Hazel McCallion, the feisty and powerful mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, has passed away at the age of 101. McCallion, also known as “Hurricane Hazel”, was an inspiring political figure who left behind a legacy of over three decades of effective and nearly unchallenged leadership. She was an outstanding public servant who transformed Mississauga into a thriving urban center.
The news of her death was announced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who described McCallion as his “dear friend and mentor”. Ford said that McCallion was the epitome of a public servant and a true leader who helped make Mississauga what it is today.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also paid tribute to McCallion, acknowledging her role in turning Mississauga into one of Canada’s largest cities. Trudeau praised McCallion for being an “extraordinary woman” with a bold political style who wore many hats and was an inspiration to many.
As mayor, McCallion used her fiscal savvy to attract businesses from Toronto, the city’s pricier neighbor, and create jobs for residents. Her business-friendly policies and commitment to lower taxes led to the growth and prosperity of Mississauga. McCallion was widely respected by other politicians, even those with whom she had disagreements, and was even more revered by her constituents. Despite not actively campaigning, she was elected as mayor with landslide victories for 12 consecutive terms. In many elections, she received over 90% of the vote, a testament to her popularity and the trust that people had in her.
McCallion was known for her honesty and integrity, and instead of asking for campaign contributions, she asked people to donate to charity or cultural funds. At the age of 93, McCallion decided to retire from politics after 36 years as mayor, but her impact on the city was undeniable. She attributed her toughness and longevity to her rural upbringing in the Gaspe, Quebec, region.
In her early days as mayor, McCallion cemented her reputation as a hard-working leader when she injured her ankle while helping evacuate 200,000 residents after a train derailed and leaked chlorine gas. Despite her injury, she continued to update residents and provide briefings, showing her unwavering commitment to her city.
McCallion was also an athletic and sporty person, having played professional women’s hockey in Montreal in the 1930s. She was known to carry a pair of skates and a hockey stick in her car in case she had the chance to play a pick-up game.
In 2006, McCallion was hailed as a hero during a police standoff when she helped bring a peaceful end to a situation involving a distressed man who was threatening to harm himself. Her intervention allowed police, paramedics, and fire personnel to attend to more important matters.
McCallion turned down invitations from Canada’s main political parties to run for office at the federal or provincial level, stating that she preferred to serve her community at the local level. Under her leadership, Mississauga was debt-free and considered one of the best-run cities in terms of finances.
In 2016, the province of Ontario proclaimed McCallion’s birthday, February 14, as Hazel McCallion Day in her honor. McCallion had three children, Peter, Paul, and Linda, and her husband, Sam McCallion, passed away in 1997 due to Alzheimer’s disease.
Hazel McCallion was a true leader who inspired and impacted countless people. She will be remembered as a trailblazer and a symbol of integrity and courage in politics. Her legacy will continue to live on and serve as an inspiration to future generations.