Thank You Hazel – Women Owe You One

A Town Council Candidate's Perspective from Ward 5

Hazel McCallion
Thank You Hazel – Women Owe You One
Kerr Street Cafe
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About the Author

Linda Nazareth

Linda Nazareth

An economist, author and broadcaster, Linda is also the Senior Fellow for Economics and Population Change at think tank The Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Linda lives in Oakville with her husband and daughter. She campaigned in the 2014 Municipal Election for Ward 5.

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“Women have to work harder”. I knew that already, but I have not said it aloud lately, lest people think I am whining or trying to get an unfair advantage over my male opponents. Hazel McCallion, though, apparently does not ever worry about what people think, and I would be wise to take a page from her book.

For those who have not had the fortune to see her in action, ‘Hurricane Hazel’ is the out-going Mayor of Mississauga, who is (I believe reluctantly) retiring at the age of 93 (yes, you read that correctly) after 36 years in the position. She did an awesome job. Her priority was the same one I hold dear, respect for the hard-earned tax dollars paid by her constituents, and she set about eliminating government waste with a vengeance. Her choices were not always popular ones, but she prevailed and won the respect of many, within the town and outside of it.

I had the privilege of watching Hazel McCallion in action, when as a young economist working for a major Canadian bank I was asked to present the economic forecast to Mississauga Town Council. She was, I believe, aside from me the only woman in the room. When one Town Councilor tried to correct something I said (I believe he was grandstanding) she cut in swiftly and pointed out that he was indeed the one in error and he backed down quickly. Later I found out that the bank was not actually even making any money on the account but had agreed to do it for goodwill reasons, so hard a deal had Hazel driven. Laughing out loud, in retrospect.

In more recent years, I have been at dinners and events where Hazel (I feel it is a little wrong to use her first name, but seems to be how she is known) was present, and where all politicians present were introduced. For most – and I am talking about some of the best known names in Canadian politics – people barely stopped their own conversations to clap half-heartedly. When Hazel was introduced, however, the applause was and is always thunderous.

And yes, in the case of Oakville Town Council it is indeed a tree house with very few girls allowed.

In this interview, given by Hazel McCallion to the Toronto Star, she shares some of her views on politics and says yes indeed, women do have to work harder. It is a lesson I have certainly learned during this campaign. I came into this race full of enthusiasm and vigour and feeling that I had something to offer. Shortly after that, however, our Mayor held a press conference to say that he was endorsing all incumbent candidates, and that voters need not look any further for the candidates that they should vote for. I felt like a door had slammed in my face, like I was being told very clearly that I was not welcome in the tree house.

And yes, in the case of Oakville Town Council it is indeed a tree house with very few girls allowed. The municipal slate in Oakville is 86 percent male, and pictures of Town Council look like they could have been taken fifty years ago. That our Mayor is perfectly happy with things as they are is a source of dismay to me.

But you know what? I need to shut up and work harder. I need to make it clear to voters that I am the best qualified person for the position of Ward 5 Councillor, and that I will be the best possible voice to represent them. I need to let them know that I understand economics, and issues and numbers and the way things get done, and that I will get things done for them. I need to let people know that I want their tax dollars to be spent with much more care than has been the case in the recent past, and that I will work very hard to make sure that gets done.

We need more women in politics. Maybe not everyone would agree with that, but I believe that Hazel McCallion would. Few would disagree that we need more women like Hazel in politics.

Enjoy your retirement Ms. McCallion. You have presented a wonderful example to many women, and on my behalf and theirs I say thank you.

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