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Politics Smitherman bows out of race for Liberal nod in Toronto Centre

George Smitherman.

DELLA ROLLINS/The Globe and Mail

A prominent Liberal has stepped out of the race for the party's nomination in the riding of Toronto Centre in the upcoming federal by-election.

Former Ontario Liberal MPP and deputy premier George Smitherman said he came close to returning to active politics, but added he prefers to continue focusing on "the FFF path (fun, family, finances)."

In a piece that ran on The Huffington Post, Mr. Smitherman said he came away from the recent Pride festivities in Toronto "with the intention of running." However, he added he has lost some of his famous thirst for political battles, especially an open nomination contest that would have pitted him against former journalist Chrystia Freeland and community activist Todd Ross.

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"Fighting with Liberals isn't my strong suit," Mr. Smitherman said. "I won't be a candidate now. I won't be contesting a riding in the 2015 general election or any other."

Mr. Smitherman's exit from politics likely favours the candidacy of Ms. Freeland, who has the support of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's inner circle in her pursuit of the Liberal nomination in Bob Rae's old riding. Ms. Freeland has written extensively about income disparities and the financial squeeze facing the middle class, and worked with Mr. Trudeau to develop his leadership platform.

Ms. Freeland is currently moving from New York City to Toronto, having recently quit her management position at Thomson Reuters.

Mr. Trudeau has insisted that all Liberal candidates in by-elections and in the next general election will be selected through an open nomination process.

Mr. Ross, who was the first candidate to announce his intention of seeking the Liberal nomination, said he welcomes Ms. Freeland's arrival in the race and does not feel that the odds are tilted in her favour.

"At the end of the day, people deserve to have an option," he said in an interview. "We can concentrate on the different parts of what the Liberal Party is really about – we are about the economy and standing up for the middle class, but we're also about the community."

Mr. Ross added that Ms. Freeland "has some catching up to do" in terms of engaging members of the Toronto Centre community.

Mr. Smitherman said that he will now focus his political energies on his work as a Liberal volunteer and supporting Mr. Trudeau's efforts to take power in the 2015 election.

"In 2013 the only energy I can muster for politics is to help push and shove my leader forward. Forward to rid our country of a government that has a very different view of Canada than mine," Mr. Smitherman wrote.

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