ABOVE: At her campaign kickoff, Olivia Chow took aim at several of her fellow mayoral candidates – including the man with the top job, Mayor Rob Ford. Global’s Jackson Proskow reports.
TORONTO – Olivia Chow isn’t shy about using her roots growing up in one of Toronto’s more disadvantaged neighbourhoods to help propel her onto the highly coveted mayor’s seat.
“Like so many of us in this city, my family came here from somewhere else. In our case from Hong Kong,” Chow said as she officially launched her campaign in the city’s downtown-east community of St. James Town Thursday.
“My mom was a teacher in Hong Kong. But in Toronto she worked as a maid and a laundry worker because there were no jobs for her here.”
It’s those values of hard work that Chow says will help her keep the city’s books balanced, while at the same time keeping Canada’s largest city growing.
“Those lessons that you need to work hard for the things you want and that you can’t spend that you haven’t earned have stayed with me my entire life,” Chow said during a speech inside St. Simon-the-Apostle Church surrounded by supporters and the media.
Chow also went on the offensive, attacking current Mayor Rob Ford and his lack of leadership at city hall.
“He has failed to make the critical investments the city needs to stay competitive,” she said.
“And he is no role model for my granddaughters. We deserve better.”
But Ford fired back hours later, claiming he wasn’t “elected to be perfect” and stands by his record at city hall.
“I wasn’t elected to be perfect, I was elected to straighten out the city of Toronto and that’s exactly what I’ve done,” Ford said.
“If they want to get personal, that’s their prerogative.”
Chow became an official candidate by filing her nomination papers hours after handing in her resignation to the Commons on Wednesday.
The former NDP MP says she wants to champion a family first approach, to give small businesses a boost and to eliminate traffic gridlock in the city.
“We will do these things while minding the public purse responsibly,” Chow said.
But she wasn’t prepared to reveal her full platform just yet.
The mayoral hopeful also mentioned she’d prefer a Light Rail Transit system in Scarborough rather than a subway city council voted to support on Oct. 8.
She and David Sokacki are the only candidates to publicly back LRTs.
“Above ground service train service can get built within four years … and a billion dollars less,” Chow told reporters following her speech.
“That means not 30 years of tax increases.”
She also said she has reservations about Porter Airlines’ proposal to expand the downtown island airport and fly jets in and out of it.
The race to run the country’s largest municipality is destined to play out well beyond the city’s borders, thanks to the incumbent, the now-infamous Rob Ford.
The mayor says 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, wife of the late NDP icon Jack Layton, is a former city councillor and likely last of the big names to enter the mayor’s race, the others being Ford, Soknacki, Karen Stintz and John Tory.
Chow’s competitors were quick to attack her political history Wednesday.
In a statement to Global News, Tory spokesperson Amanda Galbraith stated that although they welcome her into the race, “she’s never met a public dollar she couldn’t spend.”
Tory’s campaign soon launched a website saying as much at valueofadollar.ca.
The mayor suggested Chow “made David Miller look conservative.”
Stintz claimed Chow worked “to raise property taxes at excessive levels, cripple many of Toronto’s social services, and accumulate hundreds of millions of dollars in new debt,” during her previous city council tenure.
Voters head to the polls on Oct. 27.
-with a file from The Canadian Press