Mayor-elect Carolyn Parrish has already flashed the ‘charm and force’ that will define Mississauga’s new leadership
Supplied/Carolyn Parrish

Mayor-elect Carolyn Parrish has already flashed the ‘charm and force’ that will define Mississauga’s new leadership

“As you all know, I can be quite charming, and you also know I can be quite forceful. We’re going to mix charm and force, and we’re going to take over the world!”

For those unfamiliar with Carolyn Parrish’s style, when she set aside her scripted victory speech at the Mississauga Convention Centre Monday evening and spoke off the cuff, the bold politician—often misunderstood—signalled what Mississauga, Peel Region, the GTA and the rest of Ontario can expect from the new leader of the country’s seventh largest city. 

“Your voices have been heard and together we will build a brighter, more inclusive future for our city. We ran a very positive campaign, honest and truly multicultural, campaign,” Parrish told the euphoric crowd. “Every different ethnic group in our city was on my campaign.”

Her work with those groups, advocating for a wide range of causes since she was first elected to public office, as a school board trustee in the ‘80s, was lost on a new generation of candidates and media, unfamiliar with her history since leaving a teaching career to pursue political life.

Attacks against her over recent weeks, after early polls showed Parrish had a comfortable lead, tried to paint her as an out-of-touch career politician with bigoted views. 

Her track record proves the opposite. 

Carolyn Parrish has served in public office across five decades. 

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


After becoming chair of the Peel Board of Education (which was later named the Peel District School Board), she presided over a group of trustees feverishly opposed to the Sikh community, whose members were embroiled in a fight over the board’s discriminatory decision to ignore Canadian Charter rights that protected students who wished to wear their articles of religious faith, such as the Kirpan. 

Parrish, the daughter of Polish immigrants (born Karolina Janoszewska), knew what discrimination looked and felt like. She initially did not take sides. She suggested that accusations of overt racism by some Sikh community members were misguided and that the banning of the Kirpan demonstrated “fear and a lack of understanding”, not racism.

Her calm hand and eventual advocacy on behalf of Sikh students helped a notoriously intolerant board open up to the demographic and cultural shifts rapidly transforming Peel. But her determination came with a cost, as the rest of the trustees voted her out as chair shortly after, due to her support for a growing segment of the school community.     

“Throughout this campaign I have emphasized the importance of transparency and community engagement,” Parrish said Monday, surrounded by a crowd that reflected the demographics of her city, where almost two-thirds of residents identify as a visible minority. Sikh men in turbans hugged their new mayor and rubbed shoulders with young supporters, volunteers from Mississauga’s growing Muslim communities, Chinese-Canadians and those across the rest of the city’s wide cultural spectrum gathered to hear from Parrish. “As your mayor I pledge to maintain an open and honest dialogue with all residents. We will create more opportunities for public participation and ensure every voice is heard in our decision-making process, particularly at budget time.”

Opponents, in a desperate ploy to tear down the frontrunner mid-campaign, suggested Parrish is anti refugee. 

She has travelled to the Middle-East almost half-a-dozen times. Parrish was one of the first western politicians to oppose the U.S.-led war in Iraq and has advocated for Palestinian statehood and humanitarian protection throughout her time in politics since becoming a Mississauga MP in 1993. While on city council she has led fundraising initiatives that benefited refugee and other immigrant communities, she spearheaded efforts to secure money for a youth hub in Malton, where 90 percent of young residents are from immigrant families. 

In 2015, Parrish and her predecessor Bonnie Crombie stood by the Muslim community in Meadowvale, when a proposal for a new Mosque there was met by an ugly Islamophobic campaign led by a notorious local racist.

Years earlier, inside City Hall, she took on the wildly popular Hazel McCallion, the Queen of Mississauga, who reigned as mayor for 36 years. The culture of local government had become corrupted by insider politics as senior staff deferred to McCallion’s authoritarian demands. It did not sit well with Parrish, who served as a councillor following her years on Parliament Hill.

When the fearless local representative found out about a $1.6 billion downtown hotel and convention centre development scheme that McCallion’s son, Peter, was quietly involved with, Parrish gathered up a slim majority of fellow council members and launched a judicial inquiry that forever tainted McCallion, who secretly pushed the deal behind the scenes, called out her son, and put senior staff on notice—there was a new deputy in town. 

Many of the staffers who enabled McCallion (ignoring the normal development application process to get the questionable deal done) were no longer with the City, procurement rules were tightened, professional planning processes with accountability to taxpayers were introduced and good governance protections under the Municipal Act were implemented. 

But, once again, Parrish’s refusal to back down, cost her. McCallion handpicked a candidate who ran against the incumbent councillor that had dared to challenge Hurricane Hazel and aggressively campaigned for him. Parrish lost her seat in 2010. It was the latest setback.

But her political skill—evidenced during the recent mayoral campaign when Parrish’s former foe, Peter McCallion, dropped out of the race and endorsed her—would once again serve her well.

She was victorious in 2014 and began working on a series of priorities for the Malton community, including a refurbished community centre, $1 transit fares for seniors, her critical annual Milk Fund drive and a number of affordable housing initiatives that saw the ward 5 councillor take the crisis into her own hands to get projects completed piecemeal, working with builders herself, including in the non-profit sector, outside the bureaucratic inertia of City Hall and Peel Region.  


