Liberal incumbent to leave Toronto-area seat, setting up rare GTA opening for Tories

Borys Wrzesnewskyj told his Liberal caucus colleagues Wednesday that he will not seek re-election next year in Etobicoke Centre, leaving one of the few Toronto-area ridings where the Conservatives think they have a chance next year without an incumbent.

“I’m looking to spend a lot more time with my family,” Wrzesnewskyj said. He has three children, the youngest of whom is four.

Wrzesnewskyj, who will turn 58 next month, will serve out the remainder of his term. He is a former chairperson of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and is a current member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I intend to have a very productive year,” Wrzesnewskyj said in a telephone interview Wednesday evening from his Parliament Hill office.

Wrzesnewskyj was first elected in 2004 but lost to Conservative Ted Opitz in 2011 — the general election in which Stephen Harper won his only majority government. With more than 52,000 votes cast in that riding in 2011, Wrzesnewskyj was behind at the end of election day by 26 votes.

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Suspecting voting irregularities, Wrzesnewskyj asked the Ontario Superior Court to overturn the results of the vote, which it did. Opitz appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, and it overturned the lower court’s decision to give Opitz a six-vote margin of victory.

Wrzesnewskyj won the grudge match in 2015, beating Opitz by more than 9,000 votes.

But Opitz isn’t done yet. He has already won the Conservative nomination and hopes to return to the House of Commons in 2019.

READ MORE: Supreme Court rules in favour of Tory Opitz in contested Etobicoke Centre riding

Wrzesnewskyj has endorsed the riding’s former member of provincial parliament, Yvan Baker, to carry the federal Liberal banner in Etobicoke Centre against Opitz.

Baker, 40, became Etobicoke Centre’s MPP in 2014 after a career on Bay Street as a management consultant. He had also served as Wrzesnewskyj’s executive assistant.

“I strongly encourage Yvan to run and I have no qualms about endorsing him,” Wrzesnewskyj said.

READ MORE: MPs to debate creating new ambassador for women, peace and security

Baker lost his seat at Queen’s Park earlier this year when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives swept to victory. Baker was beaten by PC Kinga Surma.

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Baker will still have to win a nomination contest. The date of the vote will be set by Liberal party headquarters.

The federal Conservatives were shut out of any Toronto seat in the 2015 election and won just three in the Greater Toronto Area.

Wrzesnewskyj said one of the files he’s had the most satisfaction working on in the current Parliament is the creation of a new ambassador for women, peace and security. Wrzesnewskyj defined the position in a private member’s bill he tabled earlier this fall, and the idea subsequently gained the support of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Wrzesnewskyj hopes the government will “operationalize” the position within the year.

Wrzesnewskyj, like Freeland, is a member of Canada’s Ukrainian diaspora community.

Wrzesnewskyj is a third-generation Ukrainian-Canadian and has worked on a long list of charitable, social and political projects to promote Ukrainian culture at home and abroad.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Wrzesnewskyj was the Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. In fact, MP Michael Levitt is the chair of that committee. 

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