Reporter Bethany Van Lingen is at The Westin Prince Toronto with all the updates from Olivia Chow's first campaign rally.
Event is about to begin. Sound checks and a huge, milling crowd here at The Westin Prince. Supporters are holding yellow and purple Olivia Chow signs and wearing buttons. Chow will start speaking at 1:30. Opening speakers will take the stage at 1:20.
An army of volunteers greet and high-five supporters as they file in.
Mike Layton is opening the event. He is Olivia Chow's stepson and a Toronto city councillor. He will be emceeing the event.
Cheers erupt as Layton says "(Olivia Chow is) fighting for funding in Ottawa to fix our broken transit system."
Layton shares a personal story about being diagnosed with learning disability. Rather than holding him back, Chow and Jack Layton spent time working with Mike Layton and making learning engaging. "I'm sure she will bring the same dedication and passion as mayor of Toronto."
Next speaker is filmmaker Deepa Mehta
"This city means so much to us because it someone has to make up for something we left behind," says Mehta on the immigrant experience.
"She's compassionate, she cares and she's a hell of a lot better dresser than Rob Ford," Mehta says, ending her speech with a quip.
Next speaker is Dr. Joseph Wong. "We came here because we want a better place to live and work... not to save a few dollars off tax," Wong says following the telling of his immigration story.
Wong: "I support her not because I brought her and Jack together, but because I know her so well and because she has her heart in the right place."
Olivia Chow about to walk in any minute. Crowd is clapping to "Feel So Close" by Calvin Harris. The lines "I feel so close to you right now... And there's no stopping us right now" are pumping through the room.
Chow is on stage. She is taking an idea from the Academy Awards, and taking a selfie with the crowd.
"If you're Rob Ford, you may see (this selfie) an hour from now. Hey Rob, the clocks went an hour forward," Chow quips.
"Our city needs a new mayor, and I'm here to apply for the job," Chow says.
"Friends, I love this city. I love its people," Chow says.
"We love you!" an audience member shouts back.
Chow lists putting children at centre of work in city, economic revitalization, the TTC and minding the public purse as the four pillars of her campaign.
"We pay more and get less. It doesn't make sense. It is time for a change," Chow says.
The crowd shouts "We want change!" A beat later, Chow continues: "Or so young people who are just starting out have what they need to live and to start their own families. Because I think I'm speaking for parents everywhere when I say, 'Hey kids, we love you.. but there comes a time when we want you to do your own laundry.'"
"I learned the value of pennies and nickels from my family," Chow says. Chow's family came from Hong Kong. Chow's mother was a teacher, but after emigrating, worked in a hotel "kind of like this one," Chow says. "I am so proud of her," Chow continues.
Chow has served as a school trustee, city councillor and member of parliament. She says this experience will serve her as mayor.
"I have too much respect for the people of Scarborough to tell them they have to wait ten years for better transit... We can do better than that. We can put shovels in the ground now," Chow says.
"It's about doing what needs to be done, so we can get people where they need to be, now! Not later," Chow says. She continues: "Because if there's one thing I think most people in our city can agree on, from east to west, north to south... It's time to pack up the tent on the circus at City Hall."
"It's time to turn to return to our best traditions: working together, all of us, to get things done. And that's the way it will be, after we replace Rob Ford. After we replace all that nonsense that comes with Rob Ford, we will get the city moving again," Chow says.
"New mayor, new mayor!" the crowd chants.
"And hear this, John Tory. There is no such thing as a kinder, gentler version of failure," Chow says.
Chow wraps up her speech to thunderous applause.
"Let's spend the next seven months working harder than ever before to elect Olivia Chow!" Mike Layton says in closing speech.
"Ready to go!" Layton shouts. Crowd responds "Fired up!" And with that, the rally is over.
Tight press scrum follows Chow every step to the door. Journalists are doing their utmost to get a photo and quote. Dedicated supporters are shouldering in with journalists to get a closer look at Chow.
Just met a high school student who took time off his March break to come to Chow's rally. Robert Ong, of Northview Heights Secondary School, also went to City Hall to visit Mayor Ford just because he wanted "to see the action."
"I have a personal connection to Olivia," Ong says. "Because I immigrated from the Philippines nine and a half years ago."
Ryerson connection: third-year journalism student Akemi Liyagane is taking photos as a volunteer for Chow's campaign.
That's it for the live blog on Chow's kick-off event, the Rally For A Better City. Thanks for tuning in! If you want more from the mayoral candidates, attend John Tory's campaign kick-off this Wednesday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Polish Combatants' Hall.