After 36 years, Hazel McCallion’s time as Mississauga mayor is coming to an end.
The 93-year-old presided over her last city council meeting on Wednesday before she hands over the reins to incoming mayor Bonnie Crombie.
McCallion — nicknamed “Hurricane Hazel” — has been mayor since 1978 and won her 12th term in 2010. She announced shortly after winning in 2010 that this would be her last term in office.
“Thank you. Thank you to the members on council that have supported me over the years,” McCallion said at the council meeting, which was mostly ceremonial.
“We brought the city to a certain status and now it must move on.”
Emotional day for McCallion
It was an emotional day for McCallion as tributes poured in from councillors, community and business leaders and children from local hockey teams.
At the council meeting, McCallion, as well as retiring councillors Katie Mahoney and Pat Mullin, were recognized for their significant years of service.
“I have been so busy because I’ve been working every day,” McCallion said. “When I woke up this morning, I said, ‘Well, I guess this is my last council meeting, but not my last day.’ But it’s hard to believe this is the last council meeting.”
Through all the accolades and tributes, McCallion remained humble.
“We built this city together, there’s no question about it. No one person can take credit for [it]; it’s a team approach,” she said.
As has been the case during her tenure, McCallion rarely takes a break from her duties as mayor.
“I am the mayor until Nov. 30, I have meetings tomorrow and Friday. I started to work the first day after I was elected and I am going to work the last day I was elected. Same for all the 36 years,” she said.
Future plans for outgoing mayor
McCallion said her future plans including working as an advocate for girls’ hockey at the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association.
“I want to promote girls’ hockey in the Olympics … grow girls’ hockey and get more sponsorships,” she said.
The mayor also said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has offered her some kind of leadership role for the GTA. However, she has not accepted it yet and would not divulge any more details.
“[Wynne] has asked me to consider some alternatives, which I will be considering.”
“She suggested to me where she feels I could be of assistance to them on bringing the Greater Toronto Area together.”
McCallion also said she is “delighted” that John Tory has been elected mayor of Toronto, adding that he will provide leadership that “has not been the case up to date.”
“The mayor of the largest city in the GTA should be providing leadership in us all working together for the good as a whole. We are the economic engine of Canada,” she said.
No regrets about staying at local level
When asked whether she has any regrets about staying in municipal politics, McCallion said more can be accomplished at the local level, and that “you can be independent,” adding that she would not be good at following the party line.
“Think of the city we’ve built,” she said. “I don’t think any MP or MPP or prime minister can show what we’ve been able to show in this city of Mississauga.”
McCallion said Mississauga no longer sits in Toronto’s shadow.
“We have all kinds of examples of what we’re doing in Mississauga that would benefit Toronto in many ways,” she said.
Accomplishments and disappointments
McCallion said one of her accomplishments was municipalities mandating emergency plans after the Mississauga derailment in 1979 involving a Canadian Pacific (CP) rail train carrying potentially explosive chemicals. It led to 200,000 residents being forced from their homes.
After the derailment, McCallion sat on a committee for 15 years “bringing all the transportation bodies together.”
McCallion said the incident led to controls on the transportation of dangerous goods by land, air and sea, rail lines having response teams to deal with derailments, and legislation that controls the transportation by land, air and sea.
Under her leadership, Mississauga went from a rural municipality to the third-largest city in Ontario and the sixth largest in Canada, with a population of 734,000.
One of her disappointments: not having a convention centre in Mississauga.
Crombie, 54, was the city’s MP from 2008 to 2011 and became a councillor in a September 2011 byelection after losing her federal seat. Crombie will be officially sworn in on Dec. 2.
In an interview with 680News political affairs specialist John Stall, McCallion reminisced about her time in the mayor’s chair.
“Quite a journey, a wonderful journey,” McCallion said. “And the people of Mississauga — I can’t think of a mayor that has been as fortunate as I have been to have the wonderful support of the residents of Mississauga over the years.
“Young people, the adults, the seniors, all the sports groups, the arts groups — I feel that they’re my family.”
With files from John Stall, Mark Douglas and Pam Seatle