07/31/2013 05:37 EDT | Updated 09/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Liberals Should Not Rubber Stamp A Nomination In Toronto Centre

In Toronto Centre -- George Smitherman made unexpected announcement about his potential candidacy to replace departing MP Bob Rae. "I won't be a candidate now. I won't be contesting a riding in the 2015 general election or any other. I will, as always, be an active Liberal volunteer and I look forward to knocking on doors in Toronto Centre whenever the by election comes".

Smitherman out of contention - this gives the Liberal party and its new leader - Justin Trudeau - an ample opportunity to renew his third placed party. It was not long ago Trudeau explained how he wants "to give Canadians a platform for their aspirations, their hopes, and their dreams." He continued how he "will make the Liberal Party one of the most democratic parties in the world". I hope this was not just a lofty ideal but a foundation to the renewal hope of the once mighty party of Pierre Trudeau, Lester B. Pearson and Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Even as a non-Liberal, I am well aware that the only alternative to the Conservatives is not the NDP but the Liberals in 2015. However, the nomination to replace Bob Rae is beginning to worry me as potential candidates are being pushed aside to make way for a "star" candidate from New York. Earlier today, Chrystia Freeland announced her entry to "join the race" in a by-election that is expected to be called in mere months. So far, I am aware of the candidacy of the activist Todd Ross and the potential run of Mark Warner.

With one time Rhodes Scholar Freeland in the mix -- it seems the race is shaping up to be a confirmation of her candidacy. This was not what was promised by Trudeau months ago and her privileged treatment for the nomination will continue to make an elitist club rather than a party ready to govern in two years. I hope the nomination with be a fair competition where anyone can enter, sell membership and compete. An open democracy in the Liberal party will benefit us all.

A race that included lawyer/businessman, Sachin Aggawal, activist Rodd Ross, broadcaster, Seamus O'Regan, one-time leadership candidate, Deborah Coyne and the former Conservative candidate in Toronto Centre, international lawyer Mark Warner would breed new intellectual blood into the third-place party.

Let me share with you what an open democracy will bring to the race by highlighting one of these great potential candidates. His name is Mark Warner and he was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and immigrated in 1968 at the age of four - at the beginning of the Trudeamania revolution.

Warner has been an international trade and competition lawyer for decades with brand name firms such as Fasken Martineau DuMoulin and with the Government of Ontario. He has served in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's; he has taught competition and trade law courses at: the University of Leiden (Netherlands), the World Trade Institute (Switzerland), the International Institute for Management in Telecommunications (Switzerland), the University of Western Cape (South Africa), and the International Law Institute (Uganda).

He has even authored a trade law textbook with one-time Toronto Centre MP Bill Graham. He has four degrees from prestigious institutions such as McGill University, University of Toronto, Osgoode Hall Law School and Georgetown University in Washington DC. His activism began at McGill as undergrad organizing and protesting against apartheid South Africa. He led a student group that convinced McGill University to stop doing business with companies doing business in the then South Africa.

He has been an active member of Toronto Centre's leading community organizations such as Cabbagetown Youth Center and the Regent Park Community Health Center. Warner brings with him smart perspective and solid experience, and his witty and provocative Facebook Wall blog commentaries on local, national and international developments are read by many who agree and disagree with him.

A party interested in renewal would be trying to interest Warner and the others mentioned above in entering the race, rather than rubber-stamping the nomination of Ms. Freeland, no matter how compelling the leader may find her CV.