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Former journalist and economic pundit Chrystia Freeland wants Liberal nod

Race for Toronto Centre shapes up as Smitherman bows out

Former journalist and economic pundit Chrystia Freeland wants the Liberal nod in Toronto Centre.

The race for the Liberal Party nomination for the by-election to replace Bob Rae as MP for Toronto Centre is shaping up, with international journalist and economics writer Chrystia Freeland announcing her candidacy and former MPP George Smitherman officially bowing out. So far, the nomination will pit Freeland against gay activist Todd Ross, who announced his candidacy last month.

Freeland says she was inspired to move into politics by her activist mother, a community organizer who was involved in early socialist, feminist, aboriginal and LGBT struggles in Alberta.

“I grew up in this house where we were constantly organizing Take Back the Night marches. I was marching as a baby,” she says. “My mom was the kind of woman I imagine many of [Xtra’s] readers are.”

Born in Peace River, Freeland is a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar who’s had a long career as a journalist and editor working in Ukraine, Russia, London and New York for The Economist, The Financial Times, The Washington Post and Reuters, as well as a stint at The Globe and Mail in Toronto from 1999 to 2001. She’s also a frequent guest on political talk shows in the US.

She caught the Liberal Party’s eye with the publication of her 2012 book Plutocrats: The Rise of the Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, an award-winningNew York Times bestseller.

“That was a point of contact for us,” Freeland says. “The Liberals under Trudeau are clearly focused on this middle-class agenda.”

Freeland says that while political and technological trends are driving down wages, the new global economy presents opportunities for countries to grow more prosperous.

“Thanks to globalization and this new technology, it’s possible to go from zero to a billion-dollar company in no time. We have all these 20-something multimillionaires and billionaires, and that’s happening in technology, but it’s happening across the spectrum,” she says. “However, in contrast with what happened in the post-war era, the fruits of this economic growth are not being shared.”

While she offers no easy solutions, she suggests that Canada needs to work on expanding opportunities for young people through education and by attracting the best businesses and entrepreneurs to locate here.

“Let’s make it our ambition for people to say around the world that Toronto is the best city to live in, it’s the place I want to raise my kids, and it’s where I want to found my high-tech company,” she says.

That includes making Toronto a global centre for LGBT people, she says. “Let’s make this the place where everybody in the world is like ‘Oh my god, I want to live in Toronto Centre.’”

Freeland doesn’t yet live in Toronto but is staying with family while she finds a house in the riding and schools for her three children.

Smitherman announced in a July 29 guest column for The Huffington Post that he no longer intends to return to politics.

The only declared candidate for the NDP is former journalist Jennifer Hollett.

Rae’s resignation took effect July 31. Nomination meetings have not yet been scheduled, but Liberals are expecting theirs to be in September. A by-election is expected sometime in the fall, although the prime minister can schedule it up to a year from the resignation date.