The Hamilton Spectator
Friends and dignitaries remember former Mississauga mayor
When Jean Chrétien announced his retirement almost two decades ago, he got a phone call from the mayor of Mississauga, Ont.
Hazel McCallion, a longtime friend of the prime minister, began teasing him.
“We kind of agreed that we should retire together, so when I quit at 70, she called me to give me hell,” Chrétien, 89, recalled at the state funeral for McCallion on Tuesday. “I said, ‘I’m not as tough as you...I’m a chicken.’ In all my travels and meetings with leaders around the globe, I have never met any politician like Hazel.”
Laughter from dozens of community members and politicians echoed through the local arena as those who spoke told stories about interactions they’d had with the political force of nature on what would have been her 102nd birthday.
McCallion died at her home on Jan. 29 — family friend Jim Murray said she died of pancreatic cancer, which she was diagnosed with around Christmas.
Known affectionately as “Hurricane Hazel,” McCallion was remembered for her great sense of humour and as an icon who transformed the city west of Toronto into one of Canada’s largest urban centres. She developed a legacy of no-nonsense advocacy during 36 years as mayor of Mississauga, retiring from the office at the age of 96.
McCallion was widely respected by politicians across the spectrum and was even more revered by constituents, who voted her into office with landslide victories for 12 successive terms.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reminisced about going ziplining between two mountains in Italy with McCallion 15 years ago on “one of the longest, highest and fastest ziplines in the world.”
“Hazel was so unstoppable, I think we all felt she was going to live forever,” he said.
In all my travels and meetings with leaders around the globe, I have never met any politician like Hazel.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN FORMER PRIME MINISTER