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This article was published 29/11/2014 (2247 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Besides the arrival of Brian Bowman in Winnipeg, there are many other new faces in the mayor's office in Canadian cities. In southern Ontario, the city of Mississauga is getting used to the idea of someone other than Hazel McCallion, who was first elected in 1978. The 93-year-old is finally stepping down, to be replaced on Nov. 30 by Bonnie Crombie, a former Liberal MP.

With the help of writer Robert Brehl, who has long been associated with the Rogers Communications empire, McCallion has turned out a lively, very readable memoir.

The lady who has been at the helm of Mississauga -- now Canada's sixth-largest city, according to the most recent census -- began life in 1921 as Hazel Journeaux in the small community of Port Daniel in the Gaspé region of Quebec. She started her working life with Canadian Kellogg, who transferred her to Toronto in 1942.

Active all her life in the Anglican Church, Hazel met her husband Sam McCallion in church just after the Second World War, and they were married in 1951. It was through the church that she also got her first taste of being elected to office, when she served as national president of the Anglican Young Peoples Association.

After their wedding, the McCallions settled in the small community of Streetsville just outside Toronto, surrounded by large stretches of farmland. She was serving as mayor of that community in the early 1970s when it disappeared as a separate entity when Bill Davis' provincial government made a major move to regional government. There have been other subsequent mergers in that part of Ontario, but it's perhaps a measure of McCallion's political strength that Queens Park has yet to try to swallow up Mississauga into the Greater Toronto Area.

After serving four years as a member of Mississauga council, Hazel was elected mayor in the fall of 1978. One year later came the crisis that catapulted the mayor and her community into the world spotlight. On Nov. 10, 1979, a 106-car CP freight train carrying hazardous chemicals including chlorine derailed in Mississauga, forcing the evacuation of 250,000 people. No one died, and Mayor McCallion's leadership was praised by all parties involved.

In Hurricane Hazel, she recalls media coverage from around the world, including by CBS TV legend Walter Cronkite, who had to be coached on how to pronounce the name of the community. McCallion recalls another New York-based reporter who called her office and was surprised to learn that he was not speaking to a secretary.

Hazel McCallion is far from a feminist icon, but she does point to Ontario MP Agnes Mcphail as well as Charlotte Whitton, who served nearly 10 years as mayor of Ottawa, as two of her inspirations.

As a young woman during the war, she played semi-professional hockey. Don Cherry lives in Mississauga and sings her praises on the dust jacket of the book, along with American TV host Regis Philbin.

McCallion is proud to point out that Mississauga is far from the quiet bedroom suburb that most Canadians picture it as.

During McCallion's 36 years in office, Mississauga underwent a dramatic transformation. It's now home to hundreds of businesses, and several thousand people travel to Mississauga to work each day, in addition to the people who head in the opposite direction to Toronto each morning.


Roger Currie is a Winnipeg writer and broadcaster. He is heard regularly on CJNU, 93.7 FM.