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Olivia Chow at a restaurant in Toronto’s Chinatown, where she announced her candidacy for mayor on April 17, 2023.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Former councillor and three-term NDP member of Parliament Olivia Chow announced Monday that she was running for mayor of Toronto, saying her experience in Ottawa would help her secure money for the city from the federal government.

Ms. Chow hasn’t held public office since resigning from Parliament to run for mayor in 2014, when she came third behind winner John Tory and runner-up Doug Ford. She said it was not an easy decision to run again, but that residents were struggling with a city that wasn’t working for them.

“We urgently need to build a city that cares, we have to make a city that is more affordable,” she told media at her campaign launch announcement. “It is still a great city, this wonderful Toronto, but it needs to be a great city for everyone.”

Her speech played up her immigrant background, her mother’s abuse at the hands of her father, and her political experience.

She gave a nod to public concerns about safety, citing the words of Andrea Magalhaes, whose teenage son was killed in a subway station and who urged greater social supports. And she referenced her own difficult time after the death of her husband, long-time NDP leader Jack Layton, whom she did not name, describing the “darkness closing in” after his death.

Ms. Chow offered few specifics of the policies on which she’ll run, promising detailed platform information during the campaign. She deflected a question about whether her plans to improve Toronto would require higher taxes.

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However, she indicated her opposition to a private spa at Ontario Place, as the province is planning. She suggested plans for the Gardiner East elevated expressway could be adjusted to allow for more housing. And she pledged not to use the strong-mayor powers requested by Mr. Tory to override the majority will of council.

She also promised to pursue a better fiscal arrangement with Ottawa. Toronto has struggled financially throughout the pandemic and is facing a combined $1.4-billion shortfall for 2022 and 2023, a gap it hopes to close through bailouts from Queen’s Park and Ottawa.

“Toronto is a financial centre,” Ms. Chow said. “We are a proud city. We don’t want to go through the annual ritual, humiliating ourselves, begging for crumbs from other levels of government. We surely can do better.”

Ms. Chow was a city councillor from 1991 through 2005. Although members of Toronto council do not run under party banners, she was known to lean reliably left. She ran federally in the 2006 election, as a New Democrat, and represented the downtown Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina until 2014.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles told reporters at Queen’s Park that she’s “really excited” about Ms. Chow entering the mayoral race.

“She has been a leader in this city for many years. She’s mentored many of our current young leaders, and I think she’s going to have a lot of support out there,” said Ms. Stiles, who said she will speak with many candidates about what they have to offer and will “wait and see” if she endorses someone.

“Toronto has had conservative mayors for too long and the result has been a city that’s falling apart. So we need somebody with a true progressive vision and somebody who’s strong enough to stand up to this government, to Premier Ford, when he tries to meddle with our city again.”

The June 26 by-election was prompted by Mr. Tory resigning in February after admitting to a lengthy affair with an employee in the mayor’s office. Forty-eight people have registered, with more than three weeks left until the deadline to sign up, and Ms. Chow brings substantial name-recognition to the crowded field.

Also running are current councillors Brad Bradford, Josh Matlow, and Anthony Perruzza, former councillor Ana Bailao, Ontario Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter, former Toronto chief of police Mark Saunders and urbanist Gil Penalosa, who came a distant second behind Mr. Tory in the 2022 race.

With a report from Laura Stone at Queen’s Park

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