A senior editor at an international media organization will seek the Liberal nomination for the downtown Toronto riding vacated by Bob Rae.
Chrystia Freeland, a former manager and writer at The Globe and Mail and other internationally renowned publications, is hoping to win the Liberal nod in Toronto Centre for the upcoming by-election.
Ms. Freeland has written extensively about the growing income disparities around the world and would bring expertise on the plight of the modern middle class. That theme has been at the heart of Justin Trudeau’s message since he took over the Liberal Party in April, in part with Ms. Freeland’s behind-the-scenes input.
“In my writing, my reporting and my thinking, I have come to feel that there is a really great challenge that the world and Canada faces, which is figuring out how to make the 21st century work for the middle class,” she said in an interview. “I want to try to be a part of a team that does something about that, and that is 100 per cent the core of my motivation.”
Ms. Freeland, 44, grew up in Peace River, Alta., and earned degrees in Russian history and literature at Harvard before doing a Masters at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.
Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland recently met for breakfast in Ottawa and he invited her to consider a foray into active politics. The pair had been discussing policy issues in the preceding months, but Mr. Rae’s resignation from the Liberal caucus hastened Ms. Freeland’s thinking about her own political future.
The feeling in party circles is that she could bring fresh thinking to the Liberal Party’s economic team, now made up of veteran MPs Scott Brison, Ralph Goodale and John McCallum.
“It’s no secret that we want to build out a strong economic team across the country, and the Toronto Centre opening is a good opportunity to start on that,” a senior Liberal official said. “Chrystia is potentially a great piece of that puzzle.”
Ms. Freeland’s candidacy is looked on favourably in senior Liberal circles, and she might be perceived as having a leg up on the nomination given her close ties to Mr. Trudeau and his inner circle.
Still, she will have to compete for the votes of the party members in the riding. Mr. Trudeau has said all nomination races will be open and that he will never appoint candidates.
“One of the things Justin said [to Ms. Freeland] throughout the process is, ‘We’d love to have you, but like me and everyone else, you’ll have to win the nomination,’” the Liberal official said. “We want to make sure that we live up to the spirit as well as the letter of that.”
Todd Ross, a Toronto community organizer, has already said he will seek the nomination. Former Ontario MPP and provincial minister George Smitherman mused about running, but has also expressed an interest in waiting for the 2015 general election, when the riding will be split.
Ms. Freeland, who is the author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, has held several positions over the years at The Financial Times in London and Moscow. The mother of three is moving to Toronto from New York, where she has just quit as a managing director and editor at Thomson Reuters.
The Globe and Mail and Reuters will no longer employ Ms. Freeland as a columnist.
“I’m taking a risk, and I’m ready to compete and to fight, and I think that is the way it should be,” she said.
Ms. Freeland grew up in a political household in Alberta with a Liberal father and a mother who once ran for an NDP nomination. She said that it is wrong to assume that the Liberal brand and the Trudeau name are toxic in her home province.
“It’s a mistake to try and divide Canada; we really are one country,” she said. “There are a lot of people in the West, in Alberta, who believe in that and who believe in the Liberal vision that I want to be a part of.”
She said she does not want to enter politics with a sense that she has answers to all of the questions that she has raised in her writings on the financial squeeze facing Canadians. “It would be incredibly arrogant and presumptuous and hubristic of me to arrive with a fully baked 10-point plan for solving the plight of the middle class,” she said. “The job now for me is to listen to people.”
The NDP has yet to select its candidate in Toronto Centre, although former MuchMusic VJ Jennifer Hollett announced her intention to seek the nomination this week. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not called by-elections in Toronto Centre or the two other ridings that are vacant, Provencher in Manitoba and Bourassa in Quebec. They are expected to be in the fall.