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McQuaig, Freeland to run for NDP and Liberals in Toronto Centre

By-election expected in November to fill vacancy left by Bob Rae

Linda McQuaig (centre), defeated Jennifer Hollett (left) to become the NDP candidate in the upcoming Toronto Centre federal by-election. Credit: Rob Salerno

It’ll be the battle of the political pundits in Toronto Centre this fall, as the Liberals and NDP have nominated Chrystia Freeland and Linda McQuaig as their by-election candidates at meetings Sept 15.

Freeland and McQuaig are both journalists and economic commentators who have written extensively on the growing income inequality in Canada and around the world.

McQuaig came out swinging against her Liberal rival in a barnburner of a nomination speech that had the NDP meeting cheering.

“Freeland sends herself up as a progressive, but her writings reveal herself as someone who believes rising income inequality is something that is inevitable,” McQuaig says. “Rising inequality is not inevitable. Rather, it’s the direct result of the rightwing economic policies embraced by the Conservatives and the Liberals: tax cuts for the rich, social-spending cuts, deregulation and privatization, attacks on labour.”

Freeland refused to address NDP attacks in her victory.

“Today is really a day for the Liberal Party to make its decision . . . There’s going to be a lot of days to fight the by-election,” she says.

Freeland says that she wants to be part of a government that helps Canada adapt to the new economic order. “I’m someone who really believes in the need for Canada to much more intelligently and creatively, and in a sophisticated way, address the new challenges of the 21st century economy,” she says. “We need to come up with a really smart way to figure out how to make the economy work for the Canadian middle class in the 21st century, and I think as part of the team I can do that.”

McQuaig won on the first ballot, beating another journalist, Jennifer Hollett, who many pundits had expected to win. Trans activist Susan Gapka had also contended the nomination.

In her concession speech, Hollett told the assembled crowd, “My journey today doesn’t end. It’s actually just beginning and you’ll see me again in 2015.”

Toronto Centre is being split in the new riding redistribution that will take place in 2015, so defeated candidates will have another chance in the area.

Freeland defeated queer aboriginal activist Todd Ross and Jamaican-born businesswoman Diana Burke for the nomination.

McQuaig has lived in the riding for 13 years and writes for the Toronto Star. Freeland recently returned to Toronto and purchased a home in the Summerhill area, following a stint working at Thomson Reuters in New York.

Egale executive director Helen Kennedy turned up at the Liberal nomination to give a speech supporting Todd Ross’s candidacy, causing waves on social media, where activists said the advocacy group's executive director should be non-partisan. In her speech, Kennedy jokingly confessed to being a “former New Democrat” who’s now a proud Liberal. 

Also running in the upcoming by-election will be former Toronto Star reporter John Deverell, who was acclaimed as the Green Party candidate Sept 9. Lawyer Geoff Pollock is expected to be acclaimed as the Conservative candidate, as he was the only declared candidate as of the party’s Sept 11 nomination deadline.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper must call a by-election within six months of July 31, when Bob Rae resigned. It’s widely expected that it will be called in late October or November, together with three other pending by-elections in Quebec and Manitoba.