Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Here We Go Again

A veteran Toronto politician/observer emailed me as soon as the latest conflict-of-interest charges hit Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion. He was not surprised. Apparently he is one of the few to remember that it had happened to Hazel before, and she was found guilty in two courts.
I was the columnist who broke that story nearly 30 years ago, and still remember with amazement how little attention the Globe and Star paid to it because it was a "Sun" scoop.
I had spent weeks researching it. And when you are a columnist running like a hamster on a treadmill with deadlines five days a week, time is precious and such investigations loom large in your life. But I have never understood the pass that Hazel got from the media and the Mississauga voters. It can be summed up in one of the few headlines in the Globe on this subject, on March 5, 1983. It read "Accused of political opportunism, convicted of conflict of interest, she's still a hit in McCallion country."
People love a maverick, and Hazel certainly appeared to be a maverick even though she had power, was a certified member of the Establishment, and was well off. After all, the votes that got her into trouble all those years ago increased the value of the land around the family home enormously. She participated in what I called the Mississauga gold rush when I wrote about it, for example in a column on April 23, 1982, which I quote below.
Hazel always has been one step ahead of everyone when it comes to life. She is bright and determined. She rode over troubles because she may be small in stature but she is large in self-confidence. She doesn't really give a damn for opposition. She benefitted too in that the media watch on Mississauga politics has never been as rigorous as in Toronto. For example, I was at a party that the late and lamented airline, Wardair, threw at a downtown Toronto hotel. The door prize was an airline pass for two to any city on earth. Hazel was the gleeful winner even though the airport is a significant factor in her city's politics. That would have sparked a controversy at Toronto City Hall if the politician hadn't immediately declined.
The newspapers always lovingly refer to her leadership in the Mississauga train derailment of 1979 shortly after she, the former operator of small newspapers, had risen through minor area council positions to be mayor of the coming giant. It sparked her nickname of Hurricane Hazel. What isn't known is that she was seen by Attorney General Roy McMurtry. head of the central control group dealing with the crisis, as an infuriating mouthy roadblock in that evacuation crisis. McMurtry later became Ontario's chief justice precisely because he could tolerate egomaniacs like Hazel who was determined to appear in the media as the saviour. However, his aides daydreamed to me about how nice it would be to isolate her out of the whole process. No doubt other journalists were also consulted. Our advice was we didn't think he could get away with it.
Ironically, it was that same AG's department which leaked to me a copy of the letter that Hazel wrote McMurtry after she had been convicted in Peel county court of violating the municipal conflict of interest act in four ways. Since she had appealed, a letter to the AG was highly improper. She also wrote a letter to a senior judge, and the scandalized authorities made sure I got a copy. The letters boasted of her success in helping to free the courts by moving time-consuming assessment appeals to the Municipal Board. She didn't mention her case but the AG and judge felt she was trying to score Brownie points with them.
A myth was created by Hazel and supporters that nothing really had happened to her because, after all, the first judge didn't remove her from office because he ruled the incidents had been an "error in judgement." But conveniently forgotten is that she appealed and lost, indeed lost to such an extent that the appeals court ruled she had to pay court costs. (The costs could have been $35,000 but it was said they totalled around $31,000, a major sum three decades ago. Friends took up a collection.)
Hazel has never condemned me to my face about my columns that pushed her into the courts. She has said vaguely that it was just her enemies and an old foe, former council colleague Jack Graham. Except the reality is that it was more than just old feuds, and the lawyer hurling the facts at her on behalf of Graham was John Laskin, now an Ontario Court of Appeal justice. The case concerned just when Hazel declared a conflict of interest in crucial development issues and just how much did she participate in meetings on these issues when she or her family were affected. Does that not sound familiar when you read about the latest controversy? Three decades is an eternity in politics but should we forget history?
Here is my April 23, 1982 column that gave some of the issues. You might be surprised at how lean it is. After all, I was an experienced columnist and readily produced more robust sentences. But I had to run a publication gauntlet and material was stripped, even though the Sun's libel lawyer said he had never seen columns backed by so much information. Ed Monteith, then the Sun's managing editor, refused to run them and I had to appeal to the Sun founder and publisher, Doug Creighton, who said "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead."

The column:

The weeks slip away before the next municipal elections but a judge has yet to deal with the conflict of interest charge that could bring dramatic change to the Mississauga election.

It will be June at least before Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion gets her day in county court to answer the complaint of former council colleague Jack Graham that she may have contravened the municipal conflict of interest act when her council started the approval process last November for 26,000 houses and apartment units.

Graham, a Mississauga lawyer, asks the judge to throw McCallion out of office and disqualify her from holding a position on any council or urban agency for up to seven years.

On Nov. 2, council approved 10 areas in five neighborhoods for development after a long, costly study by two task forces, the last one composed of officials from the city, region, school board and hydro commission.

