There has been a recall for the Hazel McCallion brand of politician. The former mayor of Streetsville, Ontario and the mayor of Mississauga has passed on. She earned the sobriquet and will always bring back memories of Hurricane Hazel to me.
It was 1954 and I was in full firefighters garb, cowering behind a fire truck as the torrential rain washed over us in sheets. I remember watching a T33 jet trainer that was last to land in Ontario. It literally skated on its wing-tip pods to reach the end of the North Bay runway. All I knew was that I would rather have been at my sister’s wedding in Ottawa that weekend.
It was years later that I met Hazel. The company I was working for was building a plant in Streetsville and meeting Hazel McCallion was a courtesy call to the local politician. I think we both recognized immediately that we were kindred spirits. It was obvious that she was apprehensive about the proposal to amalgamate Streetsville into this new city of Mississauga. I understood the approach she was taking to moving her political career along and I was pleased with how she made it work. It never mattered what job she took on, Hazel always dominated the council.
Her shutting down her city in the face of the Canadian Pacific derailment was one of the gutsiest moves I ever saw a politician take. It became her trademark.
One of my favourite stories about Hazel was when one of that Mississauga company’s division heads came into my office and demanded that I write a speech for him to get Mississauga council to buy his division’s products. (They printed computer cards for municipal utility billing.) I suggested to him that, with his experience, he was far better than I to make the case. I also knew exactly what was going to happen.
It was a chagrined division head who reported to the next executive committee meeting what happened to him at Mississauga council. He got a dressing down from the mayor asking him how his company enjoyed the lower tax rate in Mississauga. She said the company got those lower rates because the council made sure that their city purchases were always at the lowest price. That was our Hazel.
Copyright 2023 © Peter Lowry
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