Mulcair thrilled as ex-NDP MP Olivia Chow tries for a comeback

Former MP says she's running in the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York

NDP MP Olivia Chow, wife of the late NDP leader Jack Layton, holds a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Oct.1, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

NDP MP Olivia Chow, wife of the late NDP leader Jack Layton, holds a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Oct.1, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

TORONTO – New Democrat stalwart Olivia Chow said Tuesday she wants to unseat the Liberal MP who won the byelection she forced last year in her failed bid to become mayor of Toronto.

With NDP Leader Tom Mulcair at her side, Chow announced her candidacy in the downtown riding by echoing the words of her late husband and party icon, Jack Layton.

“We have a chance to replace fear and division with hope and optimism,” Chow, 58, said at a child-care facility. “Change is only one election away.”

Showing a rare display of passion, she said she wanted back in federal politics because a national child-care program for which she has spent decades advocating was now within grasp.

“I refuse to stand on the sideline and watch the desperation of parents waiting for child care,” Chow said.

“We’re at a historic moment: We’re on the edge of forming a government that can finally deliver affordable child care to a million kids across Canada.”

The NDP under Mulcair has made a $15-a-day national program a key plank for the Oct. 19 election.

Mulcair, who has been on an eight-day “tour of change” in Ontario, expressed delight at his newest candidate. Chow, he said, was a “tireless champion” of Canada’s “most important city.”

“We couldn’t be happier and prouder to have Olivia Chow with us,” Mulcair said.

Spadina-Fort York is a new riding that takes in parts of Chow’s old riding, Trinity—Spadina, and Toronto Centre. Imposing 2011 election results on the new riding suggests the NDP would have won easily.

The career politician, who began as a school trustee 30 years ago, gave up her seat in the Commons to take on former mayor Rob Ford. She started out as a strong favourite but finished third after a lacklustre campaign.

Following her municipal defeat, she joined Ryerson University as a visiting professor in the Faculty of Arts in February. The university announced Tuesday it had granted her a leave of absence, and thanked her for her “enthusiastic contributions.”

Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, who replaced Chow in Trinity-Spadina, called her a “serial quitter.”

“Politics is more than about opportunity,” said Vaughan, a former TV reporter and city councillor. “I didn’t keep chasing a different job or new opportunity or new set of issues.”

Chow, however, refused to take the bait, saying her quarrel is with the Liberal party, not with Vaughan.

She was also unapologetic about having forced a byelection that cost taxpayers about $1 million, saying she answered a call from thousands of city residents.

“That’s what I did, and it was an important thing to do,” Chow said. “There was no doubt that Toronto definitely needed a new mayor.”

She also pledged to work for a national transit strategy and other NDP priorities.

“Canadians are ready for change,” Chow said. “After 10 long years of (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper, his plan just isn’t working. Tom Mulcair is the only leader that can defeat Stephen Harper.”

Officially, Chow must still contest the nomination but an NDP official said she was the only declared candidate and would get the formal nod Aug. 13.

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