'We deserve better': Olivia Chow joins Toronto mayoral race
Sonja Puzic , CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, March 13, 2014 7:47AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 2:32PM EDT
Saying that Mayor Rob Ford is both “failing at his job” and a bad role model, former NDP MP Olivia Chow officially kicked off her mayoral campaign in Toronto Thursday.
“The current mayor’s disappointing leadership has let us down over and over again,” Chow told a packed church in Toronto’s St. James Town neighbourhood, where her family first settled when they immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong.
“The current mayor is failing at his job…And he is no role model for my granddaughters,” she said.
“We deserve better. It’s time for change.”
Chow is the latest high-profile candidate to challenge embattled Mayor Rob Ford, who has admitted to using crack cocaine “in one of my drunken stupors” and become the butt of jokes on American late-night TV shows.
So far, more than 35 people have registered to run for mayor in the Oct. 27 election. They include former Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader John Tory, former Toronto Transit Commission chair Karen Stintz and former city councillors David Soknacki and Norm Gardner.
Chow, the widow of popular federal NDP leader Jack Layton, resigned her seat in Parliament on Wednesday. In her announcement Thursday, Chow said she will donate her MP’s pension to charity if she becomes the next mayor.
Looking forward, she also said her campaign will focus on Toronto families, children, jobs and transit issues, through the lens of her family’s experience as immigrants to Toronto in the 1970s.
Chow said her mother, who was a teacher in Hong Kong, had limited job opportunities in Toronto and worked as a maid and a laundry worker.
She said her family “didn’t have much,” but benefitted from the city’s public schools, libraries, parks and affordable transit.
“My friends, that’s why I am here today,” she said to loud cheers and applause from her supporters.
“Those lessons that you need to work hard for the things you want and that you can’t spend what you haven’t earned have stayed with me my entire life.”
On her new website, Chow also promises to “mind the public purse,” although her opponents were quick to criticize her spending record on Wednesday.
"With respect to Ms. Chow, she's never met a public dollar she couldn't spend,” John Tory’s campaign said in a statement. “We welcome the contrast with John who is committed to keeping taxes low and building a more livable, affordable, functional city."
Rob Ford, who has built his political career on the promise to stop “the gravy train” at city hall, said he’s happy to put his track record of “saving taxpayers’ money and customer service against anyone, any day.”
Chow told reporters Thursday that Ford needs to be replaced not just because of the scandal surrounding him, but because of “his failed policies.”
She said the transit system is more crowded than ever and there are fewer jobs available to Toronto residents, especially young people.
Although she expressed support for a light rail system in Scarborough and said a downtown relief line will eventually have to be built, Chow didn’t offer details of her platform. She said she will release a comprehensive transit policy at a later date.
Chow later told CTV News Channel that she has “the experience and the track record to make things happen,” which include helping achieve balanced budgets as a Toronto city councillor in the 1990s.
“It’s important to bring the city together. It’s not just one neighbourhood versus another neighbourhood. That’s divisive,” she said. “That’s the old style of doing politics and that’s not who I am.”
Chow’s stepson, Toronto Coun. Mike Layton, said she delivered a message that “Toronto is dying to hear.”
Layton told CP24 that Chow worked hard “with all sides” as a city councillor and a member of the budget committee. He said she has also worked on national transit strategies as an MP.