Residents of The Kensington on Shelbourne Street surround Hazel McCallion during her visit on March 1. In the back row

Residents of The Kensington on Shelbourne Street surround Hazel McCallion during her visit on March 1. In the back row

Mayor Hazel visited Saanich to talk, listen to residents

One of Canada’s longest serving mayors, 96-year-old Hazel McCallion, visited Saanich as part of her Revera tours

The visit of 96-year-old Hazel McCallion to Saanich was well-received by a group of tenants during a round table discussion at The Kensington on Shelbourne Street on Wednesday.

Well known in Canada as one of the longest-serving municipal mayors in our country’s history, McCallion served 12 consecutive terms as mayor of Mississauga for 36 years from 1978 to 2014.

Only three years removed from her mayorship, McCallion uses the same skill set that brought her success in municipal hall by running town hall, or roundtable sessions with tenants for Revera, which owns and operates about 500 retirement living residences in North America.

“Revera’s head office is based in Mississauga, where I still am, so it is [a good fit],” said McCallion during her brief stop on Wednesday.

Revera appointed McCallion as the Chief Elder Officer, and while the CEO title may sound tongue and cheek, it also honours the robust nonagenarian in two ways.

As former mayor, she knows how to listen, and she’s an example of longevity and seniors health. McCallion generally conducts private roundtable discussions without staff (except for one who takes the minutes).

Margaret McColl has been at the Kensington for 10 years. She lived in Montreal and used to hear about McCallion’s mayorship prior to moving here.

“We were delighted to hear Hazel was coming because we felt like we were going to talk to the top brass, any requests and suggestions we make will be acted on.”

Revera isn’t McCallion’s only role. She’s still a director and consultant for multiple boards in Ontario including hospital and hockey associations (she was part of a  pioneer era for pro women’s hockey). She’s also a special advisor to the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, the Chancellor of Sheridan College.

“I’ve toured 38 homes and at every one I meet the tenants, and I want to know their experience,” McCallion said. “There’s no excuse not to tell me.”

That said, McCallion isn’t shy to deliver the reality of a corporate situation.

“As mayor, I would say to my residents, ‘If you don’t phone and tell me something’s not going right, how can I fix it?’” she said. “But I also tell [Revera tenants] that suggestions have to be [realistic]. If a request is to fix something at every residence, I tell them, ‘You have to realize that’s going to cost too much.’”

Because she’s 96, a recipient of the Order of Canada, and holds other accolades, McCallion “gets away with” saying things that staff and administration couldn’t because “she walks the talk,” says Revera’s regional director in B.C. Graham Freeman.

“She’s the perfect example of [a senior] keeping busy and staying involved,” McColl said.