I had the honour of sitting down with Mayor Allan Thompson a few days ago to reflect on his time in office now that he has announced he will not be seeking another term. The first question I asked him was “What was the most significant moment of your time as Mayor?” He thoughtfully reflected and then said, “The Wampum Belt, the restoration of the Wampum Belt which reaffirmed our commitment to working with our First Nations Treaty people”.
His answer completely took me by surprise, but it also defined the man. It wasn’t some photo opportunity moment for political aggrandizement that mattered most to Allan Thompson. It was the heartfelt acknowledgment of the stewardship we bear to the lands upon which we now live and conduct our business.
The restoration of the Wampum Belt, originally exchanged at the signing of the Ajentace Treaty of 1818, was more than a symbolic gesture. It was a renewal of the terms of Treaty 19, and a commitment to honour the promise of stewardship we had made to care for the lands that would eventually become most of Peel Region. The homeland of the Mississaugas of Credit First Nation (MCFN) was given in exchange for our promise to be good stewards of the land.
Thompson was the first Mayor and Caledon was the first municipality to recreate the Wampum Belt exchange on Caledon Day in 2018 with Chief Stacey Laforme of the MCFN. The exchange took place in an historic ceremony, almost two hundred years to the day that the original Treaty 19 had been signed. It was a genuine act of reconciliation. When Thompson reads the Land Acknowledgment at Council meetings, it comes from the heart.
It also explains his answer when I asked him why he had wanted to be Mayor in the first place. When asked why he ran for Mayor of Caledon, he did not hesitate in his reply, “I wanted to make it a better place, make a positive difference.”
“When I went knocking on doors during that first campaign, I kept hearing the same request, especially from seniors. They all wanted high speed Internet. That’s why we worked so hard with the provincial and federal governments to get the funding to bring Broadband to everyone in Caledon by 2025.” Although some cautioned against it, Allan pushed hard to get the local Broadband Tax portion included on citizens’ tax bills. “ I wanted it to be as transparent as possible that the Town was committed to the funding.” His hope is that he can have the last federal signature on the final funding before he leaves office. Promise kept.
The Town planned the community smart development in Mayfield West, and the revitalization of Bolton, including the much needed traffic calming at the Four Corners and the recent passing of all-day parking. He felt the completion of Caledon’s Official Plan based on the Places to Grow Act of 2005 was one of the most important accomplishments of his final term. This includes the ongoing planning of an innovative forward looking GTA West Corridor for sustainable mobility. “We must be the architects of our own future,” he said.
In the ongoing work dealing with burgeoning growth and public frustration with ever changing health guidelines and restrictions during a global pandemic, Thompson had nothing but praise for the Town staff. “They are all so very good at what they do. I felt our working relationship was healthy and respectful.” He noted the toll that social media attacks from a frustrated public put on the Town staff. “There were a lot of personal and angry comments directed to our staff. It’s OK to criticize the role, but not the person.
“In his role as Mayor, Thompson built a positive relationship with Regional and Provincial colleagues. Allan Thompson is not a ‘Look at me, look at me!’ kind of person. No grandstanding. He and his team just quietly got the job done. He said that when he wears the Chain of Office as Mayor, it is a humbling reminder that he is representing and speaking for the Town, not as an individual.
He felt that getting the job done is going to be challenging for the next Council considering Caledon’s reduced representation at Peel Region, development pressures coming from Brampton and MIssissauga, and the change of rules for the selection of the Region of Peel Chair and new Vice-Chair.“ Caledon must have autonomy for its own planning.”
When I asked him what comes next he got a big smile on his face and answered “More time with my grandchildren and my family. They are over the moon that I am coming home.”
Allan Thompson was well known for walking into a Council of Mayors meeting or an international conference with a big smile on his face, sharing sincere admiration for the Town of Caledon, and wearing his trademark cowboy boots. He was a country boy and proud of it. Whoever becomes the next Mayor of Caledon is going to have big boots to fill.
Top Five Accomplishments of Mayor Allan Thompson as determined by his staff:
1. Wampum Belt Commitment with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation – Indigenous Engagement