OTTAWA – Olivia Chow will resign her seat in Parliament on Wednesday as she sets her sights on replacing Rob Ford as mayor of the country’s largest city, The Canadian Press has learned.
The New Democrat MP intends to submit her resignation in the morning to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
She will formally launch her mayoral campaign Thursday in the inner city Toronto neighbourhood in which she grew up, St. James Town.
Chow is considered a front-runner in the already crowded field that includes Ford, one-time provincial Conservative leader and failed mayoral candidate John Tory, city councillor Karen Stintz and former councillor David Soknacki.
Jamey Heath, who will be communications director for Chow’s campaign, says the former city councillor will be the only “progressive” contender in the already crowded race.
But he predicts she’ll appeal to people across the political spectrum, including the blue-collar folks who supported Ford’s no-nonsense populism but who can be persuaded it’s time for a change following Ford’s admitted “drunken stupors” and use of crack cocaine.
“We think there are two candidates who can appeal to sort of blue collar, regular voters in Toronto, one of whom is Rob Ford and one of whom is Olivia Chow,” Heath said in an interview.
“We don’t see John Tory being able to connect with them. We think Olivia can.”
Chow’s campaign launch will stress her personal story, growing up in Toronto as the daughter of struggling immigrant parents, a story Heath said many Torontonians can identify with.
“She had a modest upbringing. She doesn’t just talk about public transit, she uses public transit. She’s used it all her life,” Heath said.
Chow’s campaign will involve New Democrats like Heath and Brian Topp, who were key to late husband Jack Layton’s success in the federal arena.
But it will be headed by veteran Conservative strategist John Laschinger, who masterminded David Miller’s successful mayoral campaigns, while her war room will be run by Warren Kinsella, a well-known Liberal.
Chow has already won endorsements from other non-New Democrats, including former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister and one-time mayoral contender George Smitherman.
Heath said Chow intends to make the case that it’s time for a change after the international headlines garnered by Ford’s escapades.
“The disappointment with Rob Ford in Toronto is profound and our campaign is going to speak to that disappointment.”
However, she’ll make the case in terms of policy, not personal attacks on the mayor’s character.
“It’s one of the challenges of our campaign in that if the only case that is ever made against Rob Ford is personal scandal, then it leaves the impression that he would otherwise be a good mayor,” Heath said.
“We don’t agree with that. We think the choices that he’s made as mayor have been the wrong choices and our campaign can and will present alternate choices,” he added, declining to disclose specifics at this point.
Chow served as a city councillor from 1991 until she was elected to the House of Commons in 2006.