THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Toronto Star - Oct. 9, 2009 - By Christopher Hume Urban Issues, Architecture, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org -
Hands off Queen of Mississauga
In some cities, people can't wait for their mayor to go; in Mississauga, they hope she will never leave.
This was made clear yet again by the outpouring of outrage occasioned by recent Star stories and photographs of Hazel McCallion. They don't call the Mayor of Mississauga Her Worship for nothing.
As one irate Mississaugan put it, without a hint of irony, "God bless Hazel, she is the Queen of Mississauga." As tempting as it may be to laugh off such feelings, there's something about them that won't be so easily dismissed.
Obviously, McCallion's popularity has little to do with politics; after all, the city she has led since 1978 remains a showcase of urban sprawl, in this case organized around a shopping centre that dates from a more innocent age.
Mississauga's "city centre," built well after the mall, represents a well-intentioned attempt to add a layer of urbanity to this discontinuous and disconnected landscape.
Despite the architectural excellence of some of the civic buildings, especially Mississauga City Hall (which most Mississaugans apparently dislike), they do not add up to a city. And for all the talk about sustainable growth, public transit and 21st-century densities, Mississauga remains a textbook example of what Metro Toronto's first chair, Frederick Gardiner, once called "multiplication by subdivision."
Given this, it may be that the secret of McCallion's enduring electoral success bears no relationship to what Mississauga is or isn't. Instead, she has become the personification of a community that otherwise would not exist except on paper, that wouldn't know itself except as a series of postal codes.
She is the thread that holds it together, that provides Mississauga with its history and its meaning, that makes it more than the sum of its parts. She has become quite literally the face of Mississauga. That could be why so many Mississaugans were so upset when the Star ran a wrinkles-and-all portrait of the 88-year-old McCallion on a section's front page last weekend.
Ultimately, the question of McCallion's significance should be left to psychologists rather than political scientists. Perhaps Mississauga can best be understood as a community that has become overly identified with its mayor, a classic parental figure.
With so much invested in one individual, it's not surprising that Mississaugans have come to consider McCallion the Queen of Mississauga. That might explain why only one in four Mississaugans vote in municipal elections: a queen doesn't need to be elected, a queen holds her position and power by virtue of who she is. And a queen holds that position for life.
When McCallion announced recently that she would seek a 13th term next year, she was in effect reassuring Mississaugans that her reign would continue; they need not worry about issues of abdication or succession just yet.
When it comes to pass, as it must, that McCallion can no longer wear that crown, residents will finally have to take back the responsibilities they long ago ceded to her. It won't be a happy day in Mississauga. Après Hazel, le déluge.
Comments by others, 8, to this web-page;
Paul M. Olive Oct 9, 2009 3:56 PM
Yes, to North York Mel Lastman was what Hazel is to Mississauga - the personality that towers over their municipality. In the post-amalgamation election, he at least had to beat real candidates as opposed to Hazel, who is practically acclaimed.
xdirector Oct 9, 2009 2:33 PM
You had Mel for years!
* Agree 1
tired of whiners Oct 9, 2009 11:45 AM
I believe a sense of entittlement has settled in at the Mayor's office. Missisaugans of course think she did a great job because she kept taxes down. But this, reletively young, monument to urban sprawl will have to make some very expensive infrastructure investments very soon.
* Agree 3 - Disagree 2
MikeLongBranch Oct 9, 2009 10:04 AM
Thank you Mr Hume for pointing out the follies of this erzatz mayor-for-life. Hazel needs to be tried in court for her crimes like any other citizen. Unfortunately the Mississaugans prefer to put personality over principle. One day soon when Hazel's gone the truth of her reign will come out.
* Agree 3 - Disagree 3
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