Toronto Centre by-election shaping up as battle of media giants

| August 7, 2013 | 1 Comment

Riding not likely to have an MP focused on local issues when the by-election is over

Toronto Centre by-election

Journalist Linda McQuaig is seeking the NDP nomination for the Toronto Centre by-election.

Toronto Centre — the seat vacated by Bob Rae — will have a by-election sometime between September and next January.

It’s an interesting riding, in that it contains polls of great wealth, polls of great poverty, the city’s gay village, and a host of other individual communities that make for determined support for the right candidate.

Since David Crombie and David MacDonald held it in the 1970s and 1980s, the riding has been in Liberal hands. For the last few electoral cycles, in fact, it’s been a Liberal vs. NDP battleground.

The NDP currently holds the ridings on either side (and the ones on the outer sides of those, too), while the Liberals hold the riding to the north.

But announced candidates for their party’s nominations don’t suggest that the riding will be getting anyone post-Bob Rae (who really was more of a national figure than a local candidate, and who in his long career also represented Riverdale and western East York, and the City of York & South Weston, both other parts of Toronto) whom you could see as “of the community” there.

What it’s going to be, in fact, is a battle of media giants. (You may read into that either a battle of pundits, or a battle of corporate behemoths, as you like.)

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau recruited Chrystia Freeland to carry his party’s banner. Freeland has been a writer and editor with the Financial Times, the Globe and Mail, and Thomson Reuters. She’ll be returning to Canada from New York City (she also spent many years over the past three decades in the former Soviet Union, and in London) to compete for the seat.

Call Freeland the expert on the global 0.1 per cent — her book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else came out in October last year.

It’s likely she’ll face off against Linda McQuaig, of the Toronto Star, and no slouch in the who-are-the-plutocrats department herself: her last two books are The Trouble with Billionaires (2010) and Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality, which came out last year. McQuaig is seeking the NDP nomination in the riding.

She’ll have to win the nomination against another media personality, Jennifer Hollett, a MuchMusic and CBC Television host, who’s been working for the past month to win the New Democrats’ nomination.

Toronto Centre by-election nominees parachuted in

Toronto Centre by-election

Chrystia Freeland, another media personality, is seeking the Liberal nomination in Toronto Centre by-election.

Freeland, meanwhile, is the first example of Trudeau’s say-one-thing-here-and-do-another-thing-there style as applied to nominations. Trudeau talks about open nominations and leaders staying out of the nominating process at the riding level, but has now parachuted Freeland into Toronto Centre (and laid his hands on Member of the National Assembly of Québec Emmanuel Dubourg to move to federal politics in Bourassa, another open seat requiring a by-election this fall).

Freeland will be up against two other declared candidates: Todd Ross, a former aide to George Smitherman, who represented the riding provincially and ran for Mayor of Toronto in 2010, and Diana Burke, a former IT executive for Royal Bank, for the Liberal nod.

What’s particularly interesting when it comes to the Toronto Centre by-election is that the riding boundaries are about to change dramatically. As a part of the growth of seats through redistricting taking place for the 2015 election, this by-election will be the last one run on the current boundaries.

All the Liberal-leaning polls of the riding north of Bloor St. in Rosedale are about to be shifted to a new University-Rosedale riding, while the rest of Toronto Centre south of Bloor St. (the gay village, the Regent’s Park and St. James’ Town public housing areas, the St. Lawrence neighbourhood of mixed income housing, the Islands and the new condos of downtown east) will form the new Toronto Centre for 2015.

In other words, it’s quite likely that whichever media figure loses in 2013 will end up running again and winning in one of the two of these in 2015.

Of the candidates running for the Liberals or NDP, probably only Todd Ross has any sort of well-defined potential for the community’s support. The rest fall into that amorphous “betters class” of professionals that parties like to turn to when they don’t have someone with deep roots to draw upon.

Trudeau’s intervention stayed the hands of both George Smitherman, who had been rumoured to be considering a federal run, and Zack Paikin, a young Liberal activist, and Huffington Post political commentator, and the son of TV Ontario’s The Agenda host Steve Paikin.

However you slice it, that’s a lot of media talent playing for and around this riding (and waiting in the wings for the riding split).

Cons and Greens not expected to play role in Toronto Centre by-election

Toronto Centre by-election

Former Much Music VJ Jennifer Hollett is also seeking the NDP nomination for the Toronot Centre by-election

The Conservatives and the Greens are not factors in the Toronto Centre by-election at this time. The Conservatives have their candidate, Kevin Hope, nominated: he ministers in St. James’ Town and is the executive director of local charity for the underprivileged City of Hope, and ran in the 2011 general election for the party. The Green Party will run Ellen Michelson, a retired educator and writer, again as their candidate. Between the two of them these parties did not take as many votes as the NDP did in losing to the Liberals.

Here’s the challenge for Toronto Centre voters: journalists don’t have a great track record at politics. Think of expense scandal shamed Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, or the results obtained (none) by ex-cabinet minister Peter Kent. Michael Ignatieff, before assuming a professorial role, was a professional journalist and pundit in the UK — and his political record speaks for itself. (The NDP’s Charlie Angus, and the Liberals’ Sheila Copps and Brian Tobin, are amongst the best of recent journalists who served in the House.)

But media types are basically what they’re going to have on offer, unless a miracle upset occurs to undo the Liberal/NDP hold on the riding.

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Category: Federal, Opinion, Politics

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