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George Smitherman confident heading into Toronto’s mayoral race

Courts gays in lead-up to next fall's election

As Toronto Centre MPP George Smitherman enters the city’s mayoral race, he hopes to stitch together a win from minority communities — starting with gays and lesbians.

Smitherman resigned as Ontario’s energy minister Nov 8 and officially announced his intention to join the City of Toronto mayoralty race the next day. For months, he has been touted as a likely candidate, but the rules forbid him from campaigning until January.

In an interview with Xtra, he says he’s confident about capturing the gay vote next fall.

“I’ve learned enough of about the gay community to know it’s not a monolithic vote, but yes,” he says, adding “I always have” been able to count on the community’s vote.

In a Nov 14 article in the Toronto Star, Smitherman suggested that being a minority — a gay man — could bolster his chances during the election.

“It’s not conventional wisdom, but even among disparate groups, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a point of commonality,” he tells Xtra. “And as I’ve come to know more about minority communities in Toronto, I’ve come to know that there are many communities of the Charter.”

When asked what that looked like in practical terms, he repeated that the Charter was “a point of commonality” among minorities.

Smitherman has represented the gay village riding of Toronto Centre (formerly Toronto-Rosedale) at Queen’s Park since 1999. After Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals swept to power in 2003, Smitherman was sworn in as minister of health, a position he held until 2008.

During that time, he relisted sex reassignment surgery under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and he advocated reversing the ban on gay blood donors.

In 2008 and 2009, he served at Ontario’s energy minister until his resignation from cabinet. For the time being, he remains an MPP.

Smitherman can often be seen in the Church-Wellesley area walking to and from his condo. He won’t tone down his life as an out gay man during the race, he promises. He says his advisors know the score and none of them have asked him to keep his sexuality out of the race.

“I hate to repeat something that you’d hear from a Pride float, but I am what I am,” he says.

While he has yet to release a platform or list of policy priorities, the soft-sell portion of the campaign is already in full swing.

“My message to the gay community is one of thanks. I’ve had the privilege of having the love and support of this community,” he says. “I look forward to earning the support of the community over the next 49 weeks.”