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Civic Affairs: Olivia Chow becomes first woman of colour to take over as Mayor of Toronto

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Olivia Chow has become the first person of colour to be sworn in as Mayor of Canada’s most populated city of Toronto. Her swearing-in ceremony, attended by councillors, guests of the elected mayor, former mayors, city staff and agency representatives was held at the city hall.

The 66-year-old  Olivia Chow, widow of former NDP leader Jack Leyton, was elected in the bye election held last month. Chow, a former NDP MP and past city councillor, defeated 101 other candidates to win last month’s mayoral election to replace John Tory. Her victory vaults a progressive into Toronto’s top job for the first time in over a decade.

In her first address after the ceremony, Olivia Chow pledged to build what she calls a more caring and affordable city. She received a standing ovation from her colleagues on council for her push for a better city.

“Let’s build a Toronto that is more affordable, safe and caring, where everyone belongs,” she said after signing the declaration. “Together we can, and today we start.”

The new Mayor has a host of issues on her plate. These  include a massive budget shortfall, driven in large part by decreasing transit revenues and increased shelter costs.

During her opening remarks as mayor, she chose to  call on  both the federal and provincial governments to step up and help refugees who are facing housing issues in the city.

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“Even in the face of those steep challenges, people have sent a clear message that change is not only possible, it’s absolutely necessary,” said Chow.

Chow, known for her passion for cycling,  elected to bike to work on her first day in office. Cycle Toronto hosted a group bike ride to City Hall to mark her inaugural day, with Chow joining the short ride and briefly addressing the group.

Since the June byelection, she has been holding meetings with city staff, finalizing her team and holding transition engagements with civil service and non-profit groups on priority issues to get to her work.

She made it clear that she will need cooperation from everyone in her endeavour to make Toronto the most liveable city. She affirmed that city councillors will continue to do “what they love to do.”

“They will be contributing the way they want to contribute,” she said, “and accomplish what they want to accomplish in these three years that we have in front of us.”

Since John Tory’s resignation and departure in February, the role and responsibilities of mayor have been held by Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie.

Prabhjot Singh

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