Toronto Centre has become a hotspot for media personalities looking to make their political debut now that the riding is officially vacant.
Elections Canada announced Wednesday that the riding of two-time Liberal leadership contender and one-time interim leader Bob Rae is up for grabs in an election that could come as early as Sept 23—or many months afterward.
While none of the major parties have yet to finalize their candidates, both the Liberals and NDP have garnered some high-profile contenders looking to represent their party in the coming by-election.
In an interesting twist, the apparent front-runners for both parties have remarkable similarities. Both are white women with accomplished backgrounds working in the media, and both have authored books about the super-rich.
Linda McQuaig became the latest contender when she announced Tuesday she would seek the nomination to represent the NDP. McQuaig co-authored “The Trouble with Billionaires: How the Super-Rich Hijacked the World and How We Can Take It Back” in 2010.
She has also worked as a reporter for the Globe and Mail, a senior writer for Maclean’s Magazine, a columnist for the National Post, and is currently with the Toronto Star. Besides her book on billionaires, she has written eight others about politics and economics.
A week earlier, Chrystia Freeland, another prominent journalist and author, announced her hope to represent the Liberals.
Freeland also worked at the Globe and Mail, but as a deputy editor and columnist, before heading south of the border where she made a name for herself as managing editor at the Financial Times before leaving for Thomas Reuters.
She has also authored a book about the uber wealthy, titled “Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Globe Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.”
McQuaig is vying with another journalist, Jennifer Hollett, for the NDP nomination. Hollett is a television host who has worked for CBC and CTV, and a former VJ for MuchMusic who has earned tech cred for developing an app to break down TV campaign ads during the 2012 U.S. election.
While McQuaig and Hollett are the only two contenders for the NDP nomination so far, Freeland has two other challengers to represent the Liberals: Diana Burke, a former chief information security officer at Royal Bank Financial Group, and Todd Ross, a community organizer who touts his Metis ancestry.
Shades of Ignatieff
Freeland has an edge in terms of profile and credentials over the other potential Liberal nominees, but she also has some baggage in terms of similarities to another accomplished Liberal—former party leader Michael Ignatieff.
Like Ignatieff, Freeland has spent much of her recent life in the United States, a point she doesn’t mention on her brief online bio but something that has already sparked criticism on Twitter from the NDP Toronto Centre riding president Vince Cifani.
McQuaig, meanwhile, makes a point of highlighting her long-term residence in the riding. Hollett also emphasizes the fact that she lives in the riding.
All three candidates have made income inequality a major aspect of their work and campaigns—an interesting dynamic given that Toronto Centre has a unique combination of some of Canada’s richest and poorest neighbourhoods.
Some political observers say that dichotomy has served the centrist Liberals well, but an upcoming boundary change will see much of the affluent northern part of the riding joined with the communities to the east to form a new University-Rosedale riding.
The less affluent southern part of the riding will continue as Toronto Centre, and previous election results indicate the NDP could have a solid edge there.
The new University-Rosedale riding looks to be more up for grabs based on polling division results in 2011. The eastern half voted NDP, but the eastern half also saw the Liberals and Conservatives both garner support.
The Tories have yet to announce a candidate for the by-election. The party’s riding president did not respond to requests for comment by press time.