[attach]953[/attach]It was a simple tree dedication at a midtown Toronto park, but in retrospect, it could have been easily mistaken for a campaign stop.
Not least of all because seated front row amid a group of school children, politicians and philanthropists at Lytton Park on Oct. 29 was George Smitherman.
Understated but conspicuously present outside his riding, Smitherman said the only reason for his attendance that day was his friendship with Helen Vari, the tree’s patron.
On Nov. 9, Smitherman put an end to any speculation and declared his intention to run for mayor of Toronto in next year’s election.
And with that, Smitherman leaves Toronto Centre open for a provincial byelection sometime in 2010.
“Toronto is in desperate need of strong leadership if it is to address these challenges and build an even stronger city,” Smitherman said at a press conference at Queen’s Park. “I believe that I can deliver the leadership that Toronto needs.”
Mayor David Miller has already announced he will not seek re-election in 2010. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is the only other mayoralty candidate to officially declare, though he’s said it’s conditional on being able to raise sufficient campaign revenue for the mayoralty race.
Smitherman is known as an excellent fundraiser and should have no trouble raising the $1 million-plus needed for a credible candidacy.
He’s been MPP for Toronto Centre since 1999 and during that tenure, he’s held some powerful portfolios in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government, including energy and infrastructure, and health.
Scarborough MPP Gerry Phillips will now take over the energy portfolio.
The current billion-dollar E-health spending scandal happened partially under his watch and is sure to be raised by any mayoralty opponent.
He will remain Toronto Centre’s MPP for now and is expected to officially register as a candidate for mayor in early spring. At that time, McGuinty will have six months to hold a by-election to fill the vacancy in Toronto Centre.
Smitherman was born and raised in Toronto and lives in the riding with his husband Christopher Peloso.
Other candidates who have expressed and interest or are rumoured to be musing about a run for Toronto’s top job include councillors Adam Vaughan, Adam Giambrone, Joe Pantalone and Shelley Carroll, former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray, and former Ontario PC leader John Tory.