Olivia Chow officially launched her Toronto mayoral campaign Thursday, talking about fiscal responsibility, her struggling immigrant family and how current Mayor Rob Ford has failed in his role. David Donnelly/CBC
Olivia Chow officially launched her campaign to be Toronto’s next mayor, saying that "it's time for change" in Toronto, promising to take the city in a new direction from the "failed" leadership of incumbent Rob Ford.
"We need a new mayor for a better city and I'm here to apply for the job," Chow said.
Speaking of her humble beginnings in a struggling immigrant family, Chow told the crowd in St. James Town — the neighbourhood where she grew up — that she learned not to spend what you don’t have, to work hard for what you want and how that has shaped her view of Toronto and what the city needs to thrive.
“I’ll be talking about a plan to put children at the heart of this city. A plan to strengthen our small businesses to promote jobs and prosperity, a plan to get people moving faster now, not in 20 years from now and we will do all these things while minding the public purse – responsibly,” she said.
Chow praised the public schools, libraries and parks as especially important to those “growing up in a poor neighbourhood” like she did.
She then went on the attack against Ford.
'Current mayor failing at his job'
“In the last four years we have paid more and more and got less and less. We are paying more to take the TTC, but we’re waiting longer for buses and packed into them like sardines," Chow said, also speaking of the unemployment rate and the vulnerable younger generation.
Although Chow made no direct mention of Ford's admission that he smoked crack cocaine and bought illegal drugs while mayor, nor his videotaped booze-fuelled rants, she emphasized how disappointing he has been and how he is not someone who could ever be a role model for children.
“The current mayor’s disappointing leadership has let us down over and over again. He has failed to make the critical investments our city needs to stay competitive … the current mayor is failing at his job and he is no role model for my granddaughters,” she said.
The major candidates that have declared their intention to run for mayor have so far been right-leaning, fiscal conservatives. Chow, a notable New Democrat, has already tried to contrast comments about left-wing overspending her rivals have spoken about.
She reiterated how growing up she was unable to afford hockey skates, how her mother was a teacher in Hong Kong but worked as a maid and laundry worker upon arriving in Toronto because there were no jobs.
“Those lessons — that you need to work hard for what you want, and that you can’t spend what you haven’t earned, have stayed with me my entire life.”
On transit, an often polarizing topic in Toronto, Chow is in favour of light rail instead of a subway in Scarborough. Speaking of the past, she said the TTC used to "take you where you wanted to go, quickly, efficiently and affordably."
Chow said that a downtown relief line needs to be built, but when is a question of funding and timing.
No specifics were detailed, nor was there any specific mention of cancelling the Scarborough subway, but Chow said transit plans will come.
Chow resigned her seat in Parliament as NDP MP for Trinity-Spadina on Wednesday following confirmation Tuesday she would enter the mayoral race. Her campaign video was released Thursday morning and can be seen here.
Coun. Mike Layton and Sarah Layton, the children of her late husband, former NDP leader Jack Layton, were in attendance along with Sarah Layton’s children.
Chow had previously said she was "seriously considering" a run for mayor but was waiting to make a decision. She is considered one of the frontrunners vying for what is now Rob Ford’s seat in a candidate pool already filling up.
Other candidates include Ford, one-time provincial Progressive Conservative leader and failed mayoral candidate John Tory, city councillor Karen Stintz and former councillor David Soknacki.
Since Wednesday, her competition has already welcomed, debated and criticized.
Ford said Wednesday that Chow's entrance into the race was the "best news he heard all day" and that "she makes David Miller look like a conservative."
Ford has said he's not concerned about the new high-profile candidate, saying his re-election support is strong despite the string of scandals he's faced over the past 10 months.
Chow’s late husband Jack Layton was elected to Toronto city council in 1982 and had a failed mayoral bid in 1991.
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