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Tribute to Hazel McCallion

As a resident of Mississauga for the past 20 years, it probably would not surprise you to learn that I have benefited directly from the leadership, foresight and strength of Mayor Hazel McCallion. What you may not know however, is that as the CEO of Life Sciences Ontario, I have had the honor to watch “Hurricane Hazel” work as our sector’s greatest champion.

Mississauga has become known as “Pill Hill” due to its concentration of life sciences investments —investments brought to the city in large part through the work of Mayor McCallion. She very early on recognized the important socioeconomic opportunities represented by our industry: high paying jobs, research partnerships, manufacturing and life-saving technologies. She worked tirelessly to champion Mississauga as a global destination of choice for these investments.

Early in my career, I was a public servant with the then Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, and was attending the BIO International Conference in San Diego. There were political representatives from federal and provincial governments across Canada but there was only one municipal mayor — Hazel McCallion. Almost every year, she attended BIO, the largest biotech conference in North America, to promote Mississauga.

She created a culture and environment in Mississauga that values life sciences and she served as a steward and protector of that ecosystem. When our sector faced challenges with federal or provincial policymakers, Hazel would be the first to meet with us to understand the issue and the first to pick up the phone and call her counterparts to express her concerns. It did not matter if it was a Minister, Premier or Prime Minister; Hazel would be heard.

The culture that she established in Mississauga continues to this day. The City’s public service is committed to further developing life sciences in Mississauga. And our current Mayor, Bonnie Crombie, and our local MPP, Nina Tangri, are tremendous champions for the sector.

My favorite memory of Hazel is how she could always steal the show. I’ve attended so many announcements and events where she was sharing the stage with CEOs, celebrities, Ministers, Premiers and Prime Ministers and without fail, Hazel always seemed to steal the spotlight. She was the consummate politician. She fought for her constituents and was tough as nails but could always make you smile in the end.

Life Sciences in Ontario has a bright future. We now have provincial and federal life sciences strategies (Mississauga has had one for several years) and a recognition of the value our sector brings to the Canadian and Ontarian economies. Hazel knew this decades ago and fought for us. Our industry is where we are today because of our greatest champion. We’ll miss you, Hazel.  

 Jason Field, President & CEO of Life Sciences Ontario