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When You Need To Know About Olivia Chow, The New Mayor Of Toronto

A Liberal federal government, a Progressive Conservative provincial government, and now a former NDP Member of Parliament has become Toronto’s mayor. Olivia Chow won yesterday amid a crowded field of 102 candidates in the by-election caused by the resignation of former mayor John Tory just months after he won his third term last fall.

Public opinion polls had Chow as the frontrunner throughout the campaign. With over 720,000 votes cast, Olivia Chow was elected with just over 37 per cent of the vote. Former city councillor Ana Bailão, boosted by a late endorsement from Tory, was runner-up with 32.5 per cent. Premier Doug Ford’s endorsed candidate — former police chief Mark Saunders — came third with 8.5 per cent. Voter turnout was up, but Chow’s 37 per cent represents a relatively weak result for a winning mayoral candidate.  

Here’s what you need to know: 


Born in Hong Kong, Chow moved to Toronto with her parents when she was thirteen. She has had a long career in politics serving as a school board trustee, city councillor and member of the budget committee, and MP for the riding of Trinity—Spadina. Her late husband Jack Layton was NDP leader from 2003 until his death in 2011.

This was Chow’s second go at the top seat on council. She ran in 2014 and came in third, losing to Tory and coming in behind runner-up Ford.  

The Issues:

Chow’s platform and focus has been on making Toronto “a more affordable, safe and caring city.” She has courted controversy by suggesting that property taxes will need to rise, without saying by how much. More broadly, she inherits leadership of the country’s biggest municipality at a time of significant challenge – in the wake of the pandemic and amid a gaping budget deficit.   

Some notable commitments:

  • Pressing through her City Homes Plan to build 25,000 new rental homes in the next eight years. The city would act as a developer on city-owned land, with a minimum of 7,500 affordable units built, including at least 2,500 rent-geared-to-income units.
  • Reversing recent service cuts, including with regard to transit service.
  • Expanding weekday library hours and ensuring every Toronto Public Library branch is open seven days a week.
  • Raising the Municipal Land Transfer Tax with new graduated rates on purchases of homes valued at over $3 million, $5 million, $20 million and so on and raising the Vacant Homes Tax from 1% to 3%.
  • Establishing a Toronto’s Renters Action Committee which will advocate for anti “renoviction” bylaws and broader rent control policies.
  • Expanding community crisis teams city-wide and reducing 911 wait times.
  • In opposition to provincial plans, Chow opposes construction of a large-scale spa at Ontario Place and the relocation of the Ontario Science Centre to the waterfront.

What Does This Mean for You:

Chow may well mean a sea-change at City Hall after two terms under cautious, centrist John Tory. Her political career has been spent in left-wing and opposition circles. She’ll need to learn quickly how power is wielded most effectively, although she’s no neophyte at City Hall.  

For help on navigating City Hall or the issues facing Ontario municipalities, please contact or a member of the McMillan Vantage Team.

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