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Toronto Star - July 28, 2010 - By Royson James City Columnist - email@example.com
Royson: Ending the state of denial
To the army of Hazel McCallion apologists — many itching to re-elect her Oct. 25 — testimony out of the Mississauga judicial inquiry must be painful.
At best, Peter McCallion used his mom, the good graces of her Streetsville home and the tax-supported resources of the mayor’s office to feather his own nest.
And he did it, as Hazel’s lawyer told the son Wednesday at the inquiry, without revealing the extent of his business partnerships, leaving an unsuspecting mayor in the dark.
At worst, he was aided and abetted by the powerful mayor mom who seems to have her hand in every deal, a finger in every transaction, and bared knuckles at the ready to drive hesitant developers to the altar.
Whatever you believe, the public process is badly broken in Mississauga. Follow the trail of emails, telephone calls, requests for private and personal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) meetings and one is troubled by how much access Peter and his associates have to the mayor.
Neither is their comfort in his claim that he had no special privileges because developers constantly traipse through the McCallion house, sipping tea, munching food, cooking up deals.
At the end of two days of testimony in which Peter remembered very little about almost everything — “I take it you don’t have a particularly good memory,” Hazel’s lawyer Elizabeth McIntyre told him — the younger McCallion told reporters:
“I didn’t do anything wrong. There is no conflict of interest here.”
Maybe McCallion believes this, after almost a half century in the public eye — a peculiar “see no evil” focus that exists in Mississauga. If so, he is to be pitied.
Mississauga residents should know and demand better.
To be clear, this is what we heard this week, at the inquiry called to probe the mayor’s dealings with her son’s company as it sought to land what Peter said he contemplated as a $1.5 billion deal.
He admits he stood to gain some $10 million himself, playing real estate agent. Legal documents showed the potential haul could have been tens of millions of dollars, as Peter actually had a 16 per cent stake in World Class Developments.
Peter called on the mayor to fix broken business relationships. He delivered “urgent meeting” requests to mend fences. He scheduled frequent business meetings in her private residence. He so mixed private business with the city’s principal public official that it amounts to offensive and discreditable conduct.
Such behaviour is clearly forbidden in most municipalities. We hope. One cannot imagine a mayor of Toronto so embedded and enmeshed in the business deals of his or her offspring. Even in Vaughan, a city sometimes seen as above the law, such action would no longer be countenanced.
During a break in the hearing Wednesday, lawyers and observers speculated on the impact of the inquiry on the election outcome. No one ventured to bet that Mississauga voters would base their electoral choice on the conclusions of the inquiry.
In essence, the lawyers and the commissioner are looking to build a better future. Hazel McCallion will move on one day. And when she does, Mississauga must have in place a new standard of doing business.
Toronto took its lumps during the scandal that led to the computer leasing inquiry. Lost in the salacious details was a determined effort to fix what’s wrong — so much so that when the inquiry began, many changes were already on the way.
Mississauga faces a difficult task. Most residents are still in denial. The people who helped ruin the city’s name have not admitted blame.
As the mayor’s son left with his lawyer Wednesday, I asked about his trademark black gear — Stetson, shirt, pants, jacket, cowboy boots, all black. How many of those outfits do you have, Peter? Several? Multiple?
Behaving as if he was still on the stand, he said, nervously, “I don’t know how many.”
Step one: End the denials.
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