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Mayoral contenders Olivia Chow, left, and John Tory are shown at a City Hall ceremony marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 16, 2014.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Olivia Chow accused John Tory of "bashing" Toronto on Sunday, marking a campaign shift in which she is positioning herself as the only progressive candidate in the final weeks of the race to become Toronto's mayor.

After a strong start as the candidate to beat, Ms. Chow has been lagging in the polls behind front-runner Mr. Tory. The poor polling results and the change in the political landscape caused by Mayor Rob Ford's departure from the race have prompted a strategy shift from the Chow campaign that abandons centrist appeal and embraces her reputation as a left-wing politician.

Ms. Chow denied that her campaign was changing tack.

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"There's really not a shift of focus," she said. "I'm just trying to provide a clear contrast."

She pointed to Mr. Tory's record as opposition leader for Ontario's Progressive Conservatives in which he proposed moving thousands of jobs outside the city to smaller communities. She also pointed to a time when he criticized a provincial budget as being too "Toronto-centric."

Mr. Tory responded that at the time – 2005 to 2007 – he had to consider the interests of the entire province.

"She is focusing on something I said seven years ago, when I was a provincial politician with different responsibilities," he said.

Mr. Tory denied that Ms. Chow was the only progressive candidate in the race, but declined to use political labels such as "left and right."

He unveiled a plan to expand Toronto's cycling network, pointing to arteries such as Sherbourne Street as good places to build separated bike lanes. He also proposed building bicycle parking facilities at existing TTC and transit stations and "ensuring bicycle lane maintenance is a separate line item in the municipal budget so the funding is transparent."

Mayor Rob Ford dropped out of the race Sept. 12. Last week it was revealed that he is fighting a rare and aggressive form of cancer. His older brother, Councillor Doug Ford, has thrown his name into the contest for mayor instead. Polls have been mixed, but Doug Ford is largely seen as a long shot who lacks the everyman appeal of his younger brother.

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Through interviews with campaign insiders, The Globe and Mail revealed that Ms. Chow's team is attempting to polarize the race, emphasizing her progressive bona fides and arguing that Doug Ford has no hope of winning, so people don't have to vote strategically.

Poll numbers have varied greatly since Rob Ford left the race, but have shown Ms. Chow trailing Mr. Tory. Ms. Chow has begun directing her attacks squarely at Mr. Tory, whose campaign team stopped by her news conference Sunday to offer coffee and doughnuts to reporters.

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