ONE YEAR AGO: Longtime mayor of Mississauga, ‘Hurricane Hazel’, dies after brief illness


Published January 29, 2024 at 5:30 pm

One year since death of Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion

Loved in many circles, not so much in others, former longtime Mississauga mayor and Canadian political icon Hazel McCallion commanded widespread respect and owned almost any room she’d walk into.

Diminutive in physical stature, but larger than life in the fierce pit bull-like fight she consistently brought to any issue that mattered to her — particularly those that had to do with Mississauga —  the woman widely known as “Hurricane Hazel” inarguably had a significant and lasting impact on Canada’s seventh-largest city.

As written on these pages last Feb. 14 when the city and people and places beyond bid final farewell to McCallion at her state funeral, she was as active and pugnacious as ever in serving as mayor well into her 90s and could often be heard — both during her political service and in the years after — uttering her trademark phrase, “Do your homework.”

After a relatively brief battle with cancer, McCallion died on Jan. 29, 2023 at her Streetsville-area home. Her state funeral two weeks later at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in east Mississauga was held on what would have been her 102nd birthday.

In the 365 days since her death, McCallion’s name has been uttered countless times publicly inside council chambers at Mississauga city hall, on numerous of those occasions by former mayor Bonnie Crombie, whom Hazel supported as her mayoral successor in 2014.

McCallion, who served as Mississauga mayor for 36 years before passing the torch to Crombie nearly a decade ago, has left a legacy that has yet to be fully, fairly and accurately defined.

But make no mistake, her impact has been significant.

The casket carrying Hazel McCallion is brought out of the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga after the state funeral last Feb. 14.

The City of Mississauga today marked the anniversary of McCallion’s death by flying the flags at city hall at half-mast.

“While flags at the Mississauga Civic Centre remain lowered in recognition of the ongoing Middle East conflicts, flags will also fly at half-mast today in honour of former mayor Hazel McCallion on the first anniversary of her passing,” Mississauga officials said on a social media post.

One year ago today. We remember our former mayor, the late Hazel McCallion. She was a true champion of Mississauga. Her legacy will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Hazel.”

McCallion burst onto the national and international stage in only her second year as mayor when she helped guide Mississauga through the train derailment of 1979.

Prior to that, she had served as mayor of Streetsville from 1970 to 1973 before the formation in 1974 of the City of Mississauga.

McCallion retired from politics in 2014 after 36 years as mayor, but she remained active until her death as a member of several private sector boards in addition to the board of directors of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which runs Pearson Airport. 

And she continued to keep a keen eye on all things politics as well.

In her final interview with just prior to the October 2022 municipal election, McCallion spoke about the winning formula when it comes to political races — something she knew a thing or many about.

Key to McCallion’s success in getting returned by voters to the mayor’s seat each and every October she ran from the late 1970s through the 2010 race was her belief that you don’t win elections — for mayor or any other position — by paying attention only during election year.

“You win the next campaign starting the day after the last one,” McCallion told in a phone interview in late 2022. “Anyone who tries to get elected by starting six weeks before or six months before (the election)…that’s not going to get it done. You have to get involved in the community, get yourself known and show the citizens that you want to work for them. That’s the key.

“Every day, you have to work at it and enjoy what you’re doing. And prove to the citizens that you’re interested. It’s simple. It’s common sense.”

Beyond all of that, McCallion said she enjoyed every minute she served as the city’s mayor.

“Every day I was involved in politics, I loved it. If you don’t enjoy it, you should get out of it,” she said during the interview. “And that goes for more than just politics. It goes for whatever you do.”

Hazel McCallion

McCallion with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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