Monday, September 16, 2013

Freeland and McQuaig vye for Rae's vacant seat in Toronto Centre, for Liberals and NDP respectively

If we are to put any stock in the notion that the upcoming by-election in Toronto Centre is ground zero, or a tipping point in the reversal of fortunes for the Harper government, then watching the new candidates for both the Liberals, Chrystia Freeland, and for the NDP, Linda McQuaig will be a drama of considerable proportions.
Freeland, author of Plutocrats, darling of many U.S. political talk shows over the last few years, has been painted by McQuaig as believing that income equality is inevitable whereas McQuaig, author of
The Trouble with Billionaires and a former columnist for the Toronto Star, alleges income equality is reversible, certainly not  baked in the cake of the current global economic melange.
Both won their party's nominations yesterday afternoon, after the former MP from Toronto Centre, Bob Rae, announced his retirement from active politics.
Star candidates of this calibre will garner considerable media coverage, and in the case of these two women, neither will be reticent or shy about seeking it and filling whatever space and time they are afforded.
Unfortunately, both women cannot win in Toronto Centre. The Canadian Parliament and the Canadian electorate would both be winners with their considerable insight, courage, vision and commitment. However, that cannot and will not happen.
Nevertheless, just through their offering their names, and through their respective nominations they have placed the issue of income equality squarely at the centre of the political debate for the Toronto Centre by-election, if not for the national vote in 2015.
And that cannot come too soon, if we are to reverse the damage already inflicted on the economy and the desparate in this country by the Harper Conservatives.
Harper could call the Toronto Centre by-election as early as October, just before or just after Parliament resumes on the 15th. Of course, both opposition leaders will be parading their new candidates through the heart of downtown Toronto in a bid to secure the seat left vacant by Rae's resignation.
If these two women, both of whom having already pointed considerable thought, research and effort into the issue of income equality, do nothing else by their entry onto the national stage, they will shine a needed spotlight on the growing divide between the have's and the have-not's in our country.
And that light could conceivably spread to debates in other countries. Naturally, through the agency of social media, the whole world will be able to monitor this campaign, and be able to sift out those arguments and supporting data that apply to their particular jurisdiction.
Needless to say, income equality does not yet have an adequate army of reputable spokespersons, on either side of the 49th parallel, save and except for President Obama, whose hands and attached pen are tied in an obstructionist knot, generated by the 50-odd Tea Party Republicans opposed to anything bearing his imprimatur.
Could either Freeland or McQuaig upstage their respective leader?
Of course, but as neophyte politicians both, they are undoubtedly committed to comply with party discipline, and with their leader's directions at least unless and until they see no way forward by following that path.
For Trudeau to secure Freeland as his replacement of Rae is a considerable political asset. For Mulcair to see McQuaig's name on the ballot in Toronto Centre is also remarkable. As a long-standing Liberal stronghold, the Conservatives, especially now that the other partys' candidates have been selected, are given only a slight chance of taking the seat. However, the betting and the door-knocking, and the campaign offices and the fundraising will now begin in earnest, as the country eagerly awaits the announcement from the PMO of the date of the by-election.
A betting man would have to hedge his bets between Freeland and McQuaig....for the NDP to take the seat would signal a national shift in favour of that party. For the Liberal candidate to win could well signal a reversal of the fortunes of the Liberal party of Canada. This is no one-off vote; it could foreshadow the next parliament and certainly we hope that it will signal a reversal too in the fortunes of the underclass who have been pummelled under Harper.
That would be a real national victory!

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