Olivia Chow officially takes office as mayor of Toronto, vows to bring change

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The CANADIAN PRESS

Olivia Chow has officially taken office as mayor of Toronto.

The 66-year-old is the first person of colour to lead Canada’s most populous city and has pledged to build what she calls a more caring and affordable city.

“Today is a day for renewal,” Chow said to cheers and applause moments after she took office at city hall.

“The message was loud and clear – people want change.”

Chow, a former NDP MP and past city councillor, defeated 101 other candidates to win last month’s mayoral byelection to replace John Tory.

Her victory vaults a progressive into Toronto’s top job for the first time in over a decade.

It also comes at a time when Toronto is facing pressing issues, including a nearly $1-billion shortfall in this year’s budget, driven in large part by decreasing transit revenues and increased shelter costs.

A city staff report indicates there are enough COVID-19 reserve funds set aside to prop up this year’s budget, but without more money the backstop would be insufficient to cover next year’s projected shortfall of up to $927 million.

Chow has pledged to get local government back into the business of building social housing and to spend millions to acquire and preserve affordable units.

“We can and must start by tackling the housing crisis. We can and must because the suffering is real,” she said.

The new mayor has said she would call a special meeting of the Executive Committee in August to discuss pressing matters, including the city’s long-term financial plan.

Since the June 26 byelection, Chow has been meeting with city administration, finalizing her team and holding transition engagements with civil service and non-profits on priority issues, including housing and community crisis response.

The city’s housing crisis and the record levels of people experiencing homelessness are set to test Chow’s term.

Adding to a sense of urgency, the city has been deadlocked with the federal government over a request to provide more money to help house asylum seekers, with the city recently instituting a policy of turning away those applicants from at-capacity shelters towards federal programs.

(C) The Canadian Press

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