10/28/2014 02:10 EDT | Updated 10/28/2014 02:59 EDT

Mississauga Election 2014: Hazel McCallion's Endorsement Changed Game For Bonnie Crombie


Mississauga mayor-elect Bonnie Crombie once suggested it would be inappropriate for "Hurricane" Hazel McCallion to make an endorsement in the race to replace her.

But things changed somewhere along the path to victory.

Crombie, a city councillor and former Liberal MP, cruised to victory Monday night over former Liberal MPP and federal cabinet minister Steve Mahoney. She captured 102,346 votes — or roughly 64 per cent of the total cast — while Mahoney finished well-back with 46,224.

The huge victory may be seen as a surprise considering the race was previously considered one of the tightest in Ontario, with two experienced candidates battling it out in the first real contest in the city in decades.

But that was all before McCallion, who at age 93 opted to retire after 36 years at the helm of Canada's sixth largest city, anointed her successor.

Forum Research polls in April, July, and August showed the race in a statistical tie.

A survey from Sept. 30 suggested Mahoney was actually moving ahead and besting Crombie on a number of key attributes, including best vision for the city and best transit plan.

But, just two weeks later, McCallion changed the entire game.

Though she had previously pledged to stay neutral, McCallion urged voters to rally behind Crombie during a speech at a Chinese restaurant, The Globe and Mail reports.

A 53-second clip of McCallion's speech was posted prominently to Crombie's campaign website.

"I say to you, look at the programs — you have to — of both candidates, the chief candidates that are running. And I have every confidence that when you review it, that you will vote for Bonnie Crombie," McCallion said.

"I think you know me well and I say it the way it is. Not politically. I’m saying it because of my experience working with her."

The first Forum poll released a week after the endorsement showed Crombie had jumped to a 25 percentage point lead.

A second poll released two days before the election showed Crombie ahead by 18 points.

While it's always debatable how much impact an endorsement has on a race, the Crombie campaign wasted no time capitalizing on McCallion's support.

They asked supporters to sign a "thank you Hazel" poster.

They had McCallion join them at a big rally.

And, on election day, they featured McCallion prominently in their efforts to get out the vote.

While all of this may make for smart politics, some may find it strange considering what Crombie said shortly after announcing her entry into the race in March. When a journalist asked her if she would want McCallion's support, Crombie said she thought the mayor should "be as independent as possible."

"I don’t think it would be appropriate for the mayor to back any one candidate," Crombie said.

During her victory speech Monday night, Crombie praised McCallion, who was in attendance. She also vowed to build on McCallion's legacy.

"Hazel MaCallion has taken our city from farm fields and fruit trees to the sixth largest city in Canada and an economic powerhouse in North America," she told supporters, according to The Toronto Star.

McCallion had won the last 12 municipal elections, usually with little to no campaigning.

A conflict of interest case involving a development company owned by her son could have seen her ousted from office, but a judge found last year that the conflict was minor and did not warrant such a drastic step.

But clearly, McCallion's influence still looms large in Mississauga.


Photo gallery Toronto Election Night Photos See Gallery

Like Us On Facebook

With files from The Canadian Press