Olivia Chow Elected as Toronto’s First Chinese Canadian Mayor

Olivia Chow

Olivia Chow, Toronto's newly elected mayor, turns out to support LGBTQ rights during the city's Pride march this past weekend. Photo: Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Olivia Chow became the first Chinese Canadian to be elected as mayor of Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, on Monday, pledging to support renters, champion social causes, and reduce the sweeping powers of her office.

“I would dedicate myself to work tirelessly in building a city that is more caring, affordable, and safe, where everyone belongs,” Chow told her supporters during the victory speech.

Chow secured 37.2 per cent of the vote, according to preliminary results, ahead of her nearest rival Ana Bailao, former deputy mayor.

A prominent voice in progressive politics, Chow’s campaign drew on her record as a former member of parliament in Ottawa and as a Toronto city councillor, and leaned on historic relationships established by her late husband, former New Democratic Party (NDP) and federal opposition leader Jack Layton.

Chow, 66, will be the first woman to serve as Toronto’s mayor since Barbara Hall in 1997. She previously ran for mayor in 2014, when she came in third.

Born in Hong Kong, Chow emigrated to Canada at the age of 13 and graduated from the University of Guelph with a degree in fine art.

Chow takes over as mayor after the resignation of John Tory, the conservative-leaning mayor who won his third election last October. The married Tory, 69, left office in February after acknowledging he had had an affair with a staff member.

Chow will lead Canada’s financial capital at a time of rising housing costs and an increase in violent attacks on public transit that have led to calls for more action by police. She has pledged to build 25,000 rent-controlled homes over eight years to tackle the soaring rents.

Since the start of the campaign, Chow had held a wide lead on her rivals in opinion polls. Tory had endorsed his former deputy Bailao, while Ontario Premier Doug Ford had endorsed former Toronto Chief of Police Mark Saunders.

Ford congratulated Chow, and said he was willing to work with anyone ready to “work with our government to better our city and province.”