TORONTO — Olivia Chow heads to Toronto city hall today hours after being elected mayor of Canada’s most populous city.
One immediate challenge for the former NDP parliamentarian and past city councillor will be tackling a nearly $1-billion pandemic-related budget shortfall, partly driven by reduced transit revenue and increased shelter costs.
Chow will also have to tackle issues of housing unaffordability and public safety concerns.
The 66-year-old veteran politician and first person of colour to be elected as Toronto’s mayor, who has pledged to bring change to the city, will be at city hall for meetings today.
Chow eked out a win in the mayoral byelection against 101 other candidates vying to replace scandal-departed John Tory, with former deputy mayor Ana Bailao coming in a close second.
The results of the election, which saw Chow capture 37 per cent of the vote, are set to be certified by the city clerk on Wednesday with a swearing-in date still to be announced.
Chow has vowed to work with other big city mayors across the country to renegotiate a new deal with the provincial and federal governments on municipal finances.
But city hall watchers say with no indication the other levels of government plan to bail out this year’s city budget, Chow will be quickly faced with tough decisions.
“You look at the period of John Tory as mayor, you know, he bent over backwards to avoid any kind of residential property tax increase,” said Zack Taylor, political science professor at Western University.
“And now we’re at the point where instead of a bunch of incremental rises, it’s probably going to have to be a pretty substantial increase.”
Chow ran on a platform to have the city build new social housing and invest millions in a program to acquire and preserve affordable units as part of a larger suite of renter protections.
She has also vowed to reverse cuts to transit service and to extend mental health crisis response teams citywide in an effort to reduce 911 wait times and divert calls from police.
Her campaign also pledged to expand rent supplements to 1,000 homes and boost the number of 24-7 respite homeless shelters, promises to be funded by an expanded tax on homes purchased for $3 million and above.
Toronto’s mayoral byelection was triggered after Tory resigned in February, just months into his third term, following his admission to an affair with a staffer.
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