Mississauga’s incumbent Mayor Hazel McCallion, who turned 89-years-old last February, is one of Canada’s longest serving mayors, with over 30 years of experience in the office. She began serving as mayor in 1978, and has seen Mississauga grow into the sixth largest city in Canada. Now running for her twelfth term in the upcoming elections on Oct. 25, McCallion took time out of her busy schedule to have a chat with The Underground about her re-election bid and her visions for the city of Mississauga, which houses one of the University of Toronto’s three campuses.
UG: Mississauga hasn’t had to borrow money since your election in 1978 and is one of the few debt-free cities in Canada. Is it possible for it to stay that way?
HM: Well it’s not going to be easy. We’ve had some financial planning that has kept us [debt-free]; we’ve managed the funds and the taxpayer’s money wisely and with good policy. But, as development increases to the point that it has, we will not be getting the capital funding planned through infrastructure, therefore it’s going to be very difficult for us to continue to be debt-free but we will strive to do it as long as we can.
UG: What are some important issues that Mississauga faces which you would like to tackle next?
HM: We are working on the light rail transit on Hurontario Street, which will lighten up the traffic. We are coming up with a new system of our transit called MiWay with modern buses; we are expanding our system. We’re putting as much money as we possibly can into public transit.
UG: You have been the mayor for 32 years. Do you ever think it might be time for a new face to be the mayor of Mississauga?
HM: Democracy I think determines that doesn’t it? In an election, it’s up to the people of Mississauga.
UG: Fellow mayoral candidate Paul Fromm has stated that Mississauga should stop further immigration because the city is already overcrowded. What’s your take?
HM: Immigration has made a major impact on this city. The immigrants have come with their talents and their desire to make a future. They are an outstanding asset to this city, as they have been to Canada for many years. And as our population ages, which it is, we need more immigration.
The point is immigrants founded this country. That’s why we are so rich, that’s why we’ve been able to withstand the economic downturn more than any other country in the world. It’s because of the contribution the immigrants have made to this great country of Canada, to the province of Ontario and to the city of Mississauga.
UG: Is it true that the other mayoral candidates have asked for a debate but you refused?
HM: That is a false statement. I have never been asked. I have been asked by Rogers TV and MIRANET for the first time and I am just so happy to participate. That is a false statement led by those running against me.
UG: What has been your greatest achievement as mayor so far?
HM: Taking the city from a bedroom community and turning it into a self-sustaining city and allowing the opportunity for people to come to the city, to live here, to work here, and to play here. And to be happy with the facilities that we have provided.
UG: Where do you see Mississauga 50 years from now?
HM: I hope that it will be considered the most progressive city in the world, that it will attain great recognition as a role model for other cities.
At the end of the interview Mayor McCallion added an unprompted comment on journalism today:
HM: I hope that there will be more honesty in journalism. Some of the newspaper reports are so twisted. We were at council the other day, and there was a statement that I made that was so badly twisted by the Mississauga News, that it’s sad. There’s got to be honesty and integrity in journalism. Reporting the facts, doing the necessary research, hearing all sides of an issue, and not reporting to attract attention.
Point taken, Mayor McCallion.