Mississauga mayor stands firm at inquiry

Hazel McCallion, the legendary mayor of Mississauga, Ont., defended her actions Monday at a judicial inquiry looking into a controversial failed real estate deal.

Hazel McCallion, the legendary mayor of Mississauga, Ont., defended her actions Monday at a judicial inquiry looking into a controversial failed real estate deal.

McCallion, 89, answered questions about what role she played in a $14.4-million land deal between the city and a development company partly owned by her son, Peter McCallion.

The deal failed despite the mayor's backing and her son's company was paid a $4-million settlement.

Throughout her testimony, McCallion steadfastly denied a conflict of interest in her dealings with her son's company or the landowner. McCallion told the inquiry no one got special treatment from her, even the developers who worked with her son on the project.

She was unapologetic for the role she played in trying to get the land deal done, saying she wasn't doing it for the benefit of her son but was working in the interest of the city.

Her lawyer painted a picture of a hands-on mayor who is accessible to everyone, socializing and even inviting to her home for dinner people who do business in the city west of Toronto.

McCallion said she wouldn't think twice about calling up a developer to "work him over" to get something built that would benefit the city, including pressuring a landowner to sell a 3.4-hectare plot to World Class Developments to build a convention centre.

Son's role a surprise

She also told the inquiry she thought her son's only involvement in the land deal was as a real estate agent for the developer.

McCallion said finding out he was an investor in the project was a complete surprise.

But McCallion testified she wouldn't have acted differently even if she had known, saying it wouldn't have made a difference.

However, the inquiry has already heard testimony that McCallion attended meetings with her son's business partners and put pressure on the owners of the land to sell to her son's company.

The inquiry is investigating the circumstances surrounding a failed deal for a parcel of land to build a hotel and convention centre near Square One.

Peter McCallion tried to broker the land deal with the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, a pension fund that is also a minority shareholder in the city's energy utility, Enersource.

The commission's lawyer, the city's lawyer and lawyers representing the developer are expected to cross-examine McCallion on Tuesday.

The inquiry's final report is not expected to be released until November, after the municipal election in which McCallion is seeking her 12th term as mayor.