Toronto

Olivia Chow talks transit, police budget on Metro Morning

Olivia Chow appears on Metro Moring Thursday to talk about her campaign to be the next mayor of Toronto.

Chow would look to trim police overtime and paid duty costs

Mayoral candidate vows to build light rail in Scarborough, look at was to trim the police budget. 14:52

Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow said she can find savings in the police budget and repeated her support of a plan to expand transit service into Scarborough using light rail instead of subways. 

Chow made the comments in an interview Thursday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

Chow, who is considered one of three remaining high-profile candidates in the race along with John Tory and Doug Ford, told host Matt Galloway that if elected, she will push for council to return to its original plan for a light rail line into Scarborough.

"There are at least four more votes that have to come to council," said Chow. "All the studies and the environmental assessments for the LRTs are done. We can start the construction now."

After a long and fractious debate, council voted last year to expand the Bloor-Danforth subway line into Scarborough. That reversed an earlier decision to build light rail along the route. Front-runner Tory has said he would not reverse the subway decision and Doug Ford is a subway proponent.

Galloway asked if Chow really wanted to revisit a debate that has cost the city time and money while Scarborough's transit needs continue to grow.

"At least with the light rail we can get it for four or five years," said Chow.

The former NDP MP also said she believes there are savings to be found in the police budget, which has grown in recent years to more than $1 billion, with most of it spent on salary costs.

Chow said she's willing to consider cuts and look at ways to trim rising policing costs, particularly around officers' paid duty work and overtime. She spoke about her time on city council (1991 to 2005) when she fought police requests to expand their budget.

"I've said no to the helicopters that they wanted," she said. "I know the contract really well and I know what needs to be changed in there."

Chow was also asked about her message for current Mayor Rob Ford, who dropped out of the race as he undergoes treatment for a cancerous tumour in his abdomen.

"Stay strong, stay optimistic," said Chow, whose husband Jack Layton died of cancer in 2011. "Fight it and know that a lot of people are pulling for you. And just keep going."

Coun. Doug Ford replaced his brother on the mayoralty ballot. Rob Ford will run for a council seat in Ward 2.

Voters go to the polls on Oct. 27.