The radical reverend, Cheri di Novo, seems to have a leg up on opponent Mohamed Boudjenane as the NDP get set to nominate a candidate for the highly anticipated Parkdale-High Park by-election, for which the Liberals are expected to set a date any day now.
At last count, DiNovo, a long-time peace activist and minister at Emmanuel Howard Park United Church, has recruited some 350 new party members, compared to Boudjenane's 250. The nomination meeting to select the NDP candidate takes place Monday (July 17) at Lithuanian Community House.
Along with the numbers, DiNovo boasts some impressive local credentials growing her church by embracing inclusiveness, creating outreach programs for the poor, fighting for gay rights (she performed the first legal same-sex marriage in Canada) and participating in community activism. She's also "The Radical Reverend" on a weekly radio show on CIUT-FM.
"I'm not a politician," she says. "I'm being a politician only because I've seen how many governments have done a disservice to this riding. Nothing is changing, and someone needs to advocate on behalf of the poor."
DiNovo is making childcare, welfare and education reforms the main planks in her campaign.
Meanwhile, Boudjenane, who spent 10 years as a reporter for TFO's Panorama public affairs program before becoming executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), presents some intriguing opposition.
Although he's not seen as the establishment candidate, he spent five years in the 90s as a policy adviser and executive assistant to former Ontario minister of transportation and francophone affairs Gilles Pouliot.
"I have had the privilege to observe different governments [and] know about the political process," he says.
His list of endorsements includes human rights lawyer Avvy Go and NDP stalwarts like former Ontario party pres Andre Foucault and Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson.
Focusing on social justice and multiculturalism, Boudjenane has stressed the need to invite minority groups into the political process his campaign has actively recruited the Tibetan community and for Canada to accept more foreigners with professional credentials.
The riding, which became open when Grit Gerard Kennedy stepped down to run for the federal Liberal leadership, was an NDP stronghold before Kennedy rose to power.
In 2003, support for the NDP in this heavily eastern European riding dropped behind that of the Tories. The party recently gained a higher profile in the area with NDP MP Peggy Nash's win in the last federal election.