Meet the Liberal hoping to hold on to Scarborough
Also: Bonnie's big day, Hsu's in, Crawford confirmed, fundraising watch, staff moves, regulatory roundup and more
Presented by Real North Strategies
ABOVE THE FOLD
First in Observer — Q+A: By all accounts, ZAKIR PATEL is a dream candidate. He’s a two-term school trustee, longtime community organizer and self-described “Liberal soldier” with deep roots in Scarborough—Guildwood.
But he may have to battle it out with his fellow Grits before he can carry the banner in the soon-to-be-called byelection.
“I will be running,” the local TDSB trustee, real estate agent and small business owner tells me.
The competition is shaping up to be fierce. The PCs were first out of the gate yesterday and named veteran city councillor and budget chief GARY CRAWFORD (Scarborough Southwest) as their candidate. He’s vying to poach the seat that was put in play when longtime Liberal rep MITZIE HUNTER stepped down to run for Mayor. (Crawford will stick around at City Hall during the campaign. Our scoop.)
In Liberal circles, Patel is all the rage. I spoke with several organizers and strategists who see him as the best candidate to take on a high-profile contender like Crawford and hold on to one of the party’s few remaining strongholds.
“He’s the best choice,” said one seasoned strategist. “It would be just dumb to run a nobody against a sitting councillor in a byelection when we’ve got someone like Zakir — two-term trustee, with name recognition, who is well-known and liked in the community — and he’s willing to go to bat for us.”
Still, it could be a tough slog for the Liberal nod. There’s not much intel from the party at this point — spokesperson CARTER BROWNLEE didn’t address specific questions about timelines or whether it will be an open nomination, saying only that details “will be communicated at a later date.”
But Patel is convinced it’s going to be a contested nomination race to pick the candidate. I caught up with him on Tuesday to find out why he’s running, his strategy for winning, and what he thinks of the competition so far.
Key highlights (lightly edited for clarity and length):
Why are you running to be the Liberal candidate in Scarborough—Guildwood? “I love to do public work. And it’s just a passion for Scarborough—Guildwood. I’ve seen poverty first-hand, and what I’ve discovered is Scarborough has been neglected, big time. And we have to fight for it.”
What’s the biggest issue facing the riding? “What I hear from people in the neighbourhoods is that we don’t get our fair share in Scarborough. People who live on the eastern side, if they have to go to work in the downtown core somewhere, it takes them hours and hours to reach there. There are a lot of single parents in the neighbourhood, right? We don’t have high-paying jobs in Scarborough. They’re lacking infrastructure, community centres. My ultimate goal is to open a food bank in Scarborough—Guildwood because food insecurity is the biggest thing in this neighbourhood.”
The PCs have picked GARY CRAWFORD as their candidate. What do you make of him as competition? “I always focus on my own game. I always focus on my party’s platform. And I’m confident in my party’s platform, I’m confident in me. I heard about Gary’s name four weeks ago, it’s nothing new to me. So there will be no changes in the game plan — and that’s the grassroots members. It’s the voice of the grassroots that has to reach Queen’s Park. I’m not a rubber-stamp candidate, I’m not a parachuted candidate — I’m the local candidate.”
Are you raring to go? Should the party get a move on with the nomination so the candidate can start pounding the pavement? “I’ve been preparing for this since MITZIE [HUNTER] announced for the Mayoral race. She’s a good friend of mine, I know Mitzie very well — if the words come out of her mouth, she’s in. So, I’m prepared for it, but I’ll leave it up to the party and the people who are deciding.”
Do you have a sense of whether it’ll be a contested nomination race or a straight appointment? “It will be a contested nomination.”
Where do you stand in that process? “I did ask for the nomination papers, and I have the papers.”
What gives you an edge over the competition? “I’ve been in this riding since 1999, my roots are here. My connections with the local communities are very strong. And I’m always available — that’s why you’ll find my cell phone number at most of the doors in Scarborough—Guildwood.”
BONNIE’S BIG DAY, TAKE TWO — Despite a somewhat sloppy rollout, Crombie’s “exploratory” campaign launch netted big headlines on Tuesday.
Any press is good press: Crombie’s entry into the already crowded Liberal leadership fray made a big splash — and that’s more than one of her political rivals, Oppo Leader MARIT STILES, can say — especially compared to a relatively sleepy and uncontested race for NDP captain.
Still, there’s always room for error — and Crombie came close at last night’s fundraiser in St. Catharines, in which she reportedly said she’s “not going to build shiny towers full of one-bedroom apartments along a transit corridor.”
Grits aren’t happy about that one. “Completely tone deaf. Campaign self sabotage,” one source texted.
Sticking around: Earlier, Crombie said she’ll stay on as Mississauga Mayor. She’s expected to step down if and when she takes the party crown on December 2. Until then, it’s less civic ribbon-cutting, more Grit glad-handing. “I will be there for the critical decision-making. And when I need to step up as mayor (for) the city of Mississauga, I will be there,” she said on CP24 Breakfast.
The line of the day: Crombie pumped herself up as a centrist who can bring the Liberals back from the brink of the left-wing — something we talked about a couple weeks ago.
Spotted: Crombie and ex-Toronto Mayor JOHN TORY lunching at midtown restaurant Capocaccia Trattoria…Crombie and Tory’s would-be replacement ANA BAILÃO in twin blazers (can we get a verdict, QPfashun?)
Save the date: Hsu is making a “special announcement” on Sunday, May 28 at the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour on his home turf in Kingston. Also on hand: ROB BAKER, lead axe man for The Tragically Hip. Get my one-on-one with Hsu.
Over to you, YASIR NAQVI, STEPHANIE BOWMAN and ADIL SHAMJI.
DOUG FORD’S WEDNESDAY — 10 a.m.: The Premier is in London for an announcement and media avail with Labour Minister MONTE McNAUGHTON.
OPPO ITIN — 12 p.m.: NDP Leader MARIT STILES is in Kitchener—Waterloo — near byelection territory — with local rep CATHERINE FIFE and outgoing MPP LAURA MAE LINDO (Kitchener Centre), to attend the party’s Leading Women/Leading Girls, Building Communities Recognition Program.
10:15 a.m.: Back at the Park, parents and students from the Roden school are in the Media Studio to call on the Ford government to “provide necessary funding to ensure that every student has access to a quality education.”
6:30 p.m.: Lieutenant Governor ELIZABETH DOWDESWELL and Health Minister SYLVIA JONES will bestow the inaugural Ontario Medal for Pandemic Bravery to paramedics who showed courage in the face of danger. The ceremony goes down in the Main Lobby.
FUNDRAISING WATCH — 6 p.m.: Environment Minister DAVID PICCINI is hosting a money-making event in Concord (there’s no price tag, which is a no-no under the Election Finances Act). Invite.
(Update: the cost of entry was later added: $1,650)
7 p.m.: Liberal leadership hopeful STEPHANIE BOWMAN is headlining a $500-a-head event in Midtown in support of her Don Valley West association. RSVP.
THE HOUSE IS OUT. MPPs get back at it on Monday, May 29.
ON THE COMMITTEE CIRCUIT — 10 a.m.: It’s (possibly) makeover time for Bill 97, the PCs housing and planning shakeup, which is up for clause-by-clause consideration. Livestream.