Hopefully Olivia Chow can swim, because she's jumping into shark-infested waters by formally entering the Toronto mayoral race on Wednesday.
Chow, formerly a New Democrat MP, resigned her seat in Parliament this morning is expected to kick off her mayoral campaign on Thursday. Chow's letter of resignation was submitted to the Speaker's office Wednesday morning, officially ending her seven-year stint as a Member of Parliament. By Wednesday afternoon, Chow had filed her nomination papers with city hall.
Chow has been dipping her toe into the race for months, openly musing about a possible run without confirming much of anything. Senior members of her "team" recently told the Toronto Star she would announce a run the week of March 17. This puts her candidacy slightly ahead of that timeline.
Chow enters a top-heavy contest with several competitive candidates, few of whom will be excited by the news of her impending arrival.
While she becomes the only legitimate left-of-centre candidate in a field of conservative options, polls have suggested she will cut into the support of several conservative opponents, and a campaign director told the Canadian Press she will also appeal to no-nonsense voters who previously backed troubled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Perhaps the man who should be most concerned in former PC leader and radio host John Tory, who polls suggest has the most to lose with Chow’s entry into the race.
Political strategist and member of the Tory camp Nick Kouvalis has been targeting Chow for days leading up to the expected announcement, specifically over an MP informational mailout she recently sent to Toronto residents. Chow's current federal riding is the Trinity-Spadina neighbourhood in the city's downtown.
On Wednesdsay, the website ValueofaDollar.ca went live, urging people to file complaints over Chow's mailout.
[ Political Points: Critics question Olivia Chow's taxpayer-funded mailers ]
Along with Ford and Tory, Chow is entering a race where conservative councillor Karen Stintz and former councillor David Soknacki are projected to grab a decent slice of voters on October 27.
Results from a February Forum Research poll found Chow and Ford tied at 31 per cent support, with Tory at 27 per cent. Stintz sat with six per cent and Soknacki had two per cent.
In another poll that left Chow out of the race, Tory jumped out in front with 39 per cent support, with Stintz at 15 per cent. Ford received 33 per cent, suggesting his support base would be least affected by Chow's announcement.
Coun. Doug Ford, who is the acting campaign manager of his brother's re-election campaign, told the Toronto Sun that they welcomed Chow to the race.
"I’ll walk her right to the polls myself. She’ll take eight to 10 points off Tory overnight and she’s not going to take one point off of Rob. I want to get her in," he told the Sun's Don Peat.
Chow is expected to run a campaign focused on her personal history as the daughter in a low-income immigrant family. She recently released an autobiography titled "My Journey," and has been promoting it across the country. Before becoming an MP in 2006, Chow was a Toronto councillor for 14 years.
But she may want to be prepared to get her hands dirty. Few of her opponents will be welcoming her as warmly as Doug Ford pretends to.
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