Open letter to Olivia Chow from Michael Hollett
September 25, 2014
Guess there's no need to ask how your summer went. Looked pretty rough from here. But politics loves a comeback story, and you've been handed a second chance. Everything changes because of Rob Ford's health crisis. You can still be our next mayor.
Not by continuing the play-it-safe tack you adopted as early front-runner in this mayoral marathon, which has been a disaster, but by tearing up the script that appears to have written you a losing role.
Your attempts to downplay your NDP heritage, for example, are both pointless and futile. Come on, Olivia, you're part of the Orange Royal Family.
Robby could have won, a prospect so horrible reasonable Torontonians have been grabbing at Anyone-But-Rob front-runner John Tory like drowning cruise ship passengers looking for a life buoy.
A town that never elects Conservatives appears ready to choose the former PC leader to save us from this nightmare. But Doug is no Rob, and it's time to stop letting a Ford set the agenda.
Doug might be crack-free, but he has none of the unfathomable appeal that pours off Rob like the sweat soaking his shirts and suits. Peeling off $20 bills and tossing them at poor kids just isn't as charming as making oafish gaffes and begging for forgiveness while spewing gravy-soaked talking points and catchphrases.
Dougie's had an early sympathy bounce in the polls, but once he starts opening his contemptuous mouth again those numbers will start dropping like expletives in a cellphone crack video.
Your only hope is to make this a race between you and the Conservative, a legendary electoral stumblebum who has a world-class capacity to implode.
It wasn't that long ago that an Anyone-But-Tory fever gripped the city as Torontonians looked for a sure-fire candidate to stop his stark right-wing agenda borrowed from Mel Lastman. A fresh face named David Miller became the champion of the people and won it all.
Back then, Miller was running a race against what seemed impossible odds.
Olivia, you should grab a few pages from Miller's playbook. He didn't campaign safe and he didn't campaign scared. He was outspoken, gutsy and funny, too. Remember those "Great Hair, Better Mayor" posters? And the broom?
I barely recognize the woman who has been running your safe, oh-so-friendly and bland campaign. Time to let the real Olivia out of the box. You and your team broke a fundamental electoral rule, spending the summer running like a front-runner crippled by fear of losing the lead.
The good news is Tory is feeling the heat and foolishly running a front-runner race now. He's just as susceptible as you were to losing momentum, especially when Team Tory tries to hide the candidate from the public and the press and blows off debates, as he did last week just as Rob's latest news was breaking.
Now he's cutting back on personal appearances and getting cagey with the press, ducking interviews and even feuding with a daily newspaper, the Globe. And getting NOW's Jonathan Goldsbie barred from an event. Sound like anyone else we know?
The truth is, Tory is like the Fords in many ways, and you've got a month to prove that, over and over again.
Stop telling us where you come from. We get it: immigrant from Hong Kong.
Show us the woman you are now: funny, feisty and dripping with attitude, ideas and energy.
Forget the polish. Go for the passion, Olivia. Get excited when you speak. So what if you stumble or mispronounce from time to time. That's who you are, and it's how about half the people in this city speak. Perhaps you've noticed - voters in Toronto don't mind their mayors a little, ahem, rough-edged.
The radio-honed blueblood tones of Tory are the exception, not the rule, in this city of immigrants. Let 'er rip, and let's collect charming Chow-isms. Embrace your independent spirit and the free-form words it can launch.
Your Tory crack "Faith-based education; now faith-based transit" was your best, most kick-ass of the campaign. Keep 'em coming and keep chipping away at Tory's other pie-in-the-sky empty promises.
An off-balance Tory is your best defence. And we know he has plenty of quote bombs to drop. Remember his golf course advice for aspiring women executives? Tory can't keep his private-school entitlement hidden.
You're battling a multi-millionaire dude for the hearts and votes of a city that would have a hard time getting into the clubs Tory belongs to. He's more comfortable in boardrooms, but your partner, Jack Layton, showed the value of kitchen table campaigns.
And Tory's starting to pander. How else to explain his shamelessly re-opening the Pride funding debate? He says he won't fund it if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid participate. Hell, he's going straight from Ford Nation to Mammoliti-land.
So gloves off, Olivia, stop playing nice and play like, well, Olivia Chow.
I'm pretty sure voters will love what they see when they finally meet the real you, not the sanitized candidate they've been getting - and not liking - these last few months.
Go hard, Olivia, and smile. This city will respond to a scrappy woman who gets things done and has an inclusive vision driving her deeds.
There's still enough time to make this work, as long as the real Olivia Chow shows up.
All the best,
Michael Hollett, Editor/Publisher