Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the date of four federal by-elections Sunday, including the riding of Toronto Centre which includes parts of the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. The seat became vacant this past summer, when former Liberal party leader and current U of T instructor Bob Rae resigned.
The by-election has been billed by some as a test of the Liberals’ and NDPs’ relative strength in the lead up to a general election in 2015.
The Liberals’ candidate is Chrystia Freeland, a prominent journalist who has written for The Globe and Mail, Financial Times and, most recently, served as managing editor of Thomson Reuters. Reached by email, Freeland outlined why she feels she will be the best candidate to represent students: “A great deal of my work on the middle class has focused on how one of the most devastating effects of rising income inequality is how it erodes social mobility. Education is an important antidote. It is essential that an outstanding, world class, education is available to all Canadians. Making sure this kind of education is in place and that meaningful employment is available after graduation is at the top of my agenda.”
Her NDP opponent Linda McQuaig is also a well-known journalist, having written for Maclean’s, the National Post, and The Globe and Mail. “She has policies that speak to student issues and on topics relating to income equality, tuition fees, affordable housing and unpaid internships — all of which are issues which relate to the average student” says McQuaig spokesperson Angela Zhu, who is also the treasurer of U of T’s New Democrats.
Sharon Danley, campaign manager for Green Party candidate John Deverell, feels that while Deverell should be elected, the whole system should be changed to one of proportional representation. “The Green Party is the best equipped to deal with the issues that matter — income inequality, climate change — but its difficult to do that without proportional representation.” Deverell is also a former journalist; he worked for 25 years at the Toronto Star.
The Conservative Party’s candidate is Geoff Pollock, a lawyer and former army reservist. As of press time, Pollock’s campaign had not replied to requests for comment.