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Toronto Star - July 27, 2010 - By Royson James City Columnist - email@example.com
James: Peter McCallion — visionary or idiot savant?
The son of legendary Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion is either a shrewd businessman and “visionary” brokering deals on the edges of city hall, tapping into Mama Hazel’s skills as fixer when needed; or he’s an idiot savant who had to be saved from his bumbling self by an eagle-eyed mom.
Take your pick. Either way, the commissioner of the Mississauga inquiry into concerns about conflict of interest in a city centre land deal will be hard pressed to conclude that mother and son are not intertwined in the failed hotel-condo project.
Peter McCallion, 57, divorced, with a Grade 12 education, arrived at the inquiry in his signature black-on-black outfit topped with his customary black Stetson and black cowboy boots. It may have been the earliest indication he would not play the role of good guy.
In morning testimony McCallion ran circles around himself, confounding observers and, even himself.
One minute he describes his involvement with World Class Developments (WCD) almost as an observer/promoter with no financial stake or ownership in the company looking to develop the project. Next, he tries and fails to explain why he felt compelled to advance the company $153,500 to keep it solvent.
The junior McCallion went so far as to borrow $50,000 to prop up WCD, one day before a financier was set to inject $750,000 into the deal.
In a sworn affidavit August 2009, Peter claims in the opening statement to be a principal of WCD. By September, he says at his mother’s prompting, he was back at the lawyer’s seeking a revision to his sworn statements. The first correction wasn’t enough. Four days later he was changing the affidavit again, stating categorically he was not a principal.
But by Tuesday afternoon, city lawyer Clifford Lax, turned his testimony into a comedy sketch.
Despite the younger McCallion’s extreme measures to correct the court record, he only succeeded in making a liar of himself, Lax suggested.
“Lo and behold you were wrong to have thought you were wrong . . . The only person wrong was you for believing you were not a principal,” Lax said.
“Correct,” the witness said.
McCallion’s relationship with WCD is important because the inquiry has acquired numerous emails and documents that show his mayor mom was intimately involved in the deal, which son, Peter, told the inquiry was worth $1.5 billion on the “last best piece of land left” in downtown Mississauga centre.
One email complained about “spirited talk with her worship yesterday,” as the son’s deal stalled. It said the mayor was “not happy (OMERS) was not selling the land to her preferred group,” and concluded, “Threatening me was not a good idea.”
Hazel hosted Peter’s business partners and other developers at her home for dinner many times. She attended meeting at restaurants and other locale, all trying to patch up differences, and, as Peter said, “keep the peace.”
When Peter’s initial financial backer, Leo Couprie, signed a trust agreement making Peter the beneficiary of his 80 per cent share of the company, it was the mayor who signed as a witness.
Peter said the trust agreement was meant to be temporary, almost like a travel insurance policy, as the two business partners headed for an Asian trip. He said he thought the agreement ended once the trip was over. Incredibly, he said only since the inquiry started did he realize he was entitled to 16 per cent of WCD profits.
The land deal fell apart and would have been long forgotten, except the mayor failed to declare an interest once when it came to council — and this helped spark the inquiry that now threatens to soil her legacy.
Asked yesterday if he was the beneficiary in the mayor’s family trust, an agreement held in trust by David O’Brien, former city manager, now close family adviser, Peter smiled nervously and said:
“I may not be after this.”
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