Local government can do wonders, says Hazel
Former mayor of Mississauga shares knowledge in Haliburton
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | July 27, 2017|
The former mayor of Mississauga has strong opinions about the importance of municipal politics and the direct impact it has on residents.
“You can accomplish so much more at the local level,” Hazel McCallion said during a presentation at Abbey Gardens North, where a couple of dozen people gathered to hear the 96-year old speak July 20.
“When people take charge in the community and forget about government, things get done. Because when government does anything, it’s in the most inefficient way possible.”
McCallion was the night’s guest speaker, and was accompanied by Highlands East resident and former city manager of Mississauga, David O’Brien, who worked with McCallion for nine years, but has known her for 28.
O’Brien says he encouraged McCallion to speak to the public during a fishing trip in the Highlands.
“Hazel loves to fish,” he said.
McCallion, who was mayor for 36 years, gladly accepted the opportunity to speak.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to Haliburton before,” she said. “I’m delighted to be here.”
McCallion began with a brief, but passionate, speech about the importance of community engagement.
She explained how 90 per cent of the money raised for the construction of the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, came from donations. The rest was government-funded.
McCallion also emphasized the importance of youth engagement in municipal politics, and pointed to Mississauga’s Youth Advisory Committee, which she founded in 1982.
“You have to involve young people,” she said. “I also wanted them to learn the roles of the different levels of government … the education system does not cover this well. So students graduate with little knowledge of who does what.”
The committee would be asked to provide input on a number of items, such as transit fare increases, and would meet regularly to discuss upcoming agenda items, or host members of parliament to discuss important topics.
Carol Moffatt, mayor of Algonquin Highlands, asked McCallion about her time in politics as a woman.
“Do you feel you had to work harder, or differently, as a woman in politics?” Moffatt asked.
McCallion responded with a resounding yes, adding it wasn’t just the public sector, but the private sector as well. McCallion worked for Canadian Kellogg for 19 years.
“A woman’s mistakes are highlighted. A man’s mistake is glossed over,” McCallion said. “But it’s actually women who are the biggest deterrent to the success of women. I say to women, get behind other women, and support women for positions in politics. Men have been great supporters of my career in both the private and public sector. But it was a struggle, you had to work harder. You know the old story: Look like a lady, think like a man - which I’ve never figured out - and work like a dog.”
McCallion has had a hard time detaching herself from work since she stepped down as mayor. She is a special advisor to the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus and serves on four other boards, including the Toronto Pearson International Airport’s advisory board.
McCallion says she can’t help it.
“I love to be active,” she said, adding she does her own gardening and chores around the house.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.