Toronto 2014: Olivia Chow could be the ‘unity’ candidate to beat Rob Ford

·Politics Reporter

Rob Ford better get his act together, because it looks like he might face a high-profile sympathetic figure from the left in the next civic election.

The Toronto Mayor was M.I.A. on Thursday, while mayors from Canada's largest cities held a press conference calling on the federal government to provide cities with more funding for infrastructure projects.

It's been reported that Ford was — you guessed it — coaching football.

While Ford was taking part in his personal pursuits, NDP MP Olivia Chow was front and centre -- standing-up for Torontonians -- calling on the government to support municipalities with a per-capita spending formula.

[ Related: Calls for Ottawa to help fund Toronto infrastructure repairs ]

Chow's recent actions and last week's proclamation where she said she hasn't "shut the door completely" to a mayoral run in 2014, have fueled media speculation that she may return to civic politics.

"It is [Ford's] no-shows and garbled priorities like this that has added an urgency to efforts in Toronto to find a "unity' candidate to unseat Ford in 2014 and more and more it appears those efforts are leading to New Democrat MP Olivia Chow," Tim Harper of the Toronto Star wrote.

"Chow is acting very much like a mayoral candidate, though she uses her duties as the MP for Trinity-Spadina as cover."

The Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee says that all eyes are turning to Chow — the former Toronto city councillor — to become the Rob Ford "slayer."

"The head-shaking frustration, embarrassment and sheer disbelief that many Torontonians are feeling in the face of Mr. Ford's epic series of gaffes and bobbles is lending a special urgency to the search for someone who can beat him," he wrote.

"Some back-room strategists are already urging other anti-Ford candidates to shelve their "vanity" (as one of them puts it), step aside and give Ms. Chow a clear shot."

Barring an Ebenezer Scrooge-like Christmas awakening for Ford, Chow would beat the current mayor handily. According to the results of a recent Forum Research poll published in CP24, Torontonians are tired of Ford's antics.

"In a one-on-one matchup between Ford, who has said repeatedly he intends to seek re-election, and MP Olivia Chow, the federal politician would garner 49 per cent of the vote, while Ford would pick up 34 per cent," notes the article.

"People who identified themselves as provincial NDP, Green and Liberal supporters, transit users and residents of the former City of Toronto or East York said they are more likely to vote for Chow."

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It's not all bad news for Ford — in 2014, he might just have a little more time to coach his beloved football team.

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