Mississauga mayor ‘didn’t read’ crucial document, conflict-of-interest case hears

Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion testified Thursday she “didn’t read” a crucial document in a conflict-of-interest case because she didn’t have her reading glasses.

The document in question named her son Peter McCallion as a beneficiary in a land deal. He is a real estate agent who was involved in World Class Developments (WCD)’s plan to build a $1.5-billion hotel and convention centre near Mississauga city hall.

The deal eventually fell through, but not before the mayor voted on legislation that could have saved WCD $11 million.

Hazel McCallion told the court she was not aware that her son’s finances would enable him to sign a promissory note for WCD nor that he was contributing or receiving money from WCD.

While she said she encouraged Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) to sell the land to WCD, she said it was to promote development, not to enrich her son.

“I would have done it for anybody that wanted to build a hotel,” McCallion said, adding she was representing the interests of the city, city staff and council – not her family.

McCallion said she understood conflict-of-interest laws and that conflicts are declared on a regular basis by councillors at both the city and the region, even at committees.

Earlier, McCallion told the court it was a “major challenge” to develop the land, a field where cows and horses were grazing.

She said the city put out calls for proposals for a hotel and convention centre, but no one responded. McCallion said she went on trade missions to Hong Kong and China and it was her “dream” to have luxury hotel Shangri-La in Mississauga.

McCallion testified she didn’t know much about her son’s real estate businesses and that he never shared his successes with her.

“Definitely I did not even think Peter would have anywhere near the money to invest in this major project,” she said.

She told the court that when she found out, she challenged her son.

“I was misled,” she said. “Nobody told me.”

McCallion also alleged she didn’t follow the progress on the WCD project because she didn’t want to be influenced. She said she instead relied on city staff to brief her on anything important.

As a result, she testified, she didn’t raise any flags when a development charge affecting WCD was discussed in council or when she signed off on an amendment that delayed fees WCD had to pay.

The allegation, brought forward by Mississauga resident Elias Hazeneh, stem from a 2007 vote at the Region of Peel Council that stood to save WCD $11 million.

Hazeneh’s lawyer Thomas Richardson is arguing McCallion’s vote violated Ontario’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and is calling for her ouster from both Peel and Mississauga councils.

Peel council oversees Mississauga, Caledon and Brampton.

Lawyers for McCallion are calling for the case to be dismissed. McCallion is also planning to argue that even if she did breach the act, it was an error in judgment or inadvertent.

It’s the second time McCallion has had to explain her involvement with WCD.

In October 2011, a nearly two-year-long judicial inquiry found McCallion was in conflict of interest when she intervened in the same land deal involving OMERS and WCD for the proposed hotel and convention centre complex.

The inquiry found McCallion was in compliance with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act but her discussions with private parties involved in the deal didn’t fall within its jurisdiction.

That inquiry dealt with negotiations on the city level, while the latest case deals with McCallion’s actions on the regional level.

With files from Shawne McKeown

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