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Rae runs for Liberal nom in gaybourhood

GRITTY KISS. Toronto Centre-Rosedale MPP George Smitherman gets a kiss from Bob Rae at a campaign party at Lüb on Mar 10. Credit: (Rob Salerno)

On Mar 6 BoB Rae announced he’d be seeking the Liberal nomination for the federal Toronto Centre riding. Rae’s announcement makes him the second declared candidate in the race; human rights lawyer Meredith Cartwright filed her nomination papers the week before.

Two other potential candidates, OUTtv personality Mathieu Chantelois and United Church minister Rob Oliphant, announced that they wouldn’t be seeking the nomination days before Rae made his announcement, publicly saying they didn’t want to challenge him.

“I felt with that kind of support I would let my name go forward,” says Rae. “I knew that there were a number of people who were thinking of running, and I wanted to assess that situation.”

Rae, who was Ontario’s NDP premier from 1990 to 1995, mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Liberal leadership last year.

Chantelois says his decision to endorse Rae reflects a pragmatic approach to serving the riding.

“If our MP is Bob Rae, our MP will be someone who’s very powerful in the party and can accomplish a lot for our community,” says Chantelois.

But Rae’s opponent says that her ties to the riding’s communities will make her better able to represent their interests in Ottawa.

“There are two types of people: party people and riding people,” says Cartwright, an out lesbian. “I’m a riding person. This is a riding where I’ve worked, I have grown up here, was educated here, worked here, worked as a Liberal here. These are the communities I want to work for. I’m doing this for the riding, not because I want to run.”

Rae, who recently moved to the riding, contends candidates should be judged on their records, not on their sexual orientation or gender.

But it’s precisely Rae’s record that has earned him the ire of some groups within the riding, however. Some gay voters have a bitter recollection of Rae’s failure to pass a crucial same-sex spousal rights bill in 1993. Rae maintains that his record on gay rights as Ontario’s premier is strong despite that setback.

“If you look at the overall approach on gay and lesbian issues, I think we were one of the most progressive governments in Ontario history,” Rae says. “I share the disappointment of a lot of people, but we did do a lot of good things.”

The Toronto Centre Liberal riding association will hold its election is expected to announce details for its election soon. Check at Liberal.ca for updates..