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Back to Hume: Time for McCallion to quit

In Canada on September 8, 2010 at 19:21

Hume: Time for McCallion to quit

September 08, 2010

Christopher Hume

The road to Mississauga, like the one to hell, is paved with good intentions.

That point was made once again Wednesday morning when that city’s long-serving mayor, Hazel McCallion, announced she would seek yet another term; this one, her twelfth.

The decision will no doubt bring joy to the hearts of many a Mississaugan, but the 89-year-old is not doing anyone any favours by running again. Indeed, her continued presence means the city she runs will enter its 31st year without new ideas or leadership.

Despite the current judicial review into McCallion’s handling of a failed $1.5-billion development deal that involved her son, Peter, few question her motivation. She only wants what’s best for Mississauga, which under her leadership has grown from a disparate collection of small towns and large malls into Canada’s sixth-largest city.

That may be true, but along the way Mississauga has made every mistake in the book; that’s why the community has spent recent years figuring out how to reinvent itself. So far, that search has had few results. Mississauga remains an abjectly car-dependent community that faces an uncertain future.

Though McCallion has since become a smart-growth convert, much more than that we don’t really know. And because of her enormous popularity, McCallion won’t bother to say more — she doesn’t need to campaign. That means we won’t hear any new proposals from her, any hopes for Mississauga, only that she hopes for a council that will work with her. Rubber-stamp might be more like it.

This smacks of arrogance. Not that most Mississaugans give a damn; only about one-quarter of voters bothered to cast a ballot in the last election. And no less than 92 percent of those who did chose McCallion. If this is democracy in action, God help us. It’s more like indifference on display.

In fact, even if McCallion were the greatest mayor who ever lived, after more than three decades in office, change would be welcome. The lack of public discussion and opposition, the infrequent exchange of ideas, and the overwhelming sense of complacency do not bode well for Mississauga. Residents care about little more property taxes, which is why Mississauga will never become more than what it is — a collection of subdivisions connected by a network of highways.

As the size and unconditionality of McCallion’s support illustrates, the failure of imagination extends well beyond city hall. Mississaugans can no longer see themselves without McCallion at the helm. What will happen when she finally departs the scene won’t be pretty. The dearth of leadership — several generations of leadership — means that Mississauga will have to remake itself from scratch at some point, whether residents like it or not.

More to point, perhaps, McCallion is the product — and beneficiary — of an electorate so apathetic it can no longer muster the effort to make change. That’s why Hazel McCallion would retire if she cared about Mississauga as much as she claims. It might hurt the community more than it would her, but sooner or later, it must grow up. This shared dependence on the mother figure is unhelpful at best, destructive at worst.

Although a sense of arrested development lies at the heart of all suburban development, McCallion would be the first to remind us that times aren’t what they were when she launched her political career in the 1960s.

When McCallion talks about “smart growth,” she’s referring to development. But in Mississauga, it applies to people as much planning.

Christopher Hume can be reached at


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