Olivia Chow is on a media blitz, promoting her new memoir, My Journey. But while her book looks back, the most persistent question is about her future and a potential bid for Mayor of Toronto.
Ms. Chow, like Mayor Rob Ford’s other possible big-name rival, John Tory, has yet to declare her intentions, although both have organizers working in the wings.
“Completely honest, of course I’m seriously thinking about running for mayor, right? Everybody knows that,” she says, laughing during an interview at her downtown Toronto home Monday. “Our city deserves more than Rob Ford. I wouldn’t want him to be a model for my grandkids.”
“As to when I’ll make the decision, when I make it I will let people know,” she says, refusing to say if she has set a personal deadline.
As for the possibility of facing off against Mr. Tory, she says any decision she makes will be based on issues, not the “political field.”
“I hope he read the book and enjoyed it,” is all she will say when asked about him as a possible political opponent.
Given calls for her to enter the race and an open field on the left, what is holding her back?
Ms. Chow says she believes it is possible the NDP will form the next federal government, opening up a chance for her to sit at the Cabinet table.
“I wouldn’t mind being a cabinet minister,” she says when pressed. “I could do immigration, transport would be good, human resources, a national childcare program. Is it possible in 2015? It is possible.”
Ms. Chow, now transportation critic, says even in opposition it is possible to work for change, and she notes that civic governments, which get about eight cents of every tax dollar, have limited resources to tackle big issues such as investing in children, infrastructure or public transit.
“It’s hard if you don’t have a higher – not higher but another – order of government involved,” she explains.
Either way, the release of her memoir this week is sure to stoke speculation.
My Journey traces Ms. Chow’s life from her middle-class childhood in Hong Kong to the difficulties she and her parents faced after they moved to Toronto and could not find work that met with their qualifications.
It includes a frank recounting of her parents’ troubled marriage and her own experience with abusive relationships, but most of all, it is a chronicle of her political career as a school trustee, city councillor and MP and her life with her husband, the late NDP leader Jack Layton.
Asked about her reasons for writing the book, Ms. Chow lists off several, counting them off on her fingers – immigration, overcoming adversity, public service, love. “Really at the core of it, it is a love story,” she says.
The passages about Mr. Layton’s struggle with terminal cancer just months after the NDP’s election success were the most difficult to write, she says.
Ms. Chow held dinners to gather stories of various political episodes for her book, she says. But her relationship with her late husband and the grief that followed his death are hers alone.
“A lot of people lose their life partner, they lose their parents,” she says about her reasons for writing about her own grief. “Dealing with death is pretty difficult. If people reading it can find some solace in that, that’s great.”