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Mississauga mayoral campaign a ‘brand new concept’ for the city after 36 years with Hazel McCallion

October 1, 2014
By

Kevin Jackal Johnston, a candidate for mayor of Mississauga, wants to buy one million solar panels to install on the roof of every home, plus “egg-shaped” vertical access wind turbines, to lower hydro bills.

“I have done my research,” Mr. Johnston, a motivational speaker, tells a debate Wednesday at the Older Adults Centre, in a basement at the Square One shopping mall on National Seniors’ Day. “The wind turbines don’t make that annoying hum.”

About 90 people have gathered for the debate. The mauve curtains pull back at 10:30 a.m. to reveal two folding tables with blue and white tablecloths, behind which sit seven men and one woman. These are eight of the 14 candidates running to replace Mayor Hazel McCallion, 93, who is not seeking a thirteenth term.

Mississauga is not used to electoral choice. Since the wildly popular Ms. McCallion won election as mayor in 1978, she has faced few contenders.

This centre has never hosted a mayoral debate, and the host seems bewildered herself. “I got here in 1976 and I’ve always voted for Hazel,” says Alice Dod, the centre’s president. “This [a mayoral campaign] is a brand new concept for Mississauga.”

“We are out of practice after 36 years,” concurs Sann Lwin, a retired engineer. “We don’t even know what questions to ask.”

In contrast to the press pack that throngs to Toronto mayoral debates, this is a low-key affair: the National Post is the only media outlet present.

Still, voters are choosing from a colourful cast of contenders.

Grant Isaac, a barrister, tells the crowd he grew up with boxer George Chuvalo and Edwin Alonzo Boyd, the bank robber. “I am a jolt from the Junction,” says Mr. Isaac.

Scott Chapman, 24, promises, “I want to go further in debt with the city of Mississauga.”

Masood Khan is a real estate agent who also owns an Urdu-language weekly newspaper, the Eastern News, and a travel agency. “I want to run Mississauga like a business,” he says.

Derek Ramkissoon runs a staffing agency. He does outreach in prisons and shelters. “I want to help you triumph and not just survive,” he says.

Bonnie Crombie, a city councillor and former Liberal MP who is a frontrunner for mayor, is trading heavily on her story as the daughter of immigrants from Poland (via France) to show how much she empathizes with the hard-working newcomers of Mississauga.

Ms. Crombie seems to see herself as the natural heir to Ms. McCallion, who picked her to run for council after Eve Adams, an ally, won election to Ottawa in 2011.

“I have two boys and a girl, much like Hazel,” Ms. Crombie says in an interview, with a wink. “We are about the same age running for mayor, too.”

“People in Mississauga feel confident being governed by women,” she adds, noting that the mayor, city solicitor, city manager, city clerk and chief of police are all women.

Her chief opponent is Steve Mahoney, a fellow Liberal who spent 26 years as a city councillor, MPP and MP. On Wednesday after a lunch speech to Rotarians, Mr. Mahoney, 67, contrasts his experience to Ms. Crombie’s.

J.P. Moczulski for National Post

“She had two years in opposition in Ottawa and not even a term as a councillor,” he says. “Am I a career politician? So was Hazel. So was [Jean] Chrétien.”

Mr. Mahoney’s wife, Katie Mahoney, is retiring after 22 years as a Mississauga councillor; the couple’s son, Matt Mahoney, 42, is running in her ward. I ask whether he and his family members are the Fords of Mississauga.

“We don’t smoke crack,” he replies. “We build friendships and we build community. We’re the Mahoneys of Mississauga.”

As in Toronto, transit has emerged as a top issue in the campaign. But the seniors Wednesday had a more burning concern: can Mississauga extend its Driveway Windrow Snow Clearing Program to help seniors clear their walkways and driveways?

Mr. Johnston says he shovels the driveways of 11 neighbours already. “When I’m mayor I’ll give everyone my cell phone number.” He then gives the number anyway, choosing not to bother waiting another month for all the votes to be counted.

That convivial tone seems to permeate this group. For decades Ms. McCallion ran this town with a simple formula: use development charges to stay out of debt. But with Mississauga preparing to issue $430-million in debt over the next decade, this city’s folksy, convivial politics may not endure much longer.

National Post

Article source: http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/10/01/mississauga-mayoral-campaign-a-brand-new-concept-for-the-city-after-36-years-with-hazel-mccallion/

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