'I don't think it will be a big party,' Hazel McCallion says of her 100th birthday with a laugh
TORONTO -- With a laugh, Hazel McCallion thinks ahead to her 100th birthday.
"I don't think it will be a big party!"
The longest serving mayor in Mississauga's history will hit the century mark on Feb. 14, but her 100th year has been a year like no other.
"It's been tough," McCallion told CTV News Toronto. "I've been through a lot since 1921, this is it – nothing like it."
The 99-year-old says she's been spending most of her time at home, admitting her backyard provided an escape over the summer months for socially distanced outdoor visits with friends and family. She worries about what will happen now that winter is here, and the toll the pandemic has taken on her community.
"The way I look at it, it's affected families, relationships, it's affected friendships, it's affected the community – and it's affected everything. It's affected business in a serious way. I really am concerned about the economic impact, as to how we're going to recover, I don't know."
McCallion left politics in 2014 after 36 years as Mississauga's mayor, and says she feels sorry for the elected officials who are trying to navigate this pandemic.
"I think the politicians have tried to do their best. What more can you expect of them? It's very difficult – they're trying to follow the medical advice, and at the same time be concerned about the economy – and that's a balancing act that's very difficult. So I have no negative comments on the politicians federally, provincially, or locally."
McCallion says she worries that governments at all levels have chosen to focus their messaging on online and electronic media, suggesting that "if I'd been mayor, you would have had a piece of literature in every mailbox telling you what to do and what not to do."
She also worries that the country is lacking a co-ordinated approach to the pandemic, with officials in different areas offering different advice.
The normally out-going McCallion says she's been making the most of her time at home. Going through some of the letters, documents, and photos that she's collected during her life in politics. She admitted, "until I retired, I never had a chance – I'd just pile the stuff up, pile it up, pile it up. Well there's a lot of piles to go through – and I've enjoyed it."
From those piles are thousands of photographs that McCallion is having made in to a photo book to celebrate her centennial. The proceeds of the book will go towards the redevelopment of the Mississauga Hospital. The city has also announced plans to rename their central library in her honour. And she hopes that a vaccine could bring some good news by the time she gets set to celebrate her 100th.
"You can become very negative about what's happened, but you also realize that there's always the bright day to look forward to."