12.11.2014 06:00 PM

In Friday’s Sun: why I’m not running in Toronto Danforth


Sorry.  But I’m a Liberal.

I am, I am. I’ve occasionally been mad at the party, over the years, and I haven’t been wild about some of the people running it, either. But when all is said and done, I’m a Liberal.

I was rummaging through a drawer recently, and found proof: a “Warren Kinsella Liberal” button from when I was the federal Grit candidate in North Vancouver in 1997. I lost that one, decisively, but it was an honour to run. I loved it.

A few weeks ago, the irrepressible, indefatigable Dennis Mills approached me to suggest I seek the Liberal nomination in Toronto Danforth, the riding he held for many years. I’ve lived on the border of the riding for almost as many years.

I didn’t think it was a good idea. I’m too independent, I told my Grit friends Dennis Mills and Catherine Davey. I’m a writer, and – while a Liberal and a liberal – I haven’t ever hesitated to criticize my party when it deserved it. I’m a contrarian, I told him. I’m incapable of being deferential to authority – ie., I’ve never been good at kissing powerful behinds.

But Dennis kept talking to me about it. I started to think about it.

I heard from people. Two former Prime Ministers told me I should do it. Two Ontario Premiers – one sitting, one former – encouraged me to give it a shot. Lots of former cabinet ministers and MPs and Grits were similarly enthusiastic.

But the folks around Justin Trudeau weren’t enthusiastic. They were against it, in fact.

A senior Trudeau advisor told me why. My writings over the years, here and elsewhere, had been too critical of Team Trudeau. They didn’t like that.

That wasn’t all. Trudeau’s circle is now dominated by folks who tried to drive out my friend Jean Chretien a decade ago. They, too, were unenthusiastic.

Thereafter, I started to hear from many Grits that the party’s mysterious “Green Light” process – wherein the suitability of potential candidates is assessed – would be used to deny me an opportunity to run. Some pretext would be found.

All that said, let me also say this:

I agree with Trudeau’s gang. I shouldn’t run under their banner – but not for the reasons they cite.

I am, indeed, a contrarian. When you are a writer, that’s your job: to tilt at windmills. To try and tell the truth to power.

If Team Trudeau wants people who are in lockstep with them on every issue, every single day, I’m not the guy they want.

There are other reasons why I won’t run. Like Bob Rae, Lloyd Axworthy, Romeo Dallaire and several million voters, I disagree with Trudeau on the international effort against ISIS. When genocide is happening, indolence is complicity.

Ironically, I agree with Trudeau’s position on abortion: I think it should be safe, legal and rare. But I don’t like how Trudeau arrived at his position: political parties shouldn’t dictate intensely personal matters of conscience to Members of Parliament.

I also agree with him on the need to have more women in Parliament. And if I have to stand down to ensure women have an equal voice in Parliament, I will do so.

There are other reasons, of course. I’ve got kids who are still young. I’ve got a business to run. I’ve got a book coming out. I’m getting hitched to the most amazing woman. And so on.

Mostly, however, it’s not a good fit. The Trudeau guys aren’t enthusiastic about dissenters. And I’m a dissenter.

Will I give it a shot in the future? Maybe.

And do I still hope Trudeau wins? I do, I do. It’s time for a change. I like his energy and his positive attitude. Canada needs that, in Toronto Danforth and elsewhere.

In the meantime, however, Sun readers are stuck with me.



  1. MississaugaPeter says:

    Impressive endorsements and support!

    As I have asked before:

    Has the most amazing woman considered it? She has the smarts for it. And no baggage (except you) and no book tour (that we are aware of).

  2. Shawn says:

    Is the Martin gang running the show again? To that degree?

  3. Brachina says:

    So in other words its another nomination in which Trudeau’s people interfered. Open nominations my tush. It looks bad in conjuction with the situtiation in BC and the two lawsuits.

    As a New Democract I won’t pretend this isn’t good news for us, not just because you have your fans within the Liberal party, but because the invovlement of Trudeau’s people and the internal divisions still present in the Liberal party can only help us.

  4. Chris says:

    Wise decision! I’m not sure I agree that the real reason is because, notwithstanding so many eminent people begging you to run, you are just too independent minded for it work. I think that there are, just maybe, some other more important reasons. The fact that you don’t live in the riding was a big one. And the fact that even if you won the nomination, your odds of winning the riding were perhaps 35%. Perhaps most importantly, I don’t see a burning desire to investigate and implement policies to help the riding’s residents. I see your recent history as being more about marketing and making facile personal attacks. And I say that in the nicest possible way! And as a fellow Liberal! And as, on the whole, a fan! And how can you go from supporting Olivia Chow to, within months, running to wrest Layton’s old riding from the NDP? I am reminded of a line from A Man for All Seasons: “Listen, Roper. Two years ago you were a passionate Churchman; now you’re a passionate-Lutheran. We must just pray that when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.”

