Hazel McCalleon, 101, is a far cry from retirement. The former mayor of the Canadian city of Mississauga will remain superintendent of Toronto’s airport for another three years. Canadian Transport Minister Omar Al-Ghubra had officially announced last week her reappointment.
Hurricane Hazel, as the over-the-century-old politician is also known, was elected mayor of Mississauga in 1978. Her opponent in the election stated that her gender would not make her a suitable fit for the job, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the 36 years that McCalleon has been mayor, the city west of Toronto has grown from an agricultural community to Canada’s seventh largest.
McCallion stepped down as mayor in 2014 after 36 years in office, but decided not to sit idly by. As an influential figure, she supported Justin Trudeau, among others, in the campaign for Canada’s premiership. She also worked as a chancellor at the University of Toronto for several years, which the school praised for her “encyclopedic knowledge of politics”.
Fighting spirit and direct approach
In 2017, the strong Canadian took a seat on the board of directors of the 15-member Airports Authority GTTA, which operates Toronto Pearson International Airport. This body acts as a board of trustees and assists CEO Deborah Flint and her management team in setting strategic goals.
Born on February 14, 1921, McCalleon was nominated for this position by the Canadian federal government at the time. Her 96-year-old was not an obstacle. So now you get a three-year extension. Other organizers are nominated by the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and various local governments, among others.
Tom Urbaniak, a Canadian academic and author of a book on McCallion, is not surprised that the 101-year-old politician has expanded her position. “She stays as active as she can. I argued for years with the former airport manager; he thought he was going to beat her up. He failed to do that.”
The former mayor has been praised across Canada for her combativeness and direct approach. It owes its nickname “Hurricane Hazel”: Hazel is the name of the hurricane that swept through Canada in October 1954 and killed 81 people there. McCallion was 33 years old at the time.
Doug Ford, prime minister of the Canadian province of Ontario, called McCalleon an “icon of Canada” for her 100th birthday. “I love it,” Ford said. “She taught me a lot as a mentor. She is always there for everyone.”
Urbaniak says to the British newspaper Watchman: “She’s a wonderful figure in Ontario politics, much bigger than you’d expect from a mayor. An old prime minister told me she was the only Ontario politician who terrified him. When you talk about a problem, it gets noticed right away.”
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