Rivals vie for NDP mantle in Toronto-Danforth

While some people might feel intimidated at the thought of following in Jack Layton’s footsteps, Claire Prashaw is “humbled.”

Prashaw, Layton’s former constituency assistant, says she’ll officially kick off her campaign to become the NDP candidate for MP in Toronto-Danforth at an event tomorrow, Dec. 20.

The campaign kickoff starts on Tuesday at 7 p.m, at the Dora Keogh pub on Danforth Avenue.

Prashaw worked alongside the late MP in his Broadview Avenue constituency office for a year and a half before he died of cancer last summer.

“It was inspiring and rewarding to work with Jack. He wasn’t just my boss, but my mentor and friend,” she said. “I saw the love he had for his community and I am going to continue that.”

Since the death of the charismatic NDP leader in August, the riding has been without a member of Parliament. According to Elections Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has until Feb. 26 to set a date for a byelection.

Prashaw indicated in November that she would seek the federal NDP nomination in Toronto-Danforth. Then, on Dec. 9, Craig Scott announced that he’ll also ask for the local riding association’s nod to run as the New Democrat when the byelection is held.

Scott is a professor at the Osgoode Hall law school of York University, and director of the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security there. He lives in Riverdale.

For her part, Prashaw says that during her time as Layton’s assistant, she advocated for constituents and helped them cut through red tape on such issues as pensions and reuniting new immigrants with their families. She recently took a leave of absence to focus on her campaign.

Born and raised in Collingwood, Ont., Prashaw completed an undergraduate degree at Trent University in Peterborough and went on to do a Bachelors of Education at York University. She moved to Toronto in 2005 with her three-year-old son.

She says she is passionate about education.

“Through the outreach work I’ve done, I’ve dealt with young people who may not have had the opportunity to graduate from high school, but they have to pay rent and are struggling to get by,” she said. “I will be working with community organizations as well as the party to discuss what would be the best ways to get people back in school or back in training.”

Prashaw, 32, says she knows first-hand the struggles of the average middle-class Canadian citizen, especially when it comes to the cost of living and the widening income gap. She says the HST needs to be taken off home heating bills and that it’s an injustice when seniors on fixed income and people on disability are unable to pay it.

As a single parent, she also understands the struggles faced by those seeking daycare subsidies.

“I understand the need for daycare from a personal perspective. You put your name on a spot, and you run the risk of losing that spot if your subsidy doesn’t come through,” she said.