Olivia Chow’s inevitable mayoral campaign won’t change much for Rob Ford

On the day that Toronto celebrated its 180th birthday, the city's mayor was not at city hall. Rob Ford's absence was noted by media, councillors and members of a permanent protest that has formed outside his office at city hall.

Besides that, it was your average municipal birthday celebration. Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly bought cake and shared it around, councillors met with the public and talked about what they loved about the city.

Ford, meantime, sent his own wishes while touring an Etobicoke apartment complex.

Ford makes a pronounced habit of touring residential buildings during the day, so his absence from city hall was not a matter of conspiracy. It did, however, give Ford the opportunity to avoid pointed questions on several topics from city hall’s media gallery.

Questions on the latest details on a police investigation involving him. And about today being the anniversary of one of the more controversial moments of his tenure – at the annual Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee Action Party last year, an allegedly inebriated Ford was accused of grabbing the rear-end of former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson.

Or just maybe, Ford couldn’t bear to face another round of questions about the inevitable entry of NDP MP Olivia Chow into the mayoral race.The Toronto Star reported Thursday that Chow's campaign is already at full power and will launch her candidacy the week of March 17.

[ Related: CRTC worried there’s not enough CanCon in Canadian porn ]

Considering Ford's campaign team, namely his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, views Chow's entry into the campaign as inevitable, it is unlikely Ford’s talking points will change at this point. But the thorough report of Chow's campaign plans and timeline all but ensures her inclusion in the election and fills the candidate list with all of the presumed heavy hitters.

Former PC leader John Tory and councillor Karen Stintz have launched their campaigns in recent weeks and former councillor David Soknacki has been part of the race for almost as long as Ford.

Chow placidly poured cold water on the suggestion of her imminent announcement on Thursday, telling the National Post's Natalie Alcoba the report was "news to me."

It is all fine and good for a presumed candidate to feign ignorance until they are ready to announce, but story leaks like this are also part of the game.

And a report doesn't appear in the city's most-read newspaper by accident, not when it includes that much detail.

[ Related: Elections watchdog says proposed election law damages level playing field ]

The Star report features an anonymous senior campaign organizer touting the campaign's battle readiness. It names several key members of the team, including John Laschinger, director of David Miller's successful 2003 mayoral campaign, and vows that a complete campaign platform will be released the moment she announces.

It even outlines the strategy they will use in the face of inevitable attacks from Rob Ford - pitting Chow's experience of growing up poor against Ford's inherited wealth.

Promises that Chow's inevitable campaign will launch with a complete staff and organized platform is no doubt deliberately in contrast to Ford's own. In the two months Ford's campaign has been active, it has faced staffing issues and questions of organization. Ford's campaign only recently launched its official website, which crashed this week after he mentioned it during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Ford’s campaign, however, has had a two-month head start and manages to generate headlines at every corner, be they embarrassing appearances on U.S. television, personal vendettas against the police chief or the occasional, actual campaign stop.

Chow’s inevitable involvement won’t change much for Ford, nor will it likely steal many headlines from him. It will change the trajectory of the mayoral campaign. Team Ford has expected this, but will they be ready when Chow gets going at full speed?

If they are, Ford could still be around to celebrate Toronto’s 181st birthday.

Want to know what news is brewing in Canada?
Follow @MRCoutts on Twitter.