However, council didn’t follow all the recommendations of these officials. There was controversy surrounding the report since the officials worried about the city’s ability to finance the services such enormous growth requires.

One area given approval by council but not by the last task force is East Credit. This is also the area where McCallion and her husband Samuel have owned a house and five acres since 1951, purchased for $14,000.

Under the motion approved by council, 2,918 detached houses, 92 townhouses and 338 apartment units can be built in East Credit.

Mississauga is no stranger to development pressures which have caused the price of serviced land there to soar.

The value of the 1,013 acres released by council for development in East Credit - the area not recommended by staff - is at least $50 million.

Mississauga has boomed from an expanse of sleepy farms and quiet dormitory communities to the fastest-growing city in the country.

It has grown 26% in the last five years to become ninth among Canada’s cities. Its 315,056 people make it larger than Ottawa and Hamilton.

And McCallion has been very much part of this explosion, gaining a national reputation as a stubborn, formidable leader who always does her own thing whether the problem was the derailment crisis, heading a province-wide urban lobby or the seven days a week work running Mississauga.

She is a veteran councillor, having served since the 1960's. She had no opposition when she ran for a second mayoralty term in the last election.

As proof of the support she enjoys in her community, eight councillors and three senior officials rallied to her in this case by filing affidavits with the Peel County Court.

The court also has a number of examinations for discovery, including a cross examination of McCallion by John Laskin acting for Graham.

The mayor was asked if she had an interest in any company or partnership that has any interest in Mississauga property, whether she was familiar with Macran Associates Ltd., whether she was a Macran director, whether she knew a “Mr. Randles”, whether “Randles” was a Macran director, whether Macran has Mississauga property and whether she owned property outside Mississauga?

Her lawyer, J.L. Finlay, instructed her not to answer.

The latest record on Macran filed with the consumer and commercial relations ministry shows it is a company with a Mississauga address formed for the purpose of “development and property management”.

McCallion, her husband, and Allan and Agnes Randles are listed as directors of the company from the date of incorporation on March 14, 1974.

Allan Randles was appointed in 1974 by Mississauga council to its committee of adjustment and the Peel land division committee. He was reappointed for two terms.

On Dec. 23, 1981, he was reappointed to the committee of adjustment, a body that deals with minor zoning changes, with McCallion declaring a conflict of interest.

Records in the Peel Registry Office show that Markborough Properties Ltd., sold 2.6 acres of vacant industrial land in Mississauga on Jan. 30, 1974, to Peter McCallion-in-trust, the mayor’s son.

The price was $79,740.

According to the same records, the land was conveyed to Macran on April 9, 1974, for $2.
Macran sold the parcel for $212,640 on Sept. 13, 1974, to Tleg Investments Ltd., Elto Investments Ltd., and Strongway Construction Ltd.

The price had increased $132,900 in seven months in Mississauga’s giddy gold rush for real estate.


Watcher0I0 said...

About time someone from the Sun print facts about Hazel McCallion and not she great because I hear so.
I am posting all the articles can find about this at the-democratic-reporter com - Hazel_McCallion_Mayor_of_Mississauga_Judicial_Inquiry.

Hay John, I asked for the details of just where this land was and still want to know.

My big scoop is that Hazel was also a developer on the same land she found guilty of her conflict with, hid the facts and yes Peter is in the mix as well.

And there is more.

Mark1954 said...

I'm pleased to see some of the truth coming out about Mayor Hazel. She was indeed convicted of conflict of interest in 1983. The Judge convicted McCallion on several counts but, in effect, suspended sentence with the stated belief that it was an error in judgment and that she would not profit from her action. Well, as you have stated, she most certainly profited. I was shocked to hear a ratepayer association colleague of mine recently say, "well..she wasn't convicted of everything back then ('83)". Disturbing how so many can be "hoodwinked...dare I say deceived by certain newspaper publishers" Let the truth be heard so that the next election is determined by an informed electorate.

Unknown said...

The latest record on Macran filed with the consumer and commercial relations ministry shows it is a company with a Mississauga address formed for the purpose of “development and property management. bathroom contractors

Joana said...

Hazel always has been one step ahead of everyone when it comes to life.
I'm not sure if knows how to repair drywall but i'll be glad if she can.

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Unknown said...

You might be surprised at how lean it is.
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Unknown said...

Your account serves as a reminder of the importance of holding elected officials accountable and of the enduring impact of their actions on the communities they serve. It also underscores the crucial role of investigative journalism in uncovering the truth and informing public discourse.
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KellyP said...

The columnist is surprised by the lack of public scrutiny Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion faces despite her past conflict-of-interest convictions. They believe her charisma and media favouritism shielded her from accountability.

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