By: Surjit Singh Flora
Former Mayor Susan Fennell normally questioned that on the social media, or while she’s attending any event, “Are you running for Mayor in 2018?” her answer is “No! she said I will not be on the Ballot for Mayor in 2018”.
While talking to her on her 65th Birthday on Tuesday, May22nd, she said I proud to be the longest and first woman serving Mayor of the City of Brampton, Susan was often referred to as the People’s Mayor, attending not only to her Council and administrative responsibilities and economic development responsibilities but also tirelessly supporting countless people, organizations, seniors, community groups, faith groups, sports and arts groups. Her positive energy was always put to work boosting Brampton.
Susan was first elected to Council in 1988 serving one term as a City Councillor, and three as a Regional Councillor. In 2000, Susan ran for and was elected Mayor, serving four terms as the City’s Mayor and Chief Magistrate. Under Susan’s leadership, Brampton became debt free in 2002, adopted Master Plans for Finance, Strategic Planning, and Community Services. While Mayor, Susan delivered the first new recreation facilities in over a decade, including The Brampton Soccer Centre, Cassie Campbell Community Centre, Gore Meadows Community Centre, Brampton Seniors Flowercity Centre, and insisted on the upgrade and renovation of many existing Recreations Centres including Ken Giles Gymnastic Centre, Chris Gibson Recreation Centre and a completely rebuilt Century gardens, all delivered without debt.
Susan also presided over the modernization of Brampton’s premier Family space, Chinguacousy Park. The modernization included new lush Gardens, new and modernized facilities such as the ski chalet, boathouse, and curling club, tennis facility, football stadium, beach volleyball field and skateboard facility Susan is most proud of her well-earned reputation of being“Brampton’s Transit Mayor”. Her vision for a dramatically expanded public transit system became a reality after persistent lobbying at both the federal and provincial levels of government was finally rewarded with matching grants of $200 Million (100 each from the federal and provincial governments – despite there being no formal program at the time to fund transit). With this unprecedented funding, Brampton launched an expanded transit system and its’ now famous ZUM Brampton Rapid Transit lines, resulting in the highest year over year increases in transit usage in Ontario to this day (at approximately 12% per year).
Susan’s great respect for the Arts and Cultural in Brampton resulted in her leading Council to approve and build a Performing Arts Centre, known as the Rose Theatre, in downtown Brampton. The Rose is now regarded as one of the finest stages in the Province. The final major project approved, an expansion to the City Hall known as The West Tower, was designed by renowned firm Zeidler Partners. Susan focussed on attracting jobs, bringing many major employers to Brampton, Air Canada Global Operations Centre, Canon Canada, and Medtronic to name a few. Through an expanded public garden program, Susan saw Brampton’s Flower Town heritage restored and made a significant commitment to its ongoing maintenance through participation in the international Communities in Bloom program, resulting in Brampton being recognized as an International Champion.
Brampton was also recognized as an International Safe community, by the World Health Organization in 2007 and again in 2012. Only 10 cities in North America achieve this accreditation. During Susan’s administration, Brampton was also recognized as a’s an Employer of Choice. Under Susan’s leadership, Brampton saw an unprecedented 25+ properties designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, a 100% increase over the previous 20 years. In fact, early in Susan’s first term as Mayor, she was instrumental in stopping the sale and demolition of the Chisholm Estate, Alderlea, Brampton’s most significant historic residential building.
Susan lead Council to purchase Alderlea and it was fully restored. The Estate is now a premier meeting and event facility in historic Downtown Brampton. Constantly advocating for Federal and Provincial funding to support Brampton’s needs, Susan was elected to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and served on its Executive, Chaired the Ontario Caucus and served on the Big City Mayors Caucus of Canada and the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario.
Susan’s remarkable 8-term political career came to an abrupt end in 2014 at the hands of political opponents, and as a result of a prolonged “smear campaign” marked by false accusations, innuendo, baseless accusations of wrongdoing, and relentless bullying by a faction of her council that continued into the next term of Council. Despite all accusations being formally investigated, proven false and baseless, and dismissed, Susan’s bid for office in 2014 was unsuccessful.
In May 2018, under pressure from members of the Brampton Community to run again, Susan announced her name would not be on the Ballot for Mayor. Susan served two terms as a Governor of Sheridan College and was a major supporter of Sheridan College transition to a University in Brampton.
Susan served on the Brampton Hydro One Board and was Vice Chair of Peel Police Service’s Board. After the Nagano Olympic games, Susan founded the Brampton Thunder women’s hockey team in 1998 and a year later, founded the National Women’s Hockey League and served as it’s first Commissioner through to 2006. Susan has been recognized for her dedication and involvement in Brampton with the Canada 125 Medal, and both the Queen Elizabeth II Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals, as well as being honored by Scouts Canada with the Lord Baden Powell Medal. The Rotary Club made Susan a Paul Harris Fellow, and Susan was awarded the Zonta Club Woman of Achievement in the year 2000. Susan has been inducted into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame for her dedication to Women’s Hockey development at the Olympic Senior level.
Recently Susan has become a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 15, and has been invited to become a member of the Brampton Business and Professional Women’s Club. Susan continues to be a much sought-after public speaker. While still in office, her most memorable speaking occasions were representing Canada at a special Government Communication study at Harvard University and as Guest Speaker at the Microsoft Annual Convention in Atlanta. Susan is an Honours Graduate from the University of Toronto, having earned an Honours Bachelor of Science Degree with a Specialist Designation in Environmental Science. Following University, Susan accepted a position in the private sector at Toledo Scale, where she worked until she was drawn to public service and elected to Council in 1988.
Susan and her husband John celebrated 40 years married in 2017. They have raised two sons, Michael and Joseph.