Openly gay human-rights lawyer and professor Craig Scott trounced his opponents to hold on to Toronto-Danforth for the NDP in a March 19 by-election. Scott captured 59.4 percent of the vote in the special election to replace the late Jack Layton.
His closest rival, Liberal Grant Gordon, attracted 28.5 percent of the vote. Conservative Andrew Keyes (5.4 percent) barely edged out Green Party candidate Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu (4.7 percent).
Scott said the Conservatives’ poor showing in the riding sends a message to the Harper government.
“It’s a huge wake-up call,” Scott told Xtra. “The fact that we’ve done so well and that the riding as a whole sent a message that the Conservatives can’t but listen to will feed into the kind of opposition the NDP will offer in the House.”
But Scott also said the NDP’s strong showing was a repudiation of the Liberal Party as well.
“[Voters] said no to a party that is still mired in the old ways, and they said yes to a party that is ready to take on Stephen Harper’s Conservatives right now,” he said to a packed room of supporters at The Opera House.
Scott’s win returns a gay MP from Toronto to Parliament for the first time since Liberals Rob Oliphant and Mario Silva were defeated last year. As the fifth gay member of the NDP caucus, Scott shatters the party’s previously held record for the largest single-party queer caucus in Canadian history.
“I hope it will make an important difference not simply by adding a fifth member to the NDP queer caucus and a sixth member overall, but also the fact that this riding embraced who I am. This riding is very much a gay-positive riding,” he said. “I’m hoping that just the mere fact that somebody who has something to offer more broadly [can be elected] will be seen as a victory for LGBT rights.”
On stage at his victory party, with his partner, Aeh Ratchadasri, at his side, Scott thanked the riding’s diverse communities, including the LGBT community, for their support. He said he was eager to get to work in Ottawa.
“I pledge to put my shoulder to the wheel, to work with the caucus in Ottawa, to put a staff team together in the riding . . . to make sure that we meet our responsibility to the people of this riding and to all Canadians, to fight tirelessly for equality and human rights, for environmental sanity, and for a green economy that promotes good jobs and decent lives for all,” he said.
The NDP is set to choose a new leader at a convention to be held in Toronto March 23 to 25. Scott says each of the leadership candidates supported his campaign and he doesn’t plan to endorse anyone.
Candidates Thomas Mulcair, Paul Dewar, Brian Topp and Peggy Nash were all at Scott’s victory party.
Follow Xtra reporter Rob Salerno on Twitter @RobSalerno.