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Olivia Chow Launches Campaign in Packed Church

Without outlining specific policies, Chow tells her supporters that it's time for a new mayor, and she's up for the job.

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Campaign launches are a time to preach to the converted. You gather your core supporters in a room and energize them—make them feel as if they’re going to make the city better, one knocked door at a time. And so it was that Olivia Chow kicked off her campaign in an overflowing St. James Town church on Thursday morning, with eager supporters sporting Olivia for Mayor buttons and greeting other familiar faces. There were NDP activists, union members, and a smattering of Liberals, too. When Chow entered the church, a roar of applause filled the room, and the crowd parted to allow her a clear path to the podium.

After three years of Rob Ford and 18 months of whispers about whether Chow would run, the audience was ready to hang on to every word. They cheered in all the right places, such as when she said she was running for mayor, or that people need jobs, or better transit—or that the city needs to consider and leave a better future for its children. They cheered for all these lines, because they have at least one thing in common with the members of Ford Nation: when it comes to their candidate, they’re true believers.

There was the red meat for the crowd, with Chow saying that the mayor is no role model and that Toronto needs a new mayor now. The crowd nodded earnestly as Chow spoke, taking in every word. For three years, there had been more than enough Ford moments—the crack scandal, the conflict-of-interest fiasco, and marathon meetings during which people pleaded for their City services. There was a sense these supporters were ready for someone who understood and represented them to speak on their behalf.

As Chow came to the rising notes at the end of the speech, her voice rose as well. She spoke about hope and change and optimism and all of those lofty ideals you aim for when you’re trying to lead a city out of a civic quagmire, and her supporters appeared ready to take the leap with her.

It was a good launch for the former Trinity-Spadina MP. Chow, who has a reputation among politicos for being a poor speaker, delivered a strong speech from the podium, and everything went according to the script. To be sure, that script was filled with platitudes: she covered more policy issues—such as her support for the Scarborough LRT plan—during Newstalk 1010 and 680 News appearances in the morning than she did during the launch.

In a media availability after her speech, Chow was less in control. She appeared frazzled by a frenzy of media questions, some important (a question on TCHC from NOW magazine) to the absurd (a question on illegal massage parlors from Sun News). With the easy part over, Chow’s camp will have to move on to a much more difficult challenge—convincing skeptical voters that she’s the right person to lead Toronto to the promised land, even if that place is only a vague notion at this time. But that’s what a campaign launch asks of the people paying attention—to have a little faith.


  • OgtheDim

    The massage parlor thing is the Sun being …well…the Sun, Selling newspapers through poking sticks at people they don’t like.

    Chow better get used to the lots of questioning from the media thing. And the pace.

    This isn’t 2006. Social media an #topoli have changed the way politics is done in this city forever.

    And the desire for change runs strong in Toronto right now.

    I wish her well personally through all this.

    • CaligulaJones

      That National Post was shopped the story too by a Liberal operative. Wonder if…nah, that would be incredibly, and deliciously, coincidental.

  • dannyR

    Regardless, I’d appreciate action from council to approach the province for legislation barring previous mayoral candidates and current mayors with a demonstrably wide scope of socially deranged behaviour from appearing on mayoral ballots anywhere in the province, and would hope other provinces would draft like legislation.

    There’s no reason or excuse why Ms Chow, or fiscally minded candidates on the other side for that matter, to compete for attention with someone who patently doesn’t belong in the office and is serving as nothing more than an obstruction.

  • Astin44

    Will be interesting to see how Chow does with Toronto’s political media these days. They’ve sharpened their teeth on the Ford years and may very well attack every perceived weak spot in the candidates. Naturally some outlets will attack more vociferously along certain political lines.

    That said, questions for her about massage parlours are incredibly low-class.

    • andrew97

      I agree, the massage parlour thing is tasteless on at least three different levels.

    • picard102

      So if Rob Ford’s brother had been caught at a massage parlour, you’d be fine with him not being asked about it?

      • OgtheDim

        Yes I would, if Rob Ford’s brother was dead.

        It makes a difference.

        • tyrannosaurus_rek

          Either way it isn’t Doug or Jack running for mayor.

      • OpportKnocks

        {insert random joke about Jack getting too much to eat at home and needing his night “off”}

        Honestly, why is this relevant to Olivia’s campaign?

      • Astin44

        What the other responders said.

  • CYW

    Looking forward to learning more about her and what she stands for. I hope she’s the real deal.

