The Mississauga man who has brought a conflict of interest accusation against Hazel McCallion may have to take the stand to defend his own integrity.
Ms. McCallion, Mississauga’s mayor of 34 years, is accused of being in conflict of interest when she voted on amendments to a by-law in Peel regional council which could have benefit her son’s company. If found guilty, she could be removed from office.
On Monday morning at the Brampton courthouse, lawyers for Ms. McCallion called applicant Elias Hazineh’s credibility into question and called for him to testify in the case in an 11th-hour motion. Mr. Hazineh is the resident who filed an application with the Superior Court of Ontario alleging Ms. McCallion’s conflict.
At issue is when Mr. Hazineh learned about the votes Ms. McCallion cast in Peel regional council on amendments to a development by-law that introduced higher development fees throughout the region. The amendments allowed for a grandfathering period so developers with applications already in the pipeline wouldn’t have to pay the higher fees.
In his 2012 affidavit, Mr. Hazineh said he first learned about Ms. McCallion’s actions in council through a Mississauga News article published in October, 2011. He filed his charge in November, 2011.
But in a cross-examination earlier this year, he said he may have read an article published in the National Post in 2010 that raised the issue. Ms. McCallion’s defense team has said if Mr. Hazineh learned of the alleged conflict of interest in 2010, he should have filed his charge within six weeks, as per the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
In court, Judge John Sproat asked whether it was reasonable that Mr. Hazineh would not have come to know about the mayor’s alleged conflict until 2011, considering Ms. McCallion received so much press for a related conflict of interest allegation in Mississauga city council.
“The knowledge of the conflict became quite notorious – everybody knew about it,” said Judge Sproat. He will likely make a decision on Tuesday on whether Mr. Hazineh will be called to the witness stand.
Mr. Hazineh’s lawyer, Thomas Richardson, spent much of Monday outlining the reasons why Ms. McCallion was allegedly in conflict of interest.
He mentioned how “growth must pay for itself” has been a common refrain from McCallion throughout her decades as mayor. “She was almost belligerent in her defense of this,” Mr. Richardson said. For that reason, it was unusual she would vote the way she did in 2007 to allow for the grandfathering period for developers so a group of them could pay lower development fees. He argued it was a major contradiction to the way she had previously governed and an indication that she broke from her philosophy because it was in financial interest of her son.
Even before a formal charge of conflict of interest was brought against her, Ms. McCallion defended her votes on the by-law amendment by saying it was one of “general application” – one that would benefit all residents.
But Mr. Richardson said that while the by-law itself was one of general application, the benefits of establishing that transition period would only be enjoyed by a small minority of developers, one of whom employed the mayor’s son, Peter.
“Even those ratepayers who are ‘developing’ their homes … do not pay a development charge,” he said. Later, he added, “[Peter McCallion’s] interests and WCD’s interests are in paying as little development charge as possible.”
After Mr. Richardson has laid out his case, Freya Kristjanson, Ms. McCallion’s lawyer, will respond. In court Monday, she said she will argue that Mr. Hazineh is “a straw man” – put up to bringing Ms. McCallion to court by former Mississauga city councillor Carolyn Parrish, a rival of the mayor who has a history of working with Mr. Hazineh.
Mr. Hazineh said he’s prepared to testify if the judge calls for it, but said the move to introduce the last-minute motion was an act of desperation from Ms. McCallion’s team. “They’re on life support. They’re desperately trying to save the mayor’s career. And they are latching onto straw – to use their own phrase,” he said.