Toronto elects Olivia Chow as next mayor

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Former city councillor and member of parliament Olivia Chow has been elected mayor of Toronto. Her first city council meeting is scheduled for July 19.

 

Chow promised to bring change to a city grappling with housing unaffordability, public safety concerns and a massive budget shortfall.

“If you ever doubted what’s possible together, if you ever questioned your faith in a better future and what we can do with each other, for each other, tonight is your answer,” Chow, 66, said in her speech to a crowd of cheering supporters.

“Thank you to the people of Toronto for the trust you’ve placed in me and the mandate for change as your new mayor.”

Her campaign included promises to build new social housing and boost protections for tenants, while bringing in new taxes on the sale of multimillion-dollar homes. She pledged to reverse cuts to transit service, extend library hours and expand mental-health crisis teams.

“The work of changing a city left behind by decades of neglect is not going to be easy,” she said. “But I know we can make it happen by committing ourselves to each other and the city we love.”

The byelection turned into a tight two-way competition between Chow and former deputy mayor Ana Bailão, as ex-police chief Mark Saunders fell to a distant third despite being backed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Bailão, who had been endorsed by former Mayor John Tory in the last week of the campaign, said she wanted to “sincerely congratulate” Chow. “Our city faces many challenges and I wish you all the best as you navigate these challenges,” she said.

Chow takes over in the midst of housing affordability crisis and with a record number of people experiencing homelessness. The transit system has struggled to bring back riders after the pandemic and the cost of fixing the city’s aging infrastructure is projected to balloon by billions of dollars over the next decade.

Chow will now seek to unite councillors around her platform. She has also vowed to work with other big-city mayors to renegotiate how the provincial

Here’s are some of the promises Chow made during the election campaign:

Transportation:

  • build a dedicated busway to replace the decommissioned Scarborough RT at a cost of about $60 million.
  • replace the Gardiner Expressway with an at-grade boulevard between Cherry Street and the Don Valley Parkway rather than rebuilding.
  • improving cycling infrastructure—however, few details have been released on plans bike lanes.

Housing:

  • raise Toronto’s vacant home tax from one per cent to three per cent and dedicate funds to affordable housing initiatives.
  • build 25,000 homes on city-owned land in the next eight years. Homes would be developed by the city as well, with a minimum of 7,500 affordable units and 2,500 units to be rent-geared-to-income.
  • $5 million to create new 24/7 respite spaces and $5 million to expand street outreach and drop-in programming
  • $14.6 million on rent supplements for about 1,000 individuals experiencing homelessness.

Ontario Place development

  • fight the province over plans to construct a large spa on a portion of the land at Ontario Place by withholding a parcel of city-owned land to prevent the Ontario government from moving forward.

Taxes:

  • municipal land transfer tax will increase on homes sold for more than $3 million and the increase will be used to support people experiencing homelessness.
  • property taxes will increase by a “modest” amount.

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