NOW endorses Olivia Chow for mayor

Chow is alone in her determination to fix our increasingly divided city and the best choice to get us back to a Toronto we can be proud of

Toronto has been locked in a four-year municipal nightmare.

Once the envy of the world for our inventive, inclusive and diverse city, we have become an international embarrassment.

Worse, we have become a city divided, in which neighbourhoods are pitted against each other, class against class and even race against race. At least that’s been the case in the current election campaign.

Toronto is not just a city of gridlock but of lockdown, where great ideas get dismantled and the only progress is imaginary as fantasy subways that are discussed with the same authority as unicorn sightings.

The destruction of the city we love has happened on the boozy, drug-addled watch of Rob Ford and his older brother Doug, who has now replaced the ailing Rob to run for mayor.

That some are even discussing a return to City Hall of this two-headed monster of despair in next week’s election is a sorry sign of how broken this city has become.

Now the Fords’ fellow traveller John Tory – who courted that family’s approval for his failed 2003 mayoral run and proudly led the PC party of Mike Harris that Rob and Doug grew up worshipping – is somehow being posited as an antidote to the Ford poison.

Tory is an enigma tightly wrapped in a sweater vest who will do anything to hide his true colours. And those colours are full-on PC blue, the same party that in 1995 filled in a subway, subway, subway on Eglinton that would have been functioning by now had the party of Tory and Ford not jammed dirt back down into that hole.

A majority of Torontonians are determined to end the Ford brothers’ ruinous reign. But to paraphrase Olivia Chow, the only real progressive in the mayoral race, why replace a Tory with a Tory?

There is little in John Tory’s past to suggest he would be fundamentally different than his conservative cohorts, save for the crudeness and the crack-smoking. Like the Fords, this silver-tongued and silver-spooned pol makes unfounded, unfunded transit promises. His amusingly named SmartTrack has been torn apart by transit experts on all sides of the political spectrum. The backtrack from Smart Track would necessitate a Ford-like frenzy of service slashing and user fees. There would be no money left for new or necessary city services.

Tory is too refined to deal in gravy-stained gravy-train rhetoric. Instead, he whispers about finding “efficiencies” to fund his vague transit plans. When conservatives start wielding axes, services and programs that add to livability and creativity disappear, dismissed as frills in the name of prudence.

Since Tory defaulted to front-runner this summer, his handlers have tried to keep their candidate’s mouth shut so he would not commit another of his legendary political belly flops. The result has been a carefully choreographed campaign aimed at helping us forget his enthusiastic right-wing past. It wasn’t that long ago that Tory advised women looking to get ahead to learn how to play golf.

Speaking of golf, Tory and his family were happy to join the Rosedale Golf Club even though it banned Jews at the time. Tory says his family helped get that rule changed, but who would even want to join a club that practised religious apartheid? Toronto can do better.

Olivia Chow is the best choice to get Toronto back to being a city we can be proud of.

Chow has not run a great campaign, only really hitting her stride in these last few weeks. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t make a great mayor. Rob Ford was a pretty good campaigner but a disaster in the mayor’s chair.

Critics want to paint Chow as fiscally irresponsible, yet she is the only candidate not mortgaging the next 30 years on a $1 billion stubway to nowhere. She won’t start writing cheques for anything until she knows what it will cost. This sets her dramatically apart from Tory and Ford.

Chow is alone in her determination to fix our increasingly divided city. Tory mutters pleasing platitudes, but only Chow is talking about nutrition programs to make sure kids have a full stomach so they can emerge with a full mind and the necessary tools to get ahead in school.

She’s also the only one with a plan to build desperately needed affordable housing and fix the social housing that’s fallen further into disrepair under the Fords.

Her portfolio of green initiatives – bike lanes, higher waste diversion targets and planting 1 million trees to fight climate change – would see us retake our rightful place as leaders in the world ecological movement.

The two one-percenters yammer about experience but both have barely held political office. Only Chow can point to decades of successfully operating in the political arena, where she has excelled at the school board, municipal and federal level.

Chow is the only candidate who has a proven track record of bridge building, having even managed to squeeze progressive policies from Toronto’s first mega-city mayor, conservative Mel Lastman. She’s the only one talking about youth employment and reining in the police budget. She’s the only one talking about ranked ballots. And more transparency in government.

She’s the only one with a track record of getting things done. She would get this city moving again instead of stuck in the fractious, flaccid, fruitless debates that tend to consume us.

Only Chow represents real change and real hope. Only Chow can deliver us the city we are so eager to attach the words “world class” to. Only Chow is offering a Toronto we can be proud of, a city that works and aspires to leave no one behind. Vote Olivia Chow for mayor and get a fresh start and a better tomorrow with real progress.

See NOW’s 2014 election guide here.

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