Voting underway for Liberal candidate in upcoming byelection in Toronto riding

TORONTO – Voting is underway for a Liberal candidate to represent the party in the upcoming federal byelection of Toronto-Centre, a Liberal-held riding that the Opposition New Democrats are eager to steal away.

Todd Ross, a community organizer, and Diana Burke, a former banker, emphasized their strong local ties as they made their final pitches to a large room of party members. Freeland, a celebrated journalist and author who’s new to the riding, said she’s ready to roll up her sleeves to work for the riding of Toronto-Centre.

But the common thread running through all their speeches was the job of defeating Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in the 2015 general election.

“I want to stop the trend towards a mean-spirited, secretive Canada that Stephen Harper and his chosen few are crafting,” said Burke, who has lived in the riding for 25 years.

“I will work hard to make Canada the globally competitive, generous and prosperous society that it should be and it can be.”

Ross, who has worked at organizations focused on health care, human righs, and LGBT, aboriginal, environmental issues, said he has what it takes to bring people together to help Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

“In the coming byelection, we’ll be taking Justin’s message of hope and hard work to the people in Toronto-Centre,” said Ross, who has worked in politics locally for 20 years. “We’ll be asking residents in our communities to support Justin’s message.”

Freeland, who moved with her family from New York for the race, she’s ready to roll up her sleeves to keep the riding in Liberal hands and help craft a “compelling” vision for Canada. The Conservatives have “absolutely no idea” that the country needs a new economic agenda for the 21st century, she said.

“What we are getting from the Harper government is the reheated ideological leftovers of 1990s U.S. Republicanism,” said Freeland, who worked as a foreign journalist before becoming editor-at-large for Thomson-Reuters.

“And what is so galling to me is that the Americans who wrote the recipe in the first place, have given up on it because it doesn’t work.”

Freeland, who was born in Alberta, has attracted the support of several high-profile Liberals, including former cabinet minister Bill Graham and Art Eggleton.

Graham, who held the riding for years, said Freeland’s economic and business experience will be key in the next general election.

“The Conservatives will run on their economic record,” he said. “Justin wants and needs a team that can stand up and say that the Liberal party has always had a better economic record and a better understanding of the economics of this country.”

Some experts say the byelection could be a preview of the next election, with both opposition parties facing off as the government-in-waiting. The New Democrats are also set to choose their candidate Sunday.

Harper hasn’t yet called the date of the byelection, which was triggered when former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae resigned.

The Liberals are voting using preferential ballots, where each candidate is ranked. Once the ballots are counted, the one with the least amount of votes is dropped and their votes are redistributed according to their supporters’ second choice.

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