Raymond Cho, a former New Democrat in his third decade as a city councillor in Scarborough, is embracing the provincial Tories as he prepares to run for an MPP’s seat.
Cho said he expects to be acclaimed Monday, Dec. 17, night as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Scarborough-Rouge River for an Ontario election many expect next year.
“It’s kind of a surprise to a lot of people,” said the septugenarian (he was born in 1936) councillor who describes his voting record as “mostly left, left of centre.”
Cho ran unsuccessfully in 1988 as a federal NDP candidate, though once he became a councillor in the former Metropolitan Toronto government in 1991 he joined the Liberal party. “I realized I was too much on the left,” he said on Friday, Dec. 14.
Cho remained in office as a councillor in the amalgamated Toronto and has kept his job since, winning majorities of votes on municipal election days. In 2004, however, he ran against MP Derek Lee, Scarborough-Rouge River’s longtime Liberal incumbent, as an “independent Liberal,” and lost.
In an interview, Cho, known for speaking about climate change and social issues, predicted he would “be one of the moderate voices” in the province’s Tory caucus should he win the seat. “I think the PC party needs a guy like Raymond Cho.”
Asked why he was choosing to move further right on the political spectrum, Cho said the Progressive Conservatives are the right party to govern while the world economic situation “is kind of bleak,” while the Liberals have wasted “billions of dollars” on eHealth and ORNGE, the province’s air ambulance service.
Cho, who would like to see a subway extension built east to Meadowvale Road through his ward, also cited Tim Hudak’s “promise to bring the subway” to Sheppard Avenue in Scarborough instead of a light-rail line, though Hudak has offered no additional funding for subways.
The riding’s PC nomination is Monday at Agincourt Community Centre, and Cho said he knows of no declared candidate except himself. He said he won’t resign his councillor job during an election, but won’t collect a salary during the campaign. “I work nine days a week and I will continue to do so.”
The Tories finished third in the riding in the 2011 provincial election with Ken Kim, a first-time candidate and former COO of the Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association. Scarborough-Rouge River’s Liberal incumbent Bas Balkissoon got about 42 per cent of the vote and New Democrat Neethan Shan - who also ran against Cho in the 2010 municipal election - received 36 per cent.
Cho facing off against Balkissoon and Shan would set up a three-way race in the riding, which like the rest of Scarborough has stayed Liberal under the Dalton McGuinty government.