    • dannyR

      She should be running for the office against legitimate candidates. Mr. Ford has had his fun. He shouldn’t be on the ballot, and the province should see to that.

      • CYW

        I’d prefer he lost outright to being prevented from running. I want him to feel the sting of defeat!

        • dannyR

          He has the capacity and politically machinery to make other candidates’ legitimate contention for office impossible.

          He and Doug and Ford Nation proved they could throw enough ball-bearings under Blair’s feet to actually make his investigative work impossible. This is realpolitik of a Putin, Berlusconi, or Daly, and I don’t think people have really assessed the implications for a genuinely democratic election or for the rule of law.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        Blair should see to it. Arresting Ford before October would go a long away to making up for the G20 police state…

        • dannyR

          He’s left that the provincial police. This shows the disturbing power of the Fords: to destroy the very functions of government that serve as checks and balances against contagions that only really show themselves after they have breached the walls of the election process.

          Blair is like a white-cell body that disables bacteria, but the Ford disease is one of those that actively seek and destroy the body’s defenses.

        • NoCon

          Ford said Blair was far too lenient at the G20 and voted against a civilian inquiry. Ford must go and he will go one way or another.

      • OgtheDim


        Like it or not, if we start down the route of officially outlawing candidates based on anything other then a conviction, our society will be poorer for it.

        That Ford is clueless as to public perception is his problem, not ours.

        If he chooses to remain in the vote, the best way is to beat him where he can not complain and where he can not recover from a loss – the ballot box.

        • dsmithhfx

          I think there should be a vote of no confidence by council mechanism for removing a sitting, scofflaw mayor (or one who has lost the support of council).

        • Notcleverguy

          1999 Ford was convicted of drunk driving. He should not be on the ballot.

        • vampchick21

          So that means no impaling then…..sigh.

        • Lee Zamparo

          The price we pay for open elections is Rob Ford on the ballot. The price we pay for uneven investment in infrastructure and public spaces in the inner suburbs, compounded due to Mike Harris’ stupid machinations is Rob Ford carrying the ballot.

      • bobloblawbloblawblah

        Or the Police. Barring that, there is still the Impaling Stick.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    I’m really looking forward to the first red/yellow/blue dissection Torontoist will do of Chow’s first campaign speech.

  • NoCon

    The obscene and dying sun ‘news’ cell perverts everything, they’re simply desperate to take the spotlight off of the fact their patriarch is a separatist and that sun media profits will continue to go into his pockets and by extension his anti-Canadian agenda. Boycott sun news ! Go Canada Go !

    • OgtheDim

      I don’t think the local Sun guys and gals really give a toss about Quebec politics.

      Its all about bashing the bad guys.

      • CaligulaJones

        Don’t forget, two of those “Sun guys and gals” are Warren Kinsella and the next future ex-Mrs. Kinsella.

  • OgtheDim


  • michaelgreason

    The article gently mocks the “usual suspects” (lefty division) and compares them to Ford Nation. This is not entirely true. Like Ford Nation they genuinely believe in their hero, but unlike Ford Nation they genuinely believe that they can make a better world for everyone rather than a better world, as per FN, for me, me, me, me, me, me, me and if someone else suffers as a result, well they are not me. There is room for debate about whether the policies of left wing politicians really will bring a better world (for the most part my belief is that they will.) but there is no room to doubt that the “usual suspects” are not there to benefit in any way from their commitment and that they really do altruisticly believe that they are working for a better world. And yes, for those who seek bias, I too am a usual suspect and had I been there I would have recognised a few though I am not an “insider” with this group.

  • wklis

    Did she hand out fridge magnets? How can we decide without fridge magnets?


  • mytwocentsworth

    Well, one of those ‘rags’ didn’t do too badly in exposing the hidden, dark life secrets of Rob Ford, did they. If not for the Star, Ford Nation wouldn’t know the full extent of his crassness, the mayor of Toronto, before they
    do/do not vote for him again.

  • vampchick21

    Wow, that’s a lot of hate for all the newspapers. Did they collectively run over your puppy?

  • vampchick21

    And whom would that be then dear?

    • Notcleverguy

      All of them, every person who has ever used or benefited from a city service has never paid one red cent in property taxes.

      Where is the sarcasm font?

  • Lee Zamparo

    double meh.

  • christinaarcher

    I hope she gets elected. I’ll volunteer.

  • vampchick21

    So sorry all the newspapers collaborated to kill all your pets. Bet that made you a bitter person.