Liberal Party gears up for election

Ted Hsu’s announcement that he won’t run for MP seat again inspires eight to declare candidacy

Ted Hsu won’t run for a second term as MP in 2015.
Ted Hsu won’t run for a second term as MP in 2015.

After Ted Hsu, Liberal MP for Kingston and the Islands, announced that he won’t seek reelection, aspiring Liberal politicians have jumped into action.

Hsu was elected to his first term in the 2011 federal election, but announced on Aug. 7 that he won’t run in 2015. He wrote on his blog that political life had placed burdens on his family, and that he hopes to return to politics when his four- and 11-year-old daughters are older.

The federal election is slated for Oct. 19, 2015, and the Liberal candidates will be finalized at an unscheduled meeting.

Hsu’s decision has triggered a number of people to say they’re considering seeking the Liberal nomination, including current Kingston mayor Mark Gerretsen, former city councillor Bittu George and engineer Bryon McConnell. Other candidates seeking the nomination, who were unavailable for comment by press time, are Rahime Juma, Douglas Perkins, Leanne Wight, Karen Ludbrook Young and Dick Zoutman.

Hsu said a good candidate for the nomination has to have three qualities: be a good representative for Kingston and the Islands, be a good advocate for the Liberal Party and know “why it has to be them and not somebody else.”

“Nomination contests are important,” he said. “They’re an important part of our democracy that a lot of people don’t know about.”

He added that because few people vote in nomination contests, a single vote is important, especially in Kingston, where he said a Liberal candidate is likeliest to win.

Gerretsen chose to seek the federal seat rather than run for mayoral reelection because he thinks that’s where he can have the greatest impact, he said.

“It was a difficult decision to make, having been mayor for the last four years. It’s actually been a very rewarding job,” he said.

“At the end of the day for me it came down to whether I thought that I could have the greatest impact to continue to make Kingston such a great place to live.”

He added that some of the most important issues for Kingston in the upcoming election include the fate of the Kingston Penitentiary and federal infrastructure spending.

“I think the most important thing for students is being able to have their voice heard,” he said.

“Traditionally in politics, generally speaking, students are left out of the process, and I think this particular leader, Justin Trudeau … [will] be able to resonate very well, as he already does, with the younger demographic and for students.”

George, who served as councillor for Collins-Bayridge District from 2003-06, including a year as deputy mayor, said he thinks breaking down the barriers between Queen’s and the wider Kingston community is an important student issue.

“That’s not necessarily a federal issue per se, but the Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands is a leader in the community, and I think he or she has a responsibility to try and build those bridges and create a more inclusive community,” he said.

He added that he also wants to focus on stimulating the economy and making sure good jobs are available for graduates once they finish post-secondary.

“I’ve always had a dream or desire to be in Parliament from a young age. I’ve always followed federal politics from a young age,” George said.

“It’s a good opportunity to serve your community and your country and to make things better for people, so I tend to be actively involved in the community and trying to make things better for everybody, and running for office is just an extension of that.”

McConnell said he’s also been interested in joining Parliament since he was young.

“I’ve been preparing for this role for 35 years, since I was eight years old,” he said.

He said the question of why he’s seeking the nomination is a complicated one.

“I did put a lot of thought into that and I thought I had a pretty good answer,” he said.

“I’ve come to realize that everybody who is considering whether to support me has a different idea in mind when they ask: why are you running?” “I’ve come to realize those are things like: what do you want to achieve, what do you want to do, what issues are important to you, what projects are important to you?”

For McConnell, the growing prosperity gap in Canada is an important issue in the upcoming election. When it comes to student-specific issues, these also link back to the prosperity gap.

“All the organizations that I’ve worked in have done a poor job of creating entry-level positions,” he said.

“We are trying to run our organizations so lean that we only have room for people who already know how to do the job. That’s not sustainable. We absolutely must create in our organizations entry-level jobs that have, as their expressed purpose, training people.”

— With files from Natasa Bansagi


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