Skip to main content

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau meets with members of the public in Burlington, Ont. on Thursday, June 20.

The upcoming by-election in downtown Toronto is attracting a number of Liberals seeking to join Justin Trudeau's team in Ottawa, with former provincial minister George Smitherman contemplating a run in Bob Rae's old seat.

The one-time deputy premier in the McGuinty government said he has represented the riding at the provincial level for over a decade and has discussed a political comeback with his husband, after a failed bid to become Toronto mayor in 2010.

"It's been a lively topic in our household for several months now, the prospect of returning to politics at the national level," Mr. Smitherman said in an interview. "This is the first opportunity."

Former CTV Canada AM co-host Seamus O'Regan has also discussed a move into the political arena with Mr. Trudeau, as revealed by The Globe and Mail. In an interview with CTV on Thursday morning, Mr. O'Regan did not deny his political ambitions.

"It's an auspicious riding, and Justin's a friend of mine," Mr. O'Regan said.

A number of other potential candidates have popped up in discussions in Liberal circles since Mr. Rae's resignation on Wednesday, including Sachin Aggarwal, sources said. Mr. Aggarwal used to work in the office of former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

Toronto Centre is a traditional Liberal stronghold, with a strong gay community. The NDP is preparing to try to pull off an upset in the riding, having finished in second place in the 2011 election and holding two adjoining seats.

The Liberal nomination is expected to be hard-fought, given that Mr. Trudeau has promised he will never use his powers to appoint candidates and will allow for open nominations across the country. The dates of the nomination and of the eventual vote in Toronto Centre have yet to be announced.

Mr. Smitherman represented the provincial riding of Toronto Centre in Queen's Park from 1999 to 2010. He still works in the riding, but now lives outside. He said he could quickly return to take residence in Toronto Centre if he were to become the Liberal candidate.

He added he could also be tempted to run in the riding of Trinity-Spadina if NDP MP Olivia Chow goes for the mayor's job in Toronto in 2014, or make a bid for one of the new downtown Toronto ridings that will be created through redistribution in 2015.

Mr. Smitherman, who was known for his aggressive style of politics when the Liberals were in opposition in Queen's Park, said he has been impressed by the enthusiasm generated by Mr. Trudeau's leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

"I would throw everything that I have at trying to help him to become prime minister and help him to rid our country of the incumbent government," he said.

He made it clear that he has no plans to take another run at municipal politics, after finishing in second place in the 2010 Toronto election. "I committed to myself that I would not spend another moment of my life in the presence of [Toronto mayor] Rob Ford for my own sanity," he said. "The desire to serve and the issues at the national level are exceedingly important."