Sunday, September 15, 2013

Liberals and NDP pick their Toronto-Centre by-election candidates

A busy day in downtown Toronto on Sunday, as both the Liberals and the NDP picked their candidates to replace Bob Rae as the MP for Toronto-Centre at nomination meetings just a subway stop apart. It made for interesting comparisons, and I attendeed both meetings.

The Storify below shares some of the highlights of my live-tweeting and selected tweets by others, so I won't rehash the entire day at length. Rather, I'll share some thoughts on the result and, with respect to the other parties, the marquee match-up of the upcoming by-election: Liberal Chrystia Freeland and NDPer Linda McQuaig.

As a Liberal, I think Hollet would have concerned me more. She's more in the mold of a polished politician, more moderate, younger, has the Much Music cred, and would have been a threat to woo moderate Liberal/NDP swing voters. McQuaig is much more the voice of the left wing NDP base. She has national profile, communicates forcefully, knows her stuff, and will no doubt have a very well-funded campaign. She will energize their base, but can she grow it? I'm sceptical, but she'll need to in order to win.

I mentioned comparisons; here's one. We heard a lot more about Justin Trudeau and the Liberals from the NDP than we did about Tom Mulcair and the NDP (or the Harper Conservatives) from the Liberals. Sensible strategy, but also telling. In her pre-vote speech, McQuaig was already looking past Hollet and running hard against Freeland. The NDP are going to run a negative and personal campaign, against both Freeland and Trudeau. It will be interesting to see how the Liberals respond.

I got to see both Freeland and McQuaig speak today; again, another interesting comparison. Both highly intelligent, accomplished women, with strong and differing views on economic issues. Both very different styles. McQuaig is vocal, in your voice, knock you over with the point. Freeland is more conversational, build an argument, persuade you. Both styles have merit. I think McQuaig's forcefulness will begin to grate, but Freeland is going to need to fight back strongly too. If McQuaig's challenge will be to moderate, Freeland's will be to develop her skills as a retail politician that can give as well as she takes.

It is shaping up as a very interesting race, and I look forward to seeing how it plays out. No, I don't mean them both being journalists -- only other journalists care about that. We're probably about to hear more actual substantive debate about economic policy than we've had in Canadian politics in a generation, which ain't a bad thing (Harper only says he's focused on the economy, he doesn't much talk about it).

Elections should be about clear choices on important issues, and both sides will get a good hearing from Freeland and McQuaig.

UPDATE: Pundit's Guide was also at both meetings, and offers her take here with 23 differences between the two meetings.

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