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LETTER: Hazel McCallion was a 'tremendous public servant'

'Hazel McCallion will never be replaced, but everyone who goes into public service should try to replicate her,' letter writer says
hazel 2 2019-04-27
Hazel McCallion died Sunday. She was 101. File Photo

OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is from former politician Doug Lewis about the passing of Hazel McCallion.

Canada lost a tremendous public servant Sunday when Hazel McCallion, the former mayor of Mississauga, passed away.

She was a force. She did her homework and worked for her constituents at all times. Those of us who were involved in public service stood in awe of her personality and ability to wield power.

I was fortunate to deal directly with her when I was Transport Minister of Canada. Pearson Airport is situated in Mississauga, and Hazel McCallion felt a personal attachment to it. The Mulroney Government decided that the governance of Pearson should be turned over to the Pearson Airport Authority, comprised of representatives of the GTA, rather than governed by Transport Canada from Ottawa.

This made better sense but, as you can appreciate, was not what Ms. McCallion was looking for. I decided that the only way to make it work was if I met with Ms. McCallion ahead of time and explained how we saw it working. I don't know when I was so well prepared and apprehensive about a meeting.

My staff and I flew to Toronto the night before, and we briefed Ms. McCallion as to what we had in mind and how we saw it working. As I remember it, she asked tough but fair questions and, at the end of the meeting, appeared satisfied with the proposal.

The announcement was at Pearson at 10 a.m. the next day. It went well, and Ms. McCallion was very gracious. 

The event also provided me personally with a wonderful anecdote which I will never forget. As we had a coffee before I made the announcement, I was approached by a municipal councillor from another municipality who was a Progressive Conservative supporter with a loud, bombastic personality (every political party has them). 

He pulled me aside and advised me in a hushed tone that I was in “real trouble.” I asked how. He replied that he had just been talking to Hazel, and she had no idea as to what the announcement was about.

I replied that it was hard to understand as my staff and I spent an hour and a half reviewing the announcement with her the night before. Then I suggested that nobody in their right mind would come to Pearson to make an announcement regarding the airport without briefing Hazel McCallion first. The expression on his face was wonderful. It was like watching the air go out of a balloon.

Hazel McCallion will never be replaced, but everyone who goes into public service should try to replicate her.

Doug Lewis