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politics

Former MuchMusic VJ Jennifer Hollett Wants Bob Rae’s Seat

Former MuchMusic VJ and CBC reporter Jennifer Hollett wants to go to Ottawa.

Jennifer Hollett announces her intention to seek the NDP nomination in Toronto-Centre. Photo by Simone Maurice.

“All roads lead to politics.”

That’s what Jennifer Hollett said at the Paintbox Bistro on Wednesday night; she was in the middle of announcing her intention to seek the NDP nomination for an upcoming federal byelection in the riding of Toronto Centre. Hollett has spent more than a decade working in broadcast journalism, but she’s still best known for her time as a MuchMusic VJ in the early 2000s. She says it was her time at Much that prompted her to get into politics.

“When I was at Much, I was the social-issues VJ,” she says. “Working as a TV reporter and host, your job is to cover stories. You shine a spotlight on an issue and you move on.”

“After a while, I felt like I wanted to do more about certain stories…So in the last few years, I’ve thought about transitioning to politics to work on some those issues I care about, and with this byelection, I felt like this is the time.”

The byelection comes as a result of the retirement of Bob Rae, the one-time Ontario premier who was reelected as the riding’s MP in 2011. Hollett, who is the only person to declare for the NDP nomination so far, says that even though the riding has been held by the Liberals since 1993, she feels it’s an incredibly viable riding for the New Democrats.

“In 2011, we only lost this riding by a 10 per cent margin,” she says. “Look at the map. Toronto’s turned orange over the past few years. Plus, Bob Rae used to be a member of the NDP, so there were some [NDP] votes there for him.”

Riding association president Vince Cifani says that since joining the riding executive earlier this year, Hollett has vastly improved its digital communications.

“She really got our Twitter account going, our Facebook account going, made sure our website was up to date,” he says. “I’ve grown up watching her on TV, so this is a little surreal for me, but I think this is a great step towards her being an MP.”

Hollett has already been out polling with the party as a member of the riding association’s executive. She thinks voters in the riding are worried about the cost of living.

“Housing and cost of living are what I hear the most at doorsteps,” she says. “People are worried about how they’re going to pay the mortgage or rent.”

She says that she’s also going to focus on youth issues.

“At Much, we always tried to make politics accessible and talk about it in a youth-friendly voice,” she says. “Youth issues are especially big in areas like Regent Park and St. James Town. Will there be good jobs for young people?”

A date hasn’t been set for the nomination vote but it’s expected to take place in late August or early September. The byelection itself also has yet to be scheduled.

CORRECTION: July 25, 2013, 12:20 PM This post originally said Jennifer Hollett’s campaign launch happened on Thursday night. In fact, it was Wednesday.

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