  5. Sean says:


    Firstly, I am very impressed at the sincere thought you put into this. I find most local candidates these days are totally concerned with the *odds of winning*. Your reasons are actually based on policy and issues.

    Secondly, I have to confess that I am very disappointed in Trudeau. When it comes to nominations, there is a good argument that he has been the most controversial, indecisive, messy leader in the history of the Liberal Party. I know that is a lot to say, but I would defy anyone to point to a leader who has had a worse string of messy nomination meetings in such a short amount of time.

    Lastly, I was dead wrong in my initial assessment that his cool hair cut would move 100 seats. Turns out Canadians actually do want more. His controversial policy stands, right or wrong, have been arrived at with a total lack of style / finesse. He is like a teenager learning to drive…. OK, the car seems to eventually get parked but there is a lot of starting and stopping along the way. IE:

    Abortion: OK, I get it, he is Pro Choice… So am I. But a lot of good Liberals are not. I respect that and so should he.
    ISIS: he is dead wrong. no question.
    Sex Harassment: This has been a terrible fumble. He had no idea where he was going with this and still doesn’t. He and his staff correctly figured out that this was the flavor of the week during the Ghomeshi / Cosby mess, but they had NO IDEA how to come to a conclusion that would satisfy anyone. They should have just called the police and not acted like the sheriff.

  6. Ridiculosity says:

    Warren, I also agree with Trudeau on the need to have more women in Parliament. No question there.

    But I do NOT agree that having a vagina alone should relegate you to the top of the ‘Preferred Candidate’ heap.

    I have spoken to many, many, many Liberals – both male and female – about this issue and they have all unanimously agreed that a candidate’s suitability should be judged on their individual merit and qualifications, not simply because they were born with an extra X chromosome.

    This is 2014. Not 1914. And while we all recognize that women still have a long, long way to go before being in a position of equity with men, as a longtime Liberal – and feminist – I might add, I would much prefer to see a strong roster of ‘electable and exceptional’ candidates, regardless off their sex, go up against Harper & Company in 2015, than see a potentially weaker slate made up of candidates who are on the ballot, in part, just because of their gender.

    The Liberal Party of Canada’s outreach to women to encourage them to get more involved in the political process has been groundbreaking and commendable, as evidenced by the ongoing and highly successful “Invite Her to Run” campaign.

    That said, perhaps our greater responsibility as a Party is to ensure that ALL potential candidates are qualified, committed, competent and highly capable, instead of tokenizing and focusing on one sex alone.

    Harper’s fetish with ‘balancing the budget’ cost our country dearly.

    I hope our Party’s preoccupation with backing female candidates – at the expense of stronger male candidates – doesn’t have the same deleterious impact.

    • MississaugaPeter says:


      Nothing wrong with affirmative action to address past and present discrimination and inequality.

      • Ridiculosity says:

        Yes. There. Is. If it is done for the wrong reasons.

        • Joe says:

          Replacing one form of bigotry (lack of women MPs) with another form of bigotry (affirmative action to get more female MPs) is just as bigoted and just as wrong. Far better to let the people vote for whom they wish to vote. Unless you are Trudeau who likes to hand pick his candidates. Which is why I support Warren in his choice of not running as a Liberal candidate. Warren’s independent mindset would not sit well in a caucus of hand picked sycophants. Although Warren didn’t expressly say so I agree with him that the Liberal party needs to get rid of the power clique that destroyed the party by foisting one of the worst PMs Canada had in the person of Paul Martin.

    • davie says:

      Although, it is possible that, for a long time, male candidates to run for a party are chosen over females because they are males.
      Not many of us would admit to this, but I think it is an under current that sometimes works to select a male rather than a female.

      • Terence Quinn says:

        IN OAKVILLE there was both woman and a male candidate running for the nomination. The woman thought she had it in the bag because she is a woman. Then along comes a very progressive and popular local guy and wins the nomination fair and square because he had some thing to say other than what sex he is. It was a truly open race and simply put the better candidate won.

        • Gayle says:

          Which merely suggests to me that the plan to encourage women to run is not taking over the need for the best qualified candidates.

