Much-loved Hurricane Hazel McCallion dead at 101

The legendary Hurricane Hazel has passed away just shy of her 102nd birthday.

Hazel McCallion was the longest serving mayor in the country being the mayor of Mississauga for 36 years, but she was also a businesswoman, an athlete, a wife and a mother.

She was given the nickname “Hurricane Hazel” for her political style.

McCallion was born in 1921 in a small town on Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula and was the youngest of five children.

McCallion left for Montreal at 16 to finish high school and then went on to secretarial school before landing her first job at the Louis Rolland Paper Company in 1940.

While in Montreal, McCallion, at 5-foot-3, turned her love of hockey into a professional pursuit and played for two seasons.

She later became an office manager at the engineering firm Canadian Kellogg and was relocated to the company’s headquarters in Toronto in 1943.

In 1945, McCallion met her husband, Sam McCallion. The couple married in 1951 and moved to Streetsville.

The McCallions had three children.

Sam McCallion was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died in 1997.

In 1963, McCallion left Kellogg to join her husband’s printing business.

By 1966, she was chair of Streetsville’s planning board and president of the local Chamber of Commerce as she was concerned about the development in the town.

It was at this point there was the amalgamation of the nearby villages of Clarkson, Lakeview, Cooksville, Erindale, Sheridan, Dixie, Meadowvale and Malton into Mississauga.

Streetsville and Port Credit didn’t join and McCallion became mayor of Streetsville in 1969.

McCallion was elected mayor of Mississauga in 1978, envisioning it as a livable city and not just a suburb of Toronto.

Under McCallion, Mississauga grew from an area of small towns and farmland into the sixth-largest city in Canada.

But as Mississauga expanded the city became emblematic of urban sprawl – low-density, car-dependent residential development.

As this happened she gained the nickname Queen of Sprawl.

She never accepted criticism of her political leadership, which resonated with voters.

She was acclaimed back into office in 1980, re-elected in 1982 and 1985, acclaimed in 1988, and re-elected in 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2010.

McCallion handled the world’s largest peacetime evacuation in November 1979 when a Canadian Pacific freight train loaded with explosive materials derailed in the city.

McCallion evacuated the city and said Mississauga was closed until further notice, which was six days later.

McCallion was admittedly a trailblazer for women in politics, but she didn’t consider herself a feminist.

There were controversies.

McCallion faced conflict of interest allegations in 1981, after a lawsuit was brought against her for taking part in a council debate and vote on the development of 3,800 acres of land, some of which she owned.

A court ruled in 1982 that McCallion violated aspects of the Ontario Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

However, the court declined to remove her as mayor.

In 2013, a resident brought forward conflict of interest allegations and tried to have McCallion fired.

The charges came from her participation in a 2007 council vote that may have benefited her son’s company.

The courts dismissed the case.

When she retired in 2014, she was the country’s sixth-highest-paid mayor, earning $181,098.

After she left politics, she was appointed chancellor of Sheridan College and was special advisor to the principal of the University of Toronto Mississauga.

In January 2019, the Ontario government announced that McCallion was appointed special adviser to Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, for which she would be paid up to $150,000 per year.

McCallion turned down the job later that month because she already has extensive commitments.

She said the appointment would be too time consuming and she would not be accepting the formal appointment and the per diem that goes along with it.

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