Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow on cutting deals with Doug Ford, fixing a broken city and putting pressure on Ottawa

By The Big Story Podcast

When Olivia Chow was running for mayor, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said a Chow victory would be an “unmitigated disaster”. Almost six months later, he was on stage with her, thanking her for working with him on a historic deal between the city and province. He called their collaboration “amazing” and the deal “one-sided” in the mayor’s favour.

In a sit-down interview with The Big Story, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow explained how she was able to come together with Premier Ford over shared goals, despite their political differences. “[Premier Doug Ford’s] way of dealing with [work as a politician] is of course slightly different than my way, but the desire to serve you could see that from the Ford family.”

Mayor Chow served as a city councillor with Doug Ford’s late brother, the contentious Toronto city counsellor turned mayor, Rob Ford.

The deal offloaded two highways, the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway, back to the province and saw the small portion of the Ontario place land held by the city released to the province. With all of the land at the Ontario Place site now owned by the province, Premier Doug Ford said the deal to turn it into a large spa and tourist attraction will go ahead.

Mayor Chow made her displeasure of this plan clear — she had wanted to turn the site into a public park. But Mayor Chow was told by solicitors that “legally, not a whole lot you can do” when it comes to stopping the provinces plan for the site.

Although the $7.8 billion deal has been agreed to by the Toronto municipality and provincial government, some funding is conditional to the federal government joining in. “The unfortunate thing is that because it’s conditional, it takes three parties. Right now, $1.6 billion is locked because the federal government haven’t come in yet,” said Chow. She added that she hopes that announcing the deal will encourage the federal government to get in board.

Municipalities are legally bound to balance their budget, and when Mayor Chow took office Toronto was experiencing a $1.5 billion shortfall. With this new inflow of cash, Mayor Chow plans to address large issues like housing and public transit, as well as smaller issues like washroom availability and overflowing garbages.

“So you will see hopefully in the budget where those quote ‘small’ but very important things like libraries, community centres, parks, potholes, all those quote ‘smaller things’, the services will be restored so that they can be as better as it could be,” said Chow.

On the podcast today Mayor Chow opens up more fully about how the most important relationship in Ontario politics has evolved, how the deal actually came together and why the federal government isn’t yet involved. She discusses how soon Torontonians will see the impact of it and where, and how she plans to prioritize the many problems her city faces.

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