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McCallion in conflict on land deal, lawyer charges Add to ...

Throughout an inquiry into a failed land deal in downtown Mississauga, the city's lawyer relentlessly grilled Mayor Hazel McCallion, her son Peter and their associates, questioning their roles in the project, their recollections of events and the intersections between the personal and political lives of Canada's longest-serving big-city mayor.

And on Monday, Clifford Lax kicked off closing submissions to the probe with searing indictments of mother and son.

A veteran Bay Street barrister hired to lead the municipality's legal team, Mr. Lax argued that the mayor's intervention was the only thing that persuaded pension fund OMERS, which owned the land, to make a deal with her son's company, World Class Developments.

He further rejected Mr. McCallion's repeated assertion that he believed himself to be simply a real-estate agent hoping to make a commission off the transaction. Instead, Mr. Lax said, the mayor's son knew all along he was a principal of the company and tried to obscure his role, knowing it would raise questions of impropriety that could cause OMERS to back out of the deal.

But the lawyer saved his strongest criticism for the mayor.

"Whatever reasons she gave for supporting the WCD transaction, her actions were unbecoming of an elected politician," Mr. Lax said. "Her conduct was such that no reasonable observer could have concluded that her obligations to the office she occupied were not conflicted by her role as a spokesperson for WCD."

Outside the inquiry, the mayor's lawyers rejected any suggestion the 89-year-old had acted improperly.

"I can only think that the city's reason for taking this position is to justify this $7-million inquiry on a business deal that didn't go through," said Elizabeth McIntyre, who maintained that since her client had followed the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which governs only conflicts of interest before city council, she had done nothing wrong.

Tracy Wynne, another lawyer for the city, asked commissioner J. Douglas Cunningham to recommend changes to the act that would broaden it to cover politicians' activities away from council as well.

The city's submission met with at least one highly receptive audience member: Carolyn Parrish, the former city councillor who pushed for the commission and was defeated last year in one of the most contentious election campaigns in years, watched the proceedings from the gallery.

"I feel like we did the right thing" in calling the inquiry, she said. "What we see here is [Ms. McCallion]needs to play by the same rules as everyone else."

The inquiry continued Monday afternoon with a submission from AIMCo, the Edmonton-based company that co-owned the land, which urged the city to find a way to avoid a similar situation in future.

"This is the kind of situation that no respectable investors want to find themselves in," said lawyer Don Jack.

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