The 66-year-old is the first person of colour to lead Canada’s most populous city and has pledged to build what she calls a more caring and affordable city.
By Michael Ranger and The Canadian Press
Olivia Chow officially takes the vow of office and becomes Toronto’s new mayor
Olivia Chow was sworn in as Toronto’s 66th mayor on Wednesday, ushering in a new era at city hall.
Chow was sworn in at a Wednesday morning ceremony at city hall that was attended by councillors, city staff and agency representatives, former mayors and guests of the Mayor-elect. She received a standing ovation from her colleagues on council for her push for a better city.
“Let’s build a Toronto that is more affordable, safe and caring, where everyone belongs,”
she said after signing the declaration.
“Together we can, and today we start.”
Chow, a former NDP MP and past city councillor, defeated 101 other candidates to win last month’s mayoral byelection to replace John Tory. Her victory vaults a progressive into Toronto’s top job for the first time in over a decade.
While some key matters in the city have been resolved, such as $235 million from the province for Toronto’s 2022 shortfall related to transit and housing, Chow inherits a host of issues, including a massive budget shortfall, driven in large part by decreasing transit revenues and increased shelter costs.
During her first remarks as mayor, she called on the federal and provincial government to step up and help refugees who are facing housing issues in the city.
“Even in the face of those steep challenges, people have sent a clear message that change is not only possible, it’s absolutely necessary,” said Chow.
A number of issues could test the relationship between Chow and Premier Doug Ford, including the province’s plan to add a privately owned spa to a redesigned Ontario Place. Chow has suggested the city would go to court if the province tried to expropriate city land for the project.
Ford said Wednesday he was “disappointed” by Chow calling the province a reluctant partner.
During the byelection campaign, Ford backed ex-police chief Mark Saunders and said a Chow mayoralty would be an “unmitigated disaster.” He softened his language after her win, highlighting a number of files for potential collaboration, such as transit expansion and housing affordability.
“So that’s what we’re going to be focusing on and hopefully she’ll be open-minded and work collaboratively with us,” he said during a news conference at a meeting of provincial and territorial leaders in Winnipeg.
A known cycling advocate, Chow elected to bike to work on her first day in office. Cycle Toronto hosted a group bike ride to City Hall to mark her inaugural day, with Chow joining the short ride and briefly addressing the group.
Since the June byelection, Chow has been meeting with city staff, finalizing her team and holding transition engagements with civil service and non-profit groups on priority issues.
Those who opposed Chow during the election campaign now find themselves finding their space within the new regime. For her part, Chow has affirmed that city councillors will continue to do “what they love to do.”
“They will be contributing the way they want to contribute,” the soon-to-be-mayor said. “And accomplish what they want to accomplish in these three years that we have in front of us.”
Since John Tory’s resignation and departure in February, the role and responsibilities of mayor have been held by Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie.
“This is a great city because of all the residents who call Toronto home, and I’m thankful I had the privilege to meet people in so many neighbourhoods and all 25 wards,” said McKelvie on Tuesday.
“I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my council colleagues, city staff, the mayor’s office staff and my constituency office staff, as well as my family and friends who supported me throughout these 144 days.”
The article was reposted from the CityNews Toronto
Michael Ranger is a news reporter with the CityNews Toronto. You can reach Ranger at Michael.Ranger@rci.rogers.com
The cover photo by City of Toronto
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