Erin's Journals

Monday, January 30, 2023

Just a thought… Think like a man, act like a lady, work like a dog. [Hazel McCallion]

You can watch a video version of this journal on my Facebook page, or here on YouTube.

Before we get going, I wanted to start off by saying thank you again. Our podcast, Lisa Brandt’s and my Gracefully & Frankly is sitting high and we’re having a giveaway I’ll tell you about at the end of this journal.

Honestly, as I start a new decade in my life, this newest project has given me purpose, as we put something of value, hopefully, even for a few minutes a week, out into the world. Which, of course, leads me to the woman we are remembering today.

You’ve probably heard the news of the passing of Hurricane Hazel: the long-serving mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion. She died yesterday, just a few weeks short of her 102nd birthday on Valentine’s Day, and before her legacy could be tarnished by backing Doug Ford’s greenbelt destruction any further. She took her leave yesterday, just a few weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As former premier (and beneficiary of Hazel’s moral support) Kathleen Wynne said, Ms McCallion was “a champion who defied stereotype.”

I had a chance to talk with Mayor McCallion on our morning radio shows and, of course, I asked the secret to her longevity. Mostly it was being active and engaged. She stayed fit by skating well into her 90s. She was a hockey player alongside her sisters as a young girl in Quebec, and played as a professional in the 1940s and then later and often in charity games well into her senior years. She also told us that the secret to her health, besides staying active and fit, was drinking tart cherry juice – something I think I may just start doing, now that I think of it!

She was a feminist, despite disliking the term; her whole career was a glass ceiling-shattering slap shot. As former premier Wynne recalls, there was a fight back in 1979 to keep women from becoming garbage collectors; this was not “women’s work” after all, and we weren’t strong enough to do it. To those arguments, Ms McCallion replied, “Who do you think hauls it to the street to begin with?” Of course, her side won.

After facing enough garbage, both as a determined woman at a time when there were few of them in the political ring, and later as a leader, I have to believe that a huge part of Mayor McCallion’s longevity was the way she stayed busy.

Which brings us to the past few months. Perhaps when you’re in a time of your life where the phone almost completely stops ringing, working with the provincial government again was her answering the call of duty one more time. After her lifetime of service, that is what I choose to believe. It is not my place to judge her; I’ll leave that to time and history. I will remember her as a force of nature.

Oh, and as for “Hurricane Hazel?” Mayor McCallion did not at all mind being nicknamed after the storm that struck Ontario with such force in 1954; she said it wasn’t great that it was a natural disaster, but hurricanes move things. And move things she did.

Although she lost the fight to keep Streetsville from merging with Mississauga, she froze taxes, oversaw unprecedented growth and her name was synonymous with progress.

She was one of a kind – perhaps not ahead of her time, but just in time – who led us all to a new era for women in politics.

And in a day and age when good people are held to the sidelines because of the horrendous vitriol that is thrown in the direction of public servants, while she was a first in many ways, she may well also be the last.

May she rest peacefully; goodness knows she earned it.

Before I go, a few reminders: tomorrow, a brand new Drift sleep story drops – literally – as it’s the story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun.

Oh, and don’t forget that my podcast bestie Lisa Brandt and I bring youEpisode 5 of Gracefully & Frankly on Thursday. Do enter our contest to WIN a gorgeous top-of-the-line silk and copper-infused enVy pillow. It’s a random draw among participants who can answer a 10-question multiple choice quiz correctly on things we’ve discussed.

Find out more on our Gracefully and Frankly Facebook page. Contest closes Friday the 10th of February at midnight with the announcement of winners on Valentine’s Day: Hazel’s birthday.

You be well and we’ll talk to you here next Monday.

Rob WhiteheadMonday, January 30, 2023