Mississauga Mayoral Candidates: Steve Mahoney
During the mayoral campaign, insauga.com will sit down with all the mayoral candidates that choose to do so. The first one we chatted with was Steve Mahoney.
Be sure to tune in to RogersTV on April 25 for insauga.com podcast live interview with Bonnie Crombie. A Q&A for the website will follow later on that week.
For the first time in over three decades, Mississauga is set to experience a truly unpredictable mayoral race. Hazel McCallion, who has been mayor since 1978, has decided to pass her long-held municipal torch onto someone else, and the race is just starting to heat up. Last week, political veteran Steve Mahoney -- who has served on Mississauga City Council and as an MPP and MP -- sat down with us and chatted a little about filling Hazel's enormous shoes, improving infrastructure and making the city more appealing to young people.
What challenges lay ahead?
The biggest challenge, probably for the mayor and council, is going to be balancing the needs of fixing our infrastructure, building new transit and finding the money. The issue is that, for the last 40 years, we've had huge development and the developers have paid lot levies to the city and it's those massive revenues have allowed the city to keep taxes low. I think it's important we continue to do that [keep taxes low] but we need to find new and creative ways to generate revenue going forward and we have to start thinking outside the box in terms of getting municipal revenue so we can build transit because that's job number 1. We have to fix the infrastructure because it's just like your home - if your roof is leaking; you've got to get it fixed.
What "Out of the Box" means are you exploring?
I was chairman of the Workplace Safety Insurance Board for six years and I saw oversaw an investment fund of $16 billion. I worked with people at the Municipal Employee Pension Fund, teachers and their pension funds and HOOP, which is the hospital pension fund. The total cash that sits in these funds is well in excess of $300 billion and they're [investors] looking for ways to partner with good, solid Triple A partners and Mississauga is a good partner. I don't want to privatize things. I'm not up for privatizing transit, but I do think we can use some of that money on an equity basis and pay it back and give them return on investment. It's better than paying interest to a bank. That's just one idea. Increasing development opportunities where you do mixed development instead of just row upon row of houses [is another]. We'll do low-rise, high-rise, medium-rise, commercial, industrial, residential, and non-profit and we'll build it around a transit hub so no one has to walk more than five minutes to get to a bus.
The city is not broke, we still have a lot of development and we'll grow up instead of growing out. We'll see more condos and office buildings that will create the atmosphere of a city centre. You'll also see that in other parts of the city. There's a lot to happen in terms of development.
What challenges lay ahead for the person who will replace Hazel?
I fully expect that the next mayor is going to be compared to Hazel for quite some time and I don't think that's fair because she is an icon and she is most unusual. She has more energy than some people half her age and she's a very special individual. But I do believe if the new mayor, if that's me, comes in and works hard and talks straight [people will respond to that]. One thing Hazel has done is talk straight to people. In 1978, she said to me "if you don't say 'no,' once in awhile, you're not doing the job." So there are going to be times when we're going to have make tough decisions, but I'm used to that. If you do say no to people, they just want to understand why, and I trust people in Mississauga will [understand that I won't be exactly the same as Hazel].
What would be your three chief priorities as mayor?
Transit, transit, transit! Transit has got to be key. I spend a lot of time in my car because I'm always out to meetings and I'm in traffic an unbelievable amount and it affects quality of life. It takes time away from family. It has an impact on your job [as some companies won't hire people who have to commute too far]. Transit is huge, but continuing to develop pride in Mississauga is something that Hazel has always done so amazingly well. People are proud of her and they're proud of this city. The forests and greenness of this city needs continued focus. Transit, ecology, maintaining quality of life and building a city that focuses on families and family life is key.
Speaking of families, how can you keep young people in the city?
That's a huge issue. I think we need to have better entertainment facilities in our downtown core. Think about Port Credit and what a spectacular place it's become, especially for young people. Think of the festivals that take place there. Streetsville is a wonderful community and Clarkson is as well. We have these existing nodes in the city, but we need to develop good entertainment for young people. And that is probably going to be in our downtown core. The most important thing is to find opportunities for young people to get jobs. I think encouraging our young people to go into the trades is [important]. We have UTM and Sheridan and we need to support them and work with our business community to ensure they're bringing young people along and creating jobs for them and giving them opportunities to stay here.
How will you reach out to young people?
My experience has been that young people are busy and doing their own thing, which might not happen to include politics in some cases. But I think showing young people respect as a mayoral candidate without trying to be one of them [helps]. I'm of an older generation, but I raised three boys who have kids of their own and we understand the value of family and I'm open to listening to and involving our younger generation. I actually would like to see them involved in city administration. The mayor has a youth advisory community and I'd like to expand on that that to ensure young people have an opportunity to give us advice on what's happening in their lives. We have some wonderful festivals [that appeal to young people] as well, such as the Southside Shuffle Festival, the Waterfront Festival, the Bread and Honey Festival and Carassauga. We need to promote these things and the Living Arts Centre and other things we can do to give young people opportunities to express themselves.
How will you set yourself apart from Hazel?
I wouldn't 't do anything to set myself apart. Frankly, I've learned about government and politics at the feet of some very impressive people and Hazel is one of them. Jean Chretien is another. My own father was a labour politician and I learned a lot from him and what I would want to do is continue the tradition of listening to the people. I don't see a purpose in setting myself apart. The difference will be that we're not going into an era where we can use lot levy money. We have to find new, creative ways of generating revenue and that will set me up in a different way. But aside from nuts and bolts and number crunching, a big part of the job is communicating with people and I don't think I'll be much different from Hazel. I'll strive to listen to people and talk to them and meet them where they are.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity
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