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Linda McQuaig speaks with reporters after winning the NDP nomination for the Toronto Centre by-election on Sept. 15, 2013.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Linda McQuaig is hoping a promise of better jobs will convince Toronto Centre voters to employ her as their MP.

Ms. McQuaig, who will carry the New Democratic banner in the yet-to-be-called by-election, took aim at income inequality Tuesday, decrying the "precarious employment" so common in the downtown riding.

"We've heard for years that this is just the reality of the global economy, and we just have to put up with this. We've heard, tighten our belts, learn to do with less, just work harder," she said, standing with NDP MP Andrew Cash in the heart of the Ryerson University campus, as crowds of students filed by. "There is nothing natural or inevitable about the dramatic increase in inequality and the tremendous increase in precarious employment ... Those are the specific results of a specific set of rightwing economic policies."

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Ms. McQuaig has penned a series of books criticizing the gap between rich and poor, and the decline of the welfare state. In the by-election, necessitated by the resignation of former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, she will face a Grit candidate with a similar pedigree. Journalist Chrystia Freeland, a former columnist for The Globe and Mail, earned plaudits for a book last year on global economic disparities.

Between Ryerson students, social housing residents and the tenants of the scores of high-rise apartment blocks in the riding, the candidates are certain to get a receptive ear pitching better, more stable jobs.

Ms. McQuaig also took aim at Mayor Rob Ford Tuesday, arguing against his successful push to phase out "jobs-for-life" provisions that made it hard for the city to lay off workers.

"What's wrong with jobs for life? Jobs for life used to be what the work ethic is all about. The idea that you work hard all your life and, in exchange, you get decent pay, you get job security and you get a pension at the end," Ms. McQuaig said. "That's in fact what made the middle class in this country, and so we want to move to policies that will secure that kind of employment again."

To that end, NDP MP Andrew Cash is introducing a private member's bill this fall that he says will help workers with little job security. Among other things, his proposed legislation would ensure all workers can get a pension and crack down on companies that replace full-time employees with unpaid interns.

Mr. Cash, a self-employed musician before he entered politics, said the issue of unstable employment touches people across sectors: "It connects the cab driver with the cabinet maker with the web designer with the health care worker, who is increasingly also in a precarious situation."

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