          As for the comments here against affirmative action (not specifically your comment, but all of the comments made on this point), one of the reasons we often consider a man is the more qualified candidate is because he has had more opportunities to be more qualified. Women’s careers are often sidelined when they have children. And those of us who do not have children are often judged harshly for that as well. The point of affirmative action is not to replace a better candidate with a weaker one, based only on gender or race. The point is to encourage people to overlook ingrained prejudices. Sometimes the qualifications we seek are not those that would necessarily make someone a better candidate – they are just the qualifications we are accustomed to seeing in a candidate because we are accustomed to seeing male candidates who have attained a certain kind of success in private life.

          Most people would not consider a woman who has been out of the work force for 10 years raising children to be a qualified candidate. But maybe she would actually be an amazing MP.

          • davie says:

            I agree about raising kids…anyone who discounts this either has not had kids, or has had someone else raise his, or her, kids.

            This story has less to do with raising kids, but has to do with experience with kids.
            About 25 years ago the teachers union I was a part of was trying to set a record for the length of our strike. My jobs were to check all pickets in our downtown area each morning, look at the management propaganda, and try to come up with our own, bargain, and assorted other chores.
            After a couple of months, it struck me that we were a lot better organized than the board office was. The board office was full of guys who had advanced degrees in admin and had all that theory on having visions and making decisions and being captains of large organizations. Our office was full of mere joe school teachers, whose experience was daily organizing of kids, or yearly organization of sports events, choir recitals, plays, Christmas concerts, grads,…

            I am sure the outside public, or a local political party, would judge the admin from the board office to have the experience and ability to be an excellent political sell, and do a good job in office (actually, a couple of those guys did so)…and would see the classroom teacher as not having much more than talking at kids in the resume.

            I think this connects, as well, to the current arguments in federal politics about day care. I think a fair number of people have a low opinion of people who work with children, and this underlies some of the debate.

          • MississaugaPeter says:

            Who cares if she was in the workplace or at home? MPs represent working women and stay-at-home moms. And there should be room for both in Parliament.

            What really makes one person more qualified than another? Their looks? Their speaking ability? Their arrogance? Their cockiness? Their height? Their IQ?

            Take the case of Ruth. I have no problem with more Ruths.


            The problem with middle class Trudeau is that he is not middle class, and he has too few middle class candidates – supposedly 30 of the 143 (more than 1 in 5) nominated Liberal candidate are lawyers so far. That is not very representative nor a great optic.


            BTW, I would still have donated to lawyer WK if he had run. And will for Lisa when she does.

  7. Pipes says:

    Well, no words of mine could assuage the anguish of your decision. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to see the filth of politics, as an elected politician soil you. Ultimately it would have.

    You have too many great things in your life, focus on that.

  8. smelter rat says:

    Politics is a dirty game played by dirty people – a former PM. You’d be good at it, but on the other hand, who needs it?

  9. Steve T says:

    You would have been a great MP, but the reasons for your decision are spot-on. Sadly, your reasons are similar to those that (I suspect) are becoming the reasons for candidates in all parties. Those who want to have their own mind – you know, independent thought, and all that good stuff – are realizing that the Canadian political machine does not want it.

    Look at the Reform Party, and to a lesser extent the Canadian Alliance. Yes, there were some wingnuts, but the bottom line is that there were a bunch of people with independent opinions. An MP was actually able to have a different opinion than their party, or than the “popular” view. Now, Harper has effectively silenced all dissent. The same is true of the NDP. It used to contain strong voices across the left side of the spectrum. Now, who do you hear other than Mulcair?

    Where does this leave us? It means you vote for a party, not a person. When my local candidate comes around to my door, I really don’t care how nice they are, or what they’ve done for the community, or what their personal views are. Because it doesn’t matter one iota. It could be a trained monkey running for office. The only thing that matters are the leader, and the party’s overall platform.

    Say what you want about the U.S. system (and there are plenty of bad things to say), but at least their Senators and Congressmen aren’t a bunch of “yes” men and women. They actually can vote against their own party, and use their own brain once in awhile.

    • Reality.Bites says:

      Yeah, I remember all those Reformers who didn’t toe the party line on abortion rights and gay rights (not marriage. Reform was opposed to any and all rights for gay people and had the unanimous voting record to prove it.)

      It’s easy to pretend you’re in favour of of independent opinions when you only associate with people who all believe exactly the same thing “coincidentally.”

      • Steve T says:

        You are missing my point. Yes, there were a lot of common opinions within the Reform Party, just like any political party. However, there was not punishment for speaking out on certain matters. Compare that to the current CPC, or the current Libs or NDP.

  10. davie says:

    It takes a lot of courage to apologize for being a liberal, and a Liberal, on this message board.

