Introducing (Most of) the Candidates for Jack Layton's Former Riding
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Introducing (Most of) the Candidates for Jack Layton’s Former Riding

A brief look at the candidates in the upcoming Toronto-Danforth by-election.

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It’s official. Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the by-election for Jack Layton’s former riding, Toronto-Danforth, will take place on March 12 March 19. (UPDATE, 1:25 PM: Prime Minister Harper just changed the date of the by-election.) The riding has been without a representative in the House of Commons since August, when Layton died of cancer.

Since its inception in 1979, the riding has been held federally by either a Liberal or an NDPer (current interim Liberal leader Bob Rae was MP there from 1979 till 1982—though he was a Dipper at the time), so expect to see a heated battle between those two parties. But of course there are always alternatives, including a man once referred to as “the Darth Vader of dolphins.”

Below, in no particular order, are the confirmed candidates. Since the Liberals have yet to pick a candidate, we’ve also got some speculation about that.

NDP: Craig Scott

Craig Scott won his party’s nomination last month, and he’s been campaigning ever since. Despite Jack Layton’s popularity in the riding (Layton won 60 per cent of the votes in the 2011 election, compared to the second-place Liberal’s 18 per cent), the NDP isn’t taking the seat for granted. One thing the party definitely does have going for it is a legacy of active members and volunteers in the ward to help get the word out.

Scott is a human-rights lawyer and law professor at Osgoode Hall with no experience in federal politics, but he won the nomination after only one round of voting. Party bigwigs—including leadership candidates and Layton’s widow, Olivia Chow—have thrown their support behind him. He’s lived in the riding for more than 20 years and hopes to draw on his existing base of community contacts to get the vote out. As Scott told reporters at his nomination, he’s not looking to fill Jack Layton’s shoes, just to “follow in his footsteps.”

The NDP will choose a new leader on March 24, just after the by-election.

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Liberal: To Be Determined

As you may have heard, the federal Liberal party is in a bit of disarray. The Liberals lost 43 seats in the last election and would probably really like to re-establish the party’s dominance in Toronto-Danforth, a riding held by the Grits for 16 years before Jack Layton took it in 2004. The local riding association does have plans for a fundraiser on Thursday. But no word on when they’ll choose a candidate.

So far, a few people have informally put themselves in the running, including Andrew Lang, who ran for the Grits in last two elections. Lang is the son of former Liberal cabinet member Otto Lang, so he’s been in and around politics for a long time. He has worked in the public and private sectors, but has never held public office.

Also possibly in the running is Grant Gordon, an advertising executive who used his ad skills to put together this poster petitioning to get on the ballot.

And Trifon Haitas also wants a crack as a Liberal, after having run as a Green Party candidate in two provincial elections and a federal one. A self-described “public figure and videojournalist” (according to the banner on his website), Haitas lives in Markham with his family.

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Conservative: Andrew Keyes

The ruling party put forth communications consultant Andrew Keyes as their nominee late last month. Keyes has a degree in film and photography from Ryerson and currently runs his own marketing company.

The Conservatives don’t seem to have high hopes for Keyes. The party’s communications director, Frank DeLorey, practically admitted as much to the Post. “Governments do not win byelections,” he told them. “As this is a traditional Liberal seat, it’s theirs to lose.” (Although, the Cons have been having good luck with by-elections lately. They won four in the last session of Parliament, including a win in the Vaughan by-election in late 2010, which put Julian Fantino into the House of Commons.) The riding association’s website has a brief blurb about Keyes’ nomination, and almost nothing else. Keyes’ infrequently updated Twitter account makes no mention of the nomination or upcoming election.

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Green Party: Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu

The Greens happened to hold their candidate nomination meeting on Sunday, the day the by-election date was set. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu will be running on the party’s ticket once again after having represented the Greens in the 2011 election. Mugnatto-Hamu is a homemaker with five children, and has worked for the Green Party of Canada since 2005. She currently serves as the party’s climate-change critic. Mugnatto-Hamu has lived in Riverdale since 2002 and is active with local environmental and social-justice groups like Amnesty International and Post Carbon Toronto.

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Liberatarian: John Christopher Recker

The Libertarian Party of Canada hasn’t run a candidate in Toronto-Danforth since 1988, but they’re giving it a shot in this by-election with 31-year-old John Recker.

Recker was born and raised in Windsor and has lived on the Danforth for five years. At various times, he’s been a carpenter, a machinist, and a chef. According to his Facebook page, he now works as a case manager with the St. Leonard’s Society of Toronto, a provider of social services to ex-convicts and youths. Sometimes he walks around his riding saying libertarian things.

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Canadian Action Party: Christopher Porter

The Canadian Action Party ran candidates in this riding in 2008 and 2000, and won a combined 256 votes over the two elections. This time out, they’re running their party leader, Christopher Porter. According to a note on their website, the party thinks putting Porter on the ballot in this by-election will show that they wish “to send a clear message to the Canadian people that we can change the way politics are conducted in Canada.”

Porter is in the interim leader until the party holds its convention, which is currently planned for August. He was born in B.C., in 1970. He took a few business courses in college, and then ended up as the head trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium. After training sea creatures, Porter went on to deal in them, and he has been called the world’s most notorious dolphin dealer by the CBC.

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