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Who deserves your vote in Toronto Centre?

A look at some of the defining issues in the Ontario provincial election

Incumbent Glen Murray is seeking your vote for the third time in four years.  Credit: Rob Salerno

With a campaign thus far defined by Liberal scandals, Progressive Conservative innumeracy and NDP infighting, it can be hard for voters to decide which candidate is the best, or least worst, option to put their “X” beside on voting day.

Voters in Toronto Centre — the downtown riding that includes the Church-Wellesley Village — will be deciding whether to return Liberal Glen Murray to Queen’s Park or send one of his rivals. But all the choices come with baggage.

Glen Murray, Liberal

Who?

A cabinet minister since winning a 2010 by-election, the former mayor of Winnipeg boasts a long history of working for gay rights in Canada, including lobbying for North America’s first gay rights bill in Quebec in the 1970s and becoming the first out gay mayor of a major city. He’s been minister of transport since last February.

Baggage

Opposition parties have been working hard to make “Liberal” synonymous with “scandal” since . . . when did politics start in Canada? But as transport minister, Murray’s largely responsible for stickhandling the Scarborough subway debacle, which is going to cost Toronto taxpayers an extra $900 million over the next 30 years.

His response

Murray defends his record as transport minister and says residents of Toronto Centre are happy with his work to improve the city’s transit infrastructure, including new legislation for cycling and the planned 15-minute service on all GO train routes.

“I hear a lot about cycling now, more than I hear public transit,” he says. “The idea of making our streets safer, the complete streets movement has gotten a lot of traction here.”

Why vote Murray?

To stop the Conservatives, whom Murray describes as more rightwing than former premier Mike Harris and accuses of maintaining quiet homophobic attitudes.

“Most people would rather see a progressive Liberal Party working with a progressive NDP to pass fiscally prudent legislation. When Tim Hudak announced the 100,000 firings, that started translating to people because when you look at this constituency, there’s a lot of students, seniors, people on social assistance; that’s a lot of people whose families are connected to public services.”

Kate Sellar, NDP

Who?

A human-rights lawyer who works at an organization that provides free legal representation for people who experience discrimination.

Baggage

NDP insiders, including former Toronto Centre candidate Cathy Crowe, have openly criticized the party’s turn to the right, accusing Leader Andrea Horwath of abandoning the party’s social democratic roots.

Her response

Sellar is one of two NDP candidates Crowe has endorsed, and the two have had contact during the campaign. “In a whole host of issues, the NDP is still consistent with social democratic values,” Sellar says.

Why vote Sellar?

Sellar stands for a lot of the traditional social democrat issues, like increasing access to social housing, but she has a surprising rebuke for the Liberals on LGBT rights, too, based on her work fighting for trans people as a lawyer. “The government was actually requiring and sticking to the idea that they were entitled to require you to get transsexual surgery [to change the gender on a trans person’s ID]. The Liberals talk a good game about LGBT rights, but I see something different at the Human Rights Tribunal.”

Martin Abell, PC

Who?

Returning to the ballot after placing third in 2011, this entrepreneur with interests in microbrewing (among others) thinks the changing demographics of the riding favour a PC upset. Abell also volunteers with the Fred Victor Centre, the Out of the Cold program and Youth for Change.

Baggage

Queer voters may have bad memories of the 2011 election, when PC candidates distributed homophobic campaign materials with the backing of leader Tim Hudak.

His response

“It caused me great concern that that took place,” he says. “I wouldn’t be running for a party that had any form of exclusion and hate at its core. I voiced my displeasure at what happened . . . You won’t see that happening this time around.”

Why vote Abell?

Abell says the PC plan for deep corporate and personal tax cuts will help create jobs, which he says is the most important issue in the riding. “We’ve got to motivate businesses to grow in Ontario and locate in Ontario to utilize the talent,” he says.

Mark Daye, Green

Who?

Also on the ballot for a second time, this finance/administration worker is the other gay man on the ballot.

Baggage

Oh sure, vote Green. Throw away your vote.

His response

“People are scared of Tim Hudak and the Conservatives, people are unsure of the NDP, and people are pissed off at the Liberals and all the scandals. It’s created this perfect storm for the Greens, where I think a lot of people are considering us in a much more real way than they have in the past,” he says.

Why vote Daye?

The Green Party is the only party that’s committed to eliminating the public Catholic school boards. “We can save $1.5 to $2 billion per year in merging the school boards, but the big issue for me isn’t the money; it’s the human rights issues that come to the fore.”