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politics

Olivia Chow to Run for Mayor

Putting an end to months of speculation, the Trinity-Spadina MP will launch her bid on Thursday.

Photo by Tania Liu, from the Torontoist Flickr pool.

On Thursday, Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow will announce her long-awaited bid for mayor—polls indicate she’ll become an instant frontrunner and the candidate to unite the city’s left. Chow will resign her seat in Parliament on Wednesday, and will hold her first campaign event at a church in St. James Town at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.

Chow’s intention to run for mayor has not been a secret—she’s had well-placed supporters lined up since Rob Ford’s conflict of interest ruling appeared to remove him from office in late 2012—but the particulars were kept under wraps until now. While the move comes on the heels of criticism from other mayoral campaigns that Chow was using her budget as an MP to send out mass mailers in advance of her run, sources inside her campaign team insist that the date has been circled in the calendar for a while as an appropriate time given both her book-launch obligations and Ottawa’s legislative calendar.

As the only left-wing candidate, Chow will likely draw a lot of attention from the four already registered mainstream candidates: Rob Ford, John Tory, Karen Stintz, and David Soknacki. Ford has repeatedly urged Chow to enter the race and claimed that he can’t wait to debate her and Tory. Stintz has said that more than anything, she’s scared of Toronto electing an NDP mayor in reaction to Ford, and shortly after news of Chow’s impending registration leaked, the Tory camp alleged that Chow has “never met a public dollar she couldn’t spend.”

Chow will rely on her personal story and appeal to counteract the attacks, and asserts that she knows more than any of the other candidates about watching dollars and cents because of her experience growing up as an immigrant in Toronto.

While Chow’s campaign will be heavy on her personal narrative, there will also be some early policy announcements. One focus will be transit: she’ll take a stance on the Scarborough subway versus LRT alignment proposals, and make a pledge regarding better TTC operating standards, which will draw a contrast with service cuts made by Ford and Stintz. Contrary to a previous report in the Star, the Chow campaign will not release all of its platform at once.

Chow will be a formidable force in the campaign. She already has an extensive campaign infrastructure in place, with senior organizers like David Miller campaign manager John Laschinger and veteran Liberal operative Warren Kinsella having been in the fold for a while. Chow will also enjoy support from unions, and from high-profile backers such as Deepa Mehta and George Smitherman—Smitherman’s backing signals to fellow Liberals that Chow is the candidate behind whom to unify. Chow has also led or tied Ford in almost every poll involving the two of them conducted over the past two years.

Despite this, the election is not a sure thing for Chow. There are some early parallels here with the Smitherman and Barbara Hall campaigns from 2010 and 2003. In both cases, the candidates started with strong support, were perceived to have taken it for granted, and saw another candidate who initially trailed them frame the debate and win.

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