The no-politics mayoral candidate questionnaire: Olivia Chow
“My biggest vice is single-malt scotch—an Islay—once in a while”
Long hours, combative colleagues and mean tweets for days: running Toronto is brutal work. The past two mayors left in ignominy. Why, then, is the slate of contenders longer than the line to eat at Alo? A record 102 candidates know that the city is on the verge of delivering huge, legacy-entrenching projects: thousands of affordable new homes, several new transit lines and the 2026 World Cup to cap it all off. If everything goes to plan, Toronto’s next mayor will get credit for lifting the city out of the pandemic and into a more hopeful future.
But, first, candidates have the daunting task of setting themselves apart from the crowd. For voters who can’t make up their minds based on hot-button issues like TTC safety, affordable housing and the future of Ontario Place, we present the ultimate tiebreaker: a questionnaire in which the front runners give answers on just about every topic other than politics—the theory being that, if their policies haven’t convinced voters, perhaps their personalities will.
Related: Five departing councillors on what it’s really like inside city hall
Name: Olivia Chow
Neighbourhood: Kensington Market/Chinatown
Last job: Executive director of the Institute for Change Leaders
My most impressive trait: Empathy
My least impressive trait: Impatience
The last time I experienced joy: I went to the Somali Centre Iftar meal recently, where they gave out volunteer awards for things like mentoring students in school, making community meals and other acts of community service. The energy in the room filled me with joy. People were excited about coming together and celebrating their achievements in making life better for their neighbours.
My biggest vice: Single-malt scotch—an Islay—once in a while
My coffee order: Black
The fast food item I could survive on for the rest of my life: Subway sandwiches
How much I usually tip: 20 per cent
The last book I read: On the Ravine by Vincent Lam
The last show I binged: Grace and Frankie
The last concert I went to: David Wall performing at the United Jewish People’s Order Third Seyder
A slightly embarrassing fact no one knows about me: I talk to my cat, Mauie.
What a bad day looks like for me: I’m so busy that I don’t have time to eat. I love to eat.
My first job: In high school, I snapped buttons onto pants as a seamstress in a factory on Spadina.
My biggest pet peeve: Giant potholes, especially when they’re hidden by water or snow
My celebrity doppelgänger: Sook-Yin Lee played me in the Jack Layton movie.
My favourite curse word: I’m not allowed to swear in front of my grandkids, which is a good policy. “Crap” is the furthest I can go these days.
My last splurge: White-water canoeing on the Broken Skull River, in the Northwest Territories
My biggest regret: I spent a lot of time working in political office as a councillor and an MP, and that ate into family time.
What I’d like written on my tombstone: “Olivia Chow.” I’m pretty direct—I don’t need much more than that.
Car, bike or TTC: All three—I’m a year-round cyclist, I take the TTC frequently and I’m often a passenger in cars.
Raptors, Jays, Leafs, TFC or Argos: When I first moved to Canada, I watched the Leafs. I also have a special place in my heart for the Raptors because I played basketball in Grade 9—I didn’t last on the team much longer because everyone grew taller than me.
My favourite watering hole: Free Times Café, on College
The best view of the city: Sunsets, moonrises and the skyline at Ontario Place
The Torontonian I’d most like to spend a day with: I’d want to watch Sarah Polley direct or be on set with Jean Yoon.
Where I would live if not Toronto: In a tent, camping at our provincial and national parks. Most summers, I spend more time camping along a river than I do at home.