  11. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I find it ironic that a potential candidate has shown himself to be of both strong character and bold vision as to how he sees the party.

    Good to great leaders (PET, Chretien) not only attract strong candidates but also insist on it. They need to be challenged internally off-the-record in order to bring us effective and impressive government. A powerful team radiates self-confidence and a clear vision of where the leader intends to take the party and country.

    Contrast that with the one-man Team Harper that knows only what comes from top down management in the PMO. This government is Harper, period. Dissent is unknown and virtually all ministers have majored in unquestioning decisions made at the top.

  12. Doesn’t it disgust you that Trudeau has been confirmed to be a liar and anti-democratic? This should be a scandal on the scale of Dona Cadman’s statement that Chuck Cadman was offered a bribe by the Conservatives. In both cause supporters of the party openly admit the wrong doing.

    If only the other major parties where any better. Someday someone is going to reject the message discipline at any cost dogma and wipe everyone else out.

    • davie says:

      What? You figure the Cadman thing was the way James Moore and the Cons painted it?

      • doconnor says:

        I figure the Cadman thing was the way Dona Cadman painted it, because she was a Conservative candidate and had no reason to attack the Conservative, except that it was the truth.

        I hadn’t been convinced Trudeau was doctoring the approval process, but I am now that a Liberal supports says it is.

  13. harvey bushell says:

    And of course there’s that little issue of you being Satan…


  14. Jay Currie says:


    The Libs need ginger and Lords knows you would have given it to them.

    Fortunately, I had not yet made the popcorn and beer keeps pretty much forever.

    But seriously, run. I dispise virtually everything you believe – this week; but I have no doubt as to your independence and the Dauphin needs adults to course correct him.

  15. Philippe says:

    Too bad Warren, I hoped you would take the plunge. You’re so opinionated, and that’s the type of people that need to be in there. You also would pull out a baseball bat when the Cons pull out a knife… and we need to kick their asses. The “let’s be nice” approach never works when you are at war, and the Cons are always at war.

  16. Starsailor says:

    Oh well

  17. Greg Vezina says:

    It does look like you doing this because you didn’t get green lighted Warren, and you are falling on your sword to save the Leader and Party?

  18. smelter rat says:

    And now Royal Niblet bails too? Geez, i may have to go orange again.

  19. ernest lustig says:

    Great decision

  20. I think we should congratulate Warren for his self-awareness. It doesn’t happen often that a pundit writes about insight into life as an MP on the backbench, which is what he certainly would have been, and he deserves kudos for acknowledging this.

  21. ottawacon says:

    “Trudeau’s circle is now dominated by folks who tried to drive out my friend Jean Chretien a decade ago”

    This is why I was surprised the idea even came up. Also why I think the Harper guys are not running scared at all, they have been handing those clowns their asses for over a decade, and from worse poll positions. Remember the Martin juggernaught and fears of a too-big majority in 2004?

  22. pat heron says:

    I am sorry you aren’t running. Was looking forward to it. Thought you were just what is needed to get a little fun into the mix, while at the same time dealing with important issues.

  23. Tiger says:

    As I’ve said before, I’m disappointed, as I’d have enjoyed watching our host here lob rockets at Craig Scott.

    Ah well.

  24. T Sullivan says:

    Warren Kinsella should be the new permanent host of Q. He’s musical, sort of. He’s a journalist, a bit. He’s a media personality, in a way.

    He can speak well. He knows stuff. He knows people. He has a public service spirit which is needed to work for a public broadcaster.

    • Marc-André Chiasson says:

      Totally agree. Only condition…the name of the show would have to be changed to “W”. Oh…and a self-imposed content limit of 20% on Punk Rock.

  25. Warren says:

    Comment I made over at Valerie’s site. It hasn’t been approved. Surprise, surprise.

    Interesting commentary. It would have been more informative, along with interesting, if you had relied upon a few facts in my case: that is, I’ve chaired LPC war rooms in 1993 and 2000; run for the party as a candidate in 1997; chaired war rooms for the Ontario Liberals in 2003, 2007 and 2011; chaired the BC Liberal war room in 1996; advised Liberal Party campaign efforts in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia over the years, including recent years; spoken at fundraisers for all those Liberal Parties (including one just a couple weeks ago); chaired Ignatieff’s war room in 2009; and so on.

    The point, I guess, is you don’t know what the Hell you’re talking about, and I am quite confident you will not post this comment (don’t worry, I’ve saved it).

    I would be happy to compare my contributions to the Liberal Party(ies) to yours, if you like. What say?

    Your pal,


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