Mississauga mayor-elect Carolyn Parrish arrives with guns ablazing

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A wild card has been thrown into the political deck in the GTA that will change the game of politics as the current players know it. 

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The game just got a whole lot more interesting with the election of Carolyn Parrish as Mississauga’s new mayor. 

“As you know, I can be quite charming and quite forceful,” she teased in her victory speech. “We are going to use charm and force and we are going to take over the world.”

She’s not kidding. Parrish has waited a long time to get this job — 35 years to be precise.

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Don’t look now, but Mississauga has a fighter as mayor and no one understands that more than Premier Doug Ford, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown. 

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They know what this means. There’s a new political heavyweight on the stage — one who will hold no prisoners or hold back on how she feels about anything and everything that affects Mississauga. 

“I just want to tell you a very important thing,” she said. “Three mayors (in Peel Region) actually get along and we will be formidable when we go to Queen’s Park or Ottawa (when) we need our fair share.”

Mayor-elect Parrish may have run an understated campaign to protect her front-runner status. It worked. Barely. 

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While it was a significant win with her receiving 43,494 votes, she won with far less support than what the early indicators showed. This was partly because of the “anybody but Parrish” movement behind the scenes and partly because she was running against several very good candidates. Councillors Alvin Tedjo (35,005 votes), Dipika Damerla (27,119) and Stephen Dasko (22,408) were all so good in this campaign that they split all of the anti-Parrish sentiment out there and ended up handing the veteran politician the win. 

“If one of them had thrown their support behind another, who knows what would have happened here?” said Mississauga realtor Steve Jay. “That said, the strong showing of those three sets up one of them to perhaps challenge Parrish in the council meetings and in the next election.” 

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If just one of them had been the main opponent, Parrish may have ended up in retirement. Instead, she’s the new sheriff in town who is afraid of nobody. 

One thing is for sure: If people thought her being quiet during the byelection campaign to replace Bonnie Crombie was the new Parrish, they will find out very soon that she not only has plenty to say, but she will say it loudly. 

Ford, Trudeau and Chow might be wise to listen because Parrish is not one to be bullied or pushed around. She also insists she is no Liberal. 



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“People forget I sat for the last two years in Ottawa as an Independent MP,” she told me recently.  

The reason she ended up out of caucus is because of that independent streak to say what was on her mind and not care who it offended. She took a lot of heat for her comments about former U.S. president George W. Bush and calling the war in Iraq a “coalition of idiots.” 

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It sure was not appreciated at the time, but in the decades that have followed there are many more people who agree with her that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did not work so well and perhaps she was on the right side of it after all. 

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Parrish also got into trouble with her fellow Liberals for calling prime minister Paul Martin “weak,” but in the end Stephen Harper defeated her boss in an election where many people agreed with her. Perhaps the truth is the 77-year-old has always been more suited toward municipal politics instead of the party kind. She deserves a chance to show what she can do and Mississauga residents have given her that chance. 

Parrish thinks for herself and has indicated her plan is to speak robustly for her community. 

“This is a good news story for Mississauga because no one knows the ins and outs of the city better than Carolyn Parrish,” said Jay, who has been selling houses in Mississauga for 30 years. “And no one knows how to get her point across better in a meeting than her, either.” 

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This means if Ford decides to take over the cost of maintaining the Gardiner Expressway, Parrish will be there to say, “What can you do for Mississauga?” If the federal government is going to help pay for World Cup soccer in Toronto, Parrish will be there to talk about building a new soccer stadium in Mississauga. 

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If there is consideration to extend transit from Toronto farther into York Region, Parrish will be on the phone trying make sure Mississauga is not neglected. This promises to be good for journalists because it won’t be boring. Her election may also create a lot of action for the citizens she represents.  

Parrish, whose Ward 5 seat was won by Natalie Hart in the other Mississauga byelection, may end up having the cache of characters like Mel Lastman, Rob Ford and, of course, her old nemesis — the late, iconic 36-year Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion. 

“A lot of people think we were enemies, but it’s not true,” Parrish told me. “We had lunch just about every week.” 

McCallion went to war for her city and Parrish made it very clear Monday night she plans to follow in those large footsteps.   

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