've got a reputation."

It helps, she thinks, that she, McCallion and Jackson all started when their communities were small.  They were elected because their neighbors knew them as people, not as women.  They knew exactly what they stood for, she says.

For most women, being elected to municipal council is a lot easier than being elected to provincial or federal levels of politics, says Sylvia Bashevskin, associate professor of political science at University of Toronto's Erindale College.

* * *

Markham's town hall is in huge contrast with the flashy marble and recessed lighting of Mississauga's new city centre and the smaller sunny town offices in Vaughan.

Parts of the Markham building are more than 30 years old, and look it.  Carole Bell's offices are stately and darkly panelled, but the rest of the building is crowded and makeshift.

The administration buildings have lagged behind the town's phenomenal growth.

Since 1978, Markham has doubled its population and planners expect the growth to continue for several more years.  In 1989, the town centre will move to a new $22 million civic centre.

Bell, 53, has seen a tiny farming community turn urban almost overnight.  A mother of five, she was angry that her children did not have decent recreation facilities back in 1972.  She figured she could do better than the men running council, and decided to run in the next election.  With support of the people she did volunteer work with, she won.

It was a different job back then.  "I could wander over here in the morning, do some work, be back for my kids at lunch, and never miss a dinner."

Now, with a population of 123,100, time's at a premium.  She still cooks meals, but this day she says she hasn't made dinner for her family in 10 days.

But in general, she thinks the old stereotypes can weigh in a woman's favor.

Research shows females are seen as more honest and hardworking, caring and forthright, Bell says, and women are often very good organizers.

"We have to settle all the family arguments and be masters at discretion, and tell by the face that walks in the door if it's been a good day or bad day and play it cool," she adds.

"We've had to pay the bills and look after the kids.  It's a little like running the household all over again . . . the mother looking after the flock."

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[1] - Or did they? A Freudian slip?


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