With the fall of the government, Toronto’s gaybourhood will soon be choosing its representative on Parliament Hill.
Incumbent Bob Rae will run again for the Liberal Party, having represented the riding since winning it in a by-election in 2008. Though the former premier has won strong majorities in each of his last two elections, he will face tough challengers from the Conservatives, NDP and Green Party.
Susan Wallace, running for the NDP, says she expects to mount a tough campaign, following up on the close race the party gave in the 2009 provincial by-election that saw street nurse Cathy Crowe narrowly lose to the Liberals’ Glen Murray.
“In Toronto Centre, we’re seeing some real raising of profile for the NDP,” Wallace says. “That was a provincial campaign, and by-election campaigns are always different. In a general election, our resources are spread nationally. But we have the same level of will and determination and grit.”
Wallace holds a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan and formerly practised for that province’s Legal Aid Commission and office of the attorney general. She also served as the national executive director of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association for 12 years.
Asked about her approach to queer issues, Wallace says she supports the community and opposes Conservatives’ attempts to block the trans rights bill, cutting funding to pride organizations, and Industry Minister Tony Clement’s efforts to kill a bill in the Senate that would allow for the production of cheap generic AIDS drugs for poor countries.
“This is unconscionable behaviour that we as Canadians have to speak to,” she says.
Carrying the banner for the Conservatives will be community activist and Mennonite Brethren church pastor Kevin Moore. According to the Conservative Party website, Moore ministers in St Jamestown and is the executive director of City Hope Education Centre, a non-profit that helps children and seniors.
As an evangelical minister, Moore’s faith dictates that homosexuality and extramarital sex are sinful and that the only option for gay people is a life of celibacy. But Moore has written publicly about the need for the church to welcome gay and trans people with compassion and understanding as neighbours and in support of legislation to prevent employment discrimination against gay people.
The Conservative party has had trouble with candidates in the riding before. Months before the 2008 election, the party turfed its nominated candidate, Mark Warner, citing differences between his and the party’s stances on social and urban issues. During the 2010 race, the party dropped openly gay candidate Chris Reid over his controversial blog writings about guns.
Representing the Green Party will be Harvard-educated retired teacher Ellen Michelson, who has lived in the riding for 35 years. Michelson has volunteered with a number of organizations, including the Canada Corps, which oversaw the 2004 elections in Ukraine; the public transit advocacy group TRAC; and the Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto.
A federal election date has yet to be announced.