Olivia Chow: Toronto belongs 'near the top' of government agenda

Olivia Chow says the Ontario government should be making Toronto a priority and that that she'll be looking to Queen’s Park for help on two key issues, if she’s elected as mayor: Social housing and the TTC.

Mayoral candidate does not endorse any one provincial party

Olivia Chow says that she believes the provincial government needs to put Toronto 'near the top' of its agenda. (CBC)

Olivia Chow will be looking to Queen’s Park for help on two key issues, if she’s elected as mayor this fall: Social housing and the TTC.

The mayoral hopeful addressed the Canadian Club today, talking about what Toronto would look like under her leadership — and how she feels the city must be made a priority by the province.

"Just like Ontario is the heart of Canada, our city is the heart of Ontario. So for Ontario to work, our city has to work," said Chow.

"And we need a mayor who will speak up for the city, advocate for it and work collaboratively with the provincial government. That means bringing ideas forward that will help our city and our province."

Chow spelled out what she’ll be asking the Ontario government for in terms of support and why she believes Toronto should be "near the top" of its agenda.

"I love our city and we need to get back to business and working with the province, I will put forth two urgent issues in front of the new government right away," she said.

The first is a long-term agreement to fund the operation of the TTC.

Chow said that when she was previously a city councillor, the province paid half of the operation costs of the TTC. That changed under former premier Mike Harris.

Given that TTC serves many people outside of Toronto, Chow said it is deserving of provincial assistance.

"Every day hundreds of thousands of people from [the 905 region] use the TTC to go to work," said Chow. "In that way, TTC is a regional transit (system) just like GO."

The second issue Chow would bring to the provincial government is the funding of social housing, which she said is also necessary to secure a long-term agreement for.

The Ontario election takes place on June 12, while the mayoral election comes four-and-half months after that on Oct. 27.

Chow did not endorse a particular leader or party, saying that she will work with whomever is the premier after next Thursday.  

But she was clear on what she is expecting from that leader and their party.

"No matter what party forms the next provincial government, they are going to have to put Toronto near the top of their agenda," she said.

A recurring theme in her speeches, Chow reminded her audience about her upbringing in Toronto as an immigrant.

"As you know, I bring something unique to this city, to this race. I know what it is like to live in a household where you are worrying about how to pay the bills. I lived that life. So do many people in this city, every single day," she said.

"We started out in a low-income apartment in St. James Town and it was hard. Learning a new language, struggling to find work, struggling to fit in. Struggling and starting from the bottom, right from the bottom."

Chow is among more than 50 candidates running for mayor.