Olivia Chow

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Olivia Chow



Olivia Chow’s quest for a better society has been a lifelong journey that has taken her from Hong Kong to Toronto and one of the more extraordinary careers in Canadian politics. First as Trustee, then City Councillor, and now as a Member of Parliament, Olivia has been a tireless activist for the residents of Trinity-Spadina in downtown Toronto.

First elected as an MP in January of 2006, Olivia was re-elected in 2008 and again in May of 2011.

A former Vice Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), and now the Critic of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Olivia is re-introducing the first ever National Public Transit Strategy Bill in the House of Commons so Canadians have access to fast, reliable and affordable public transit. As the New Democratic Party’s former child care critic, Olivia’s Early Learning and Child Care Bill laid the legislative foundation for a universal, high-quality, affordable and non-profit national child care program. It received support from Parliament twice and almost became law.

Olivia gained a taste for political life in 1981 while working as a constituency assistant for New Democrat MP Dan Heap. She assisted Dan Heap to launch the campaign to seek an apology and compensation from the federal government on the shameful anti-immigrant “Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act.” Working tirelessly with grassroots organizations through the years, the federal government finally apologized in 2006, the year Chow became a MP.

First elected as a school Trustee in 1985, Olivia became a City Councillor in 1991, breaking new ground as the first Asian woman elected at the municipal level in Toronto. After Toronto’s amalgamation in 1997, she was re-elected three times as City Councillor.

Olivia Chow had the rare distinction of being voted best Member of Parliament in 2010 and best city councillor seven times by the readers of NOW Magazine and best local politician four times by readers of Eye Magazine. She has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including Consumers Choice Award for the Woman of the Year and received a honourary degree from the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Political leadership is just one dimension of Olivia Chow. She is a passionate gardener, artist, reader, outdoor enthusiast, a swimmer and cyclist. After learning English as a teenager, she studied fine arts at the Ontario College of Art and Philosophy and Religion at the University of Toronto while working as a volunteer counselor in crisis intervention at the emergency ward of Toronto General Hospital – an indication of the kind of multi-tasking that has made her such an effective leader. Olivia earned an Honours BA in fine art from the University of Guelph in 1979, and supported her career as a sculptor by working for a number of social service agencies. For five years, she also taught at George Brown College’s Assaulted Women and Children Counseling and Advocacy Program.

Early in her political career, Olivia forged one of Canada’s most remarkable political partnerships when she met Jack Layton. They shared a passion for life and commitment to change and married in 1988. Olivia and Jack lived in Trinity-Spadina’s Chinatown with Olivia’s mother Ho Sze in a house that they transformed with a “green” renovation. Their children Sarah and Michael Layton live nearby.

As she enters her third decade in public life, Olivia Chow is just beginning to hit her stride. The journey is ongoing – Olivia’s quest for a better society and her determination to make a difference continue.

Parliamentary Memberships:

Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group, Save Darfur Parliamentary Coalition, Canada-Hong Kong Parliamentary Friendship Group, Canada-China Legislative Association, All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide, Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities Committee, Status of Women Committee, Transportation Infrastructure and Communities Committee.

This article based on content from http://www.oliviachow.ca/meet-olivia/.