Mississauga, Ontario’s mayor Hazel McCallion deserves her nickname Hurricane Hazel. At 86 years old, she is showing no sign of slowing down.

A self-proclaimed go-getter, Mrs McCallion prefers to do things for herself. She answers her own e-mail, determines with whom she will conduct interviews and drives her own car to official meetings despite pleas from her staff to use a driver. She does not campaign during elections or accept political donations. She will not express a consistent party preference. Her love of hockey is well-known and she still plays it recreationally.

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Mrs McCallion has held office long enough to see Mississauga grow from a small collection of towns and villages into Canada’s sixth largest city, the third biggest in Ontario. When first elected mayor of the city in 1978, she had already sat on virtually every committee in the Peel Region and the city of Mississauga. Today, she is one of Canada’s best known and longest serving mayors.

She continues to serve on multiple boards of directors, and federal, provincial and association committees. Her role with the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority includes solving gridlock and improving road networks. She is commonly found at ground-breaking and expansion ceremonies – she has been in office so long that she has attended four such events for the same company.

Her age does not stop her from escorting delegations on trade missions to places such as China and India (one such trip resulted in an Indian company locating in the city). She ranked second in the 2005 international World Mayor poll, behind Dora Bakoyannis of Athens.

Mrs McCallion is proud of her city’s stable infrastructure to support FDI. It is home to 57 Fortune 500 companies and 51 Global 500 companies. It also plays host to more than 1500 multinational companies, 98 of which hail from Germany, 90 from Japan, and 120 from the UK.

Great potential

“We know that our city has great potential for investment,” says Mrs McCallion. “We got an award of merit from Germany for bringing so many German companies to the city.”

Under her leadership, Mississauga has low taxes, no debt and roughly C$800m ($799m) in reserves. Mississauga is also the only Canadian city with a Standard and Poor’s AAA rating.

No incentives are permitted. Instead, Mrs McCallion emphasises good governance. “This way companies can count on us,” she says.

She has never dedicated city funds to stadium projects or other large venues. “We make sure community facilities are available for families and those who work here,” she says.

She believes in building industry clusters (biotechnology, pharma, IT, financial services, aerospace and automotive) to ensure future economic growth. Mississauga houses 400 biotech companies. “It’s the third largest cluster in Canada,” she says.

Under her leadership, the city enjoys a close relationship with the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Together they have established the Western GTA Convergence Centre to grow biotech concerns, the Mississauga Academy to foster the medical profession and the Healthy City Stewardship Centre to help improve local health.

Mrs McCallion’s mantra is to be pro-business and proactive. She says she wants to maintain Mississauga’s attractiveness. This includes implementing crime prevention and ‘green’ policies that take into consideration how buildings are constructed and roads are designed. Mississauga has been recognised for seven consecutive years as Canada’s most crime-free city.

“We are looking at our development in the past and how we can do it better in the future,” she says. Given the longevity of her leadership and the insight she has gained that comes

with age, she recognises that, besides good governance, outside factors contribute to Mississauga’s business attributes as well.

 

CURRUCULUM VITAE: HAZEL McCALLION

2005

World Mayor Awards

Global runner-up

1978

City of Mississauga

Mayor

1974

Mississauga/Peel

Regional councillor

1970

City of Streetsville

Mayor