Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Olivia Chow's 'big tent' platform is missing the numbers

By: Matt Elliott Metro, Metro Published on Tue Apr 08 2014

Olivia Chow is running a calculated and confident campaign, one engineered to draw votes from across the political spectrum. Looking at where the polls are today, the plan has a decent shot of working out for her.

But her 'big tent' approach doesn’t come without risk. In trying to reach out to voters, Chow is attempting to brand herself both as a cost-cutter who will keep taxes low and as someone who wants to re-invest in public services.

Chow’s problem is that the math behind that approach doesn’t really add up. The city budget is a complex beast, but there’s no avoiding these simple realities: you can’t get investment in the city without money, and you can’t get money without taxes. QED.

We asked Chow about all this during her interview at Metro, reading a question submitted by @alexnaylor. He wanted to know how she’d deliver on her pledge to keep property taxes to around the rate of inflation, given that the city manager recently issued a warning saying that won’t be possible without service cuts.

“I think it’s doable. We just need to have the courage to say yes to good investment and the strength to say no to those that are not good investments,” she said, pointing to the Scarborough subway as a bad investment.

But Chow’s campaign has been all about the need to create more jobs, improve childcare and make transit better. Surely that means she thinks the city has been under-investing in those areas, right?

“Absolutely, absolutely,” she told us. “The childcare fees have gone up, for people who’ve become parents, recreation fees have gone up, TTC fares have gone up several times and the service has gone down because of the crowding situation. That’s just not good enough and we can do so much better.”

OK, but how can we do better while still keeping property taxes to around the rate of inflation? Chow told us repeatedly that she could make it work. That she has a track record of working with others and getting things done.

Maybe so, but what I’d really like to see are her numbers.

This post was originally published at on 2014-04-08T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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