Adam Vaughan knows he surprised a lot of supporters and detractors with his decision to seek the Liberal nomination in the upcoming Trinity-Spadina byelection.
“It caught me by surprise,’’ he says.
That’s how quickly this all came together for the 52-year-old Vaughan, a man who once mulled a run for mayor but instead decided to stop pointing fingers at Ottawa and try to win a seat and work in the capital
There’s no question that luring a man with city-wide name recognition is a coup for Justin Trudeau, and it sets up a key confrontation with 29-year-old social activist Joe Cressy, who is counting on deep NDP roots in the riding to protect the seat that belonged to mayoral candidate Olivia Chow.
Trinity-Spadina had swung between Liberals and New Democrats but in recent years New Democrats believed they had established a beachhead during Chow’s tenure.
Should Vaughan regain the seat for the Liberals, it would be the biggest victory for Trudeau in a series of byelections in which he has shown strength since becoming leader just over a year ago.
Losing Chow’s seat and all the symbolic freight that would carry would deal a crippling setback to Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats.
Put simply — it’s hard to think of a more dramatic game-changer in the riding.
The Liberals appeared in disarray in Trinity-Spadina, with spurned candidate Christine Innes suing Trudeau.
Party strategists were privately conceding they had no chance to overtake a candidate who counts the iconic Chow as a mentor, a young man with strong links to not only her, but the late Jack Layton and another party luminary, Stephen Lewis.
Until Trudeau and Vaughan closed the deal with a lunch and a handshake Wednesday.
Vaughan will still deal with a riding association loaded with unhappy Innes loyalists and he is a polarizer, but he won his Ward 20 election in 2010 with almost 75 per cent of the vote.
He is gruff, can be sarcastic and has a penchant for biting comments. But he never shies from an opinion and that has won him deep support in the riding jail records.
Cressy, who formally won the NDP nomination a week ago, campaigned with Mulcair this week and Thursday he wished Vaughan luck with his nomination.
Vaughan says he wants to promote a national housing strategy, part of a cities’ agenda that would include funding for transit and infrastructure.
“This city cannot wait for that agenda to come to us,’’ he said. “You can continue to point fingers at Ottawa or you can go to Ottawa to make it happen. I decided it was time to go to Ottawa.
“If Ottawa is back in the housing game, people’s lives change.’’
As perhaps Rob Ford’s most pointed council critic, it is no surprise to hear Vaughan speak of city hall as a “very difficult” place to work and he will resign his seat as soon as the writ is issued in Trinity-Spadina.
He says he was not going to run for re-election anyway.
But he says the real crime for the city in the past four years is its lack of voice under Ford.
He has spoken to others big city mayors about the need for more public housing and a national transit strategy, but Ford is absent from the discussion and that hurts not just Toronto but every other city in the country, Vaughan says.
“Toronto’s voice is fundamental to the choir, but we have a mayor who won’t even leave Toronto except to go on the Jimmy Kimmel show.’’
Vaughan has never belonged to a political party until now.
He has been caricatured as a “downtown lefty” and wasn’t really clear on whether he thought of running federally as a New Democrat, but he pointed out he had to beat a New Democrat, Chow’s onetime executive assistant, to win the council seat initially in 2006.
As a journalist, he didn’t vote and when he ran for council it was as an independent, but his parents (his father was legendary television reporter Colin Vaughan) were Liberals.
“I talked to Justin and he listened and I listened to him and I want to help make him prime minister.’’
Trinity-Spadina will cease to exist next year, being carved into the new ridings of University-Rosedale and Spadina-Fort York under redistribution.
The spat between Innes and party leadership, according to Innes, hinged on her refusal to sign a form guaranteeing she would run in Spadina-Fort York. She was thought to prefer a run in University-Rosedale, where Toronto Centre MP Chrystia Freeland will be the candidate next year.
Vaughan promised Trudeau that, should he win, he will run in the riding of Spadina-Fort York next year.
Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. email@example.com Twitter:@nutgraf1
Long time Toronto city councillor Adam Vaughan is making the move to federal politics, agreeing to run for the Liberals in the upcoming byelection in the downtown riding of Trinity-Spadina.
The deal was sealed at a lunch at Le Select Bistro Wednesday with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, sources told the Star, but the party has been courting the outspoken Vaughan for months.
Vaughan, who represents the southern portion of the federal riding on city council, will be seeking the seat vacated by Olivia Chow, who is trying to unseat Mayor Rob Ford in this year’s mayoralty election.
He won the ward in 2010 with almost 75 per cent of the vote.
Vaughan, a former journalist, took the ward initially in 2006 by easily defeating Helen Kennedy, Chow’s one-time executive assistant.
He will be competing for the riding with New Democrat Joe Cressy, a 29-year-old social activist with strong party ties. Cressy ran Chow’s 2011 federal campaign and stepped down as a strategist on her mayoralty campaign to run in the riding.
His arrival in the race — he must first beat other candidates for the nomination — sets up an epic battle between Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in an urban riding where both need to show strength find criminal records.
Mulcair campaigned for Cressy in the riding this week.
A date for the byelection has not been announced.
Vaughan has been a long-time critic of Ford, telling reporters after the first mayoral debate that Ford’s “ability to lie is just unchallenged.”
His frustration with the circus-like atmosphere at city hall under Ford played into his decision to make the move, sources said, but he has told Trudeau he would like to take a strong role in promoting policies for cities if he is elected — the same platform Cressy is taking to voters.
Trinity-Spadina has swung between Liberals and New Democrats in recent elections, but the NDP believe they had established an endurable beachhead with Chow.
Previous to the Chow reign, the riding was held by Liberal Tony Ianno, whose spouse Christine Innes had twice run and lost to Chow.
She was blocked by the party from running in the riding this time and has, in turn, sued Trudeau.
Innes, who is seeking $1.5 million in damages, says in her statement of claim that she and her team were “repeatedly and maliciously” accused publicly of “bullying and intimidation” after she refused a “backroom deal.”
The Liberals say the suit has no merit.
The party is seeking guarantees from candidates that they will not seek the nomination in other ridings and alleged Innes was preparing to jump to Toronto Centre should she have won a byelection.
Vaughan has given Trudeau his assurance that he would stay in Trinity-Spadina should he win the byelection, sources say.
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