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Linda McQuaig joins race for NDP nomination in Toronto Centre

Journalist brings policy knowledge on income inequality to debate

Linda McQuaig at the gateway to the Church-Wellesley Village. Credit: Rob Salerno

The Toronto Centre federal by-election race got a little hotter this week with the announcement that journalist and progressive political writer Linda McQuaig would be seeking the NDP nomination, making her the third well-known female journalist to officially declare her intentions to represent the riding in Parliament.

Broadcast journalist and former MuchMusic VJ Jennifer Hollett is also seeking the nomination for the NDP, and economics writer Chrystia Freeland is seeking the nod from the Liberal Party.

McQuaig, a lifelong Toronto resident who lives in Ramsden Park in the north of the riding, writes a column in the Toronto Star and is best known for her 11 books on the economy and the Canadian social-safety net. Her most recent books, Billionaires' Ball and The Trouble with Billionaires, explore similar territory to Freeland's Plutocrats.

McQuaig says she would be “delighted” to debate Freeland on the issue of income inequality in Canada. “The Liberals and the NDP have very different solutions. Income inequality is such a crucial issue in Canada, and it has not been properly aired and explored,” she says. “The Liberals seem to express concern about it but throw their hands up and say there’s nothing we can do about it.

“What it really is, is a deliberate set of policies that have been put in place for the last 30 years . . . tax cuts for the rich, social spending cuts, privatizations, deregulation, a specific set of policies that have eroded the well-being of ordinary people . . . We’ve got to change those policies.”

LGBT issues are an integral part of the push for equality, McQuaig says.

“Those are equality issues that fit quite a bit with my concerns,” she says. “I love the spirit of the LGBT movement. I love the spirit of Pride and Church Street, the openness, genuine freedom, desire to let people be themselves, diversity. All that is very important to me, to who I am and to what I would want to be involved with politically.”

As the NDP has become more mainstream over the past decade, there has been criticism that it has abandoned some of its progressive roots as it moves in a more populist direction. McQuaig says she can be an effective voice for the progressive side of the party. “To the extent that that’s an issue, I want to get in there and boost the forces of the progressive side,” she says. “I also think it’s not the way to win. I actually think the general public is basically pretty progressive on most issues.”

She also says that while she’s prepared to be a team player once in caucus, the party has reviewed her body of writing and told her that she’ll be free to voice her opinions in the party.

“I’m confident that the party actually wants my voice out there,” she says. “There’s a lot of people out there who think there should be more openness in politics.”

Also seeking the Liberal nomination is LGBT activist Todd Ross and nonprofit activist and IT professional Diana Burke, who also announced her candidacy this week. Nomination meetings for both parties have not yet been announced. A by-election is expected before the end of the year.