Olivia Chow

Toronto through the eyes of Olivia Chow

Although Olivia Chow made the transition from municipal to federal politics in 2006, she remains one of Toronto's most popular politicians. Ever passionate about urban issues, she's advocated for federal funding for public transit, the expansion of cycling infrastructure in cities and, most recently, side guards for transport trucks.

Spotting Chow riding her trademark flower-decorated bike along the waterfront isn't an unusual site (neither is seeing her at protests shaking hands or at yearly events like Caribana and Pride). While she has to spend significant time in Ottawa on account of her parliamentary duties, when she's away from Toronto, she misses the city's restaurants and arts and culture scene.

In the midst of a non-stop schedule of meetings and phone calls, Chow took a moment to answer our questions about where she stands on our current transit debate and what she does in her downtime.

You've lived in Toronto since 1970, what's the biggest single positive change you've seen happen in the city in the last 40 years? What's one way in which the city has changed for the worse?

The biggest positive change is the large influx of people living in downtown Toronto, making the downtown even more engaging and vibrant. The commute time has grown steadily to over 80 minutes a day (365 days a year). This is caused by many years of neglect of public transit investment from the provincial and federal government.

We have to ask — where do you stand on the current transit debate in Toronto? Do you prefer a plan that favours LRTs or subways? Why?

I prefer Transit City, but it really should be up to city council to decide.

What is the federal government's responsibility to fund transit?

To transfer more of the existing gas tax dollars to Toronto.

If you were mayor of Toronto tomorrow, what's the first major policy decision you'd make?

The City should have a green building code so all new buildings must be built in the most sustainable manner.

What's one Toronto event or festival that you try your best not to miss every year?

Nuit Blanche. I go every year because of the excitement and inspiration generated by all the art around town. Also because it is free, many art lovers who normally can`t afford the entrance fees can participate.

Lastly, we want to wish you a happy early birthday. How do you plan on celebrating?

How do you know about my birthday?? I plan to celebrate with thousands of New Democrats when we elect a new leader for our party.


Where do you get your caffeine fix? My trusted coffee maker at home.

Favourite place in the city for inspiration? The Music Garden by the waterfront.

Favourite Toronto building/landmark? There are so many! University College at the University of Toronto, since I jog and bike by it all the time.

Where do you get your hair done? Strand on College.

Favourite meal? That`s close to impossible to say — probably a Thai Green Curry Veggie with rice.

Will Toronto host an Olympics in your lifetime? No idea, and doesn`t matter as long as we get lots of young people participating in as many sports as possible.

Yes or no — should the city de-amalgamate? I would have said yes many years ago, but the train has long left the station and I am not sure it is realistic to do so anymore.

What age do you plan on retiring from politics? No idea.

Photo by Andrew Rusk

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