The Malton sign Carolyn Parrish, as the area councillor, secured funds for.

(Carolyn Parrish/X) 


On Monday, Parrish said securing much more funding to address the exploding social services needs in the city, as residents struggle with a crippling storm of conditions, will be her first priority. She plans to sit down with Premier Doug Ford immediately to discuss fair share funding for Mississauga, whose rapid population growth over the last few decades has far outpaced funding from Queen’s Park and Ottawa.

It was welcome news to those on the frontlines.

“Congratulations to our next mayor!” Meghan Nicholls, CEO of Food Banks Mississauga, wrote in a note to The Pointer Tuesday. “Mississauga is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity and we will work with Mayor-Elect Parrish and the City of Mississauga to further support our neighbours in need and advocate for policies to alleviate poverty. Mayor-Elect Parrish has built a strong relationship with food security organizations in Mississauga through the years, running her Milk Fund event to provide grants to small food pantries and programs and getting involved with our campaigns, and we look forward to continuing to build on this relationship in her new role as mayor.” 

Parrish said the mayors of Peel’s three lower-tier municipalities “will be formidable” when they go to Queen’s Park and Ottawa to demand fair share funding for the region. A recent report from Peel’s Metamorphosis Network revealed a $868 million annual shortfall in community service funding from the Province. That crippling gap — which affects municipal services such as housing, childcare, educational programs and seniors care, as well as non-profit community services including mental health support and youth programs — translates to an annual shortfall of $578 for every person in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon, compared to the rest of Ontario.  

Parrish has throughout the campaign pointed to her experience working across the political aisle and with groups on opposite sides of issues. She pledged to establish a strong relationship and work with upper levels of government to secure necessary funding for Mississauga. 

In a statement to The Pointer, Parrish said her “absolute priority” as mayor is the housing file, stressing that Mississauga is “falling further and further behind our targets and it has to stop.” She will put together an advisory panel of the city’s “best developers and builders together” to “find out what we can do to improve and speed up our approval methods.” 

In the first few months in office she will interview the owners of vacant properties currently zoned for office use along Mississauga’s Hurontario LRT corridor to discuss converting properties to “mixed use” zoning with accommodations for housing and commercial needs.

Opening up City Hall to key stakeholders, with regular consultations and collaboration involving the “best” developers, others at the heart of issues and upper levels of government, will be a significant change Parrish plans to introduce to Mississauga’s local government. 

Parrish will launch a monthly Mayor’s Panel to work with developers whose applications have moved too slowly. She will also implement quarterly meetings to build the City budget over a 12-month period, allowing councillors to bring suggestions and priorities from constituents so they have more direct, consistent input.

She vows to keep the City and regional budget increases to the rate of inflation or lower, maintaining infrastructure in a state of good repair, while advocating for fair share of federal and provincial funding for Mississauga and Peel. 

She wants to see an East-West transit connector to the Hurontario LRT and has committed to regular consultation with MiWay employees.

Parrish wants to build three more youth hubs, after the success of the Malton one she helped launch. 


Carolyn Parrish spearheaded efforts to secure funds for the new Malton Youth Hub.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


Parrish also plans to work with Peel Regional Police to monitor the ratio of officers and increase hires when necessary. She has previously advocated for more stations in under-served areas.

As Crombie’s successor, Parrish will take over key initiatives championed by the former mayor, including transit investments and building out missing middle housing as part of the shift away from sprawling subdivisions. 

Parrish put together a housing platform emphasizing the need to streamline municipal approval processes, lowering development fees, promoting mixed-use developments, and ensuring the city meets housing targets to secure greater provincial and federal support. She has previously spoken out against the PC government’s 413 Highway plan, which critics say will lock in more sprawl.

Instead, Parrish said connecting Mississauga to surrounding municipalities and the rest of the GTA will require a joint effort by mayors to integrate transit planning. She said connecting Mississauga to Toronto’s subway system is something that is long overdue.  

Responding to questions Monday, after her victory, she was asked about working with the three councillors who ran against her, in what turned into a negative campaign. “Nobody likes to be the lone wolf and I will for sure need all the help I can get, so I will be pulling everyone together. Everybody who was elected was elected to serve the people. They’re all going to have to just walk away from whatever happened and start working for the people.”

Parrish received 43,494 votes, according to the City’s unofficial results, roughly 31 percent of the vote. Her nearest competitor and rookie councillor, Alvin Tedjo, followed with 35,005 votes, 25 percent. Councillor Dipika Damerla was third with 27,119 votes (19 percent) and Councillor Stephen Dasko was fourth with 22,408 votes (16 percent).

According to the City of Mississauga, the unofficial voter turnout for the mayoral and Ward 5 by-election was 25.71 percent, an increase from the 2022 municipal election, when only 107,310 ballots were cast among 491,260 registered voters, 21.8 percent, the lowest turnout since the 2003 election, when only 19.99 percent of eligible voters participated. 

Stepping into the Ward 5 Council seat held by Parrish for a decade will be Natalie Hart, who won by 714 votes over her nearest opponent, Danny Singh, who previously worked for Parrish. 

Hart has been the general manager of the Malton Business Improvement Area since 2019, and campaigned on building affordable housing, tackling crime and fostering community engagement.



Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @mcpaigepeacock 

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