Toronto Centre, land of selfless pundits - Macleans.ca

Toronto Centre, land of selfless pundits

Journalists line up for the byelection nomination

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Jennifer Hollett poses with former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord (left) and former Manitoba premier Gary Doer (right) in Toronto on May 17, 2005. (Tobin Grimshaw/CP)

It’s getting to where if a journalist does no more than write a column for a living, he’s going to come off as a slacker. Say hello to Linda McQuaig, eternal pundit, serious shoe-leather reporter, serial best-selling author and apparently the latest member of the commentariat to line up for a party nomination in the Toronto Centre by-election. She joins — or rather will hope to run against — former Globe/Reuters/FT eminence Chrystia Freeland, who’s seeking the Liberal nomination, and Jennifer Hollett, who will be McQuaig’s direct competition for the NDP nomination.

Perhaps confusingly, there is at least one candidate for an opposition nomination in Toronto Centre who did not grow up telling people what she thinks about stuff. Best of luck to Diana Burke, who is contesting the Liberal nomination and faces a serious deficit of free-media exposure because she is merely what the Conservatives would call a “job creator.”  (UPDATE: There’s also this guy Todd Ross, who’s apparently spent much of his time doing things instead of writing about things. Confusing!)

I would not want to be Chrystia Freeland running against Linda McQuaig in Toronto Centre. McQuaig is older, better known (although journalism’s weird lens surely distorts the extent to which anyone has heard of either candidate). She was writing books on income inequality when Freeland was in short pants, they have always targeted Liberals and Conservatives more or less interchangeably, and they sell lots of copies. Expect her to portray Freeland as a late arriver, not to Canada, but to compassion. Toronto Centre is quite a safe Liberal seat, but less safe than it used to be: in 2011, the spread among Liberal, NDP and Conservative candidates was less than 12 points, roughly one-fourth the distance between first and third in 2004. I don’t think anyone can count on a sure outcome in Toronto Centre. (The Conservatives, characteristically, have given no hint about who their candidate might be.)

One other bit of by-election news, because apparently Toronto Centre is not the only riding in Canada: Justin Trudeau seems to have recruited the sitting Liberal MNA to give up his provincial seat and run to replace Denis Coderre in Bourassa. The provincial Liberals are a strong bet to replace the PQ in government in an election that could come within a year; the federal Liberals have lost lots of seats in every election since 2004. If Trudeau can persuade Emmanuel Dubourg to give up a bird in the hand, it will continue the young Liberal leader’s extended streak of confounding jaded expectations.