We’re about to have a provincial election on May 12 and if we want BC to remain beautiful, we need to pay close attention.
Homophobia, gaybashing and HIV are crucial issues to the queer community. But so is clean air. You can’t cruise for a new lover if you can’t breathe.
You can’t have a fabulous dinner party if you don’t have clean water.
Like everyone else, we also want affordable housing and access to education.
Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals have been running the province for two terms and even in the midst of scandals — remember Campbell’s drunk driving charge in 2003 and the current investigation into the sale of BC Rail — he remains in office.
Here are 10 reasons why we can’t afford four more years:
Burns Bog. No, it’s not a park where suburban queer teenagers go to neck. It’s the largest domed peat bog in North America, a unique ecosystem that supports 24 animal and 150 bird species.
The bog filters contaminants from the Fraser River where the water joins the ocean. It’s been protected by legislation, but the bog is currently under threat.
Transportation minister Kevin Falcon wants to build the South Fraser Perimeter Rd alongside the bog. Environmental activists as far away as Ireland and Poland have spoken out against it.
Though there’s an environmental impact study in progress, the government’s gone ahead and piled sand into the bog to prep it for construction.
ALR. No, I don’t mean Annoying Lovers Rebuked or Androgynous Lesbians of Richmond. I’m talking about the Agricultural Land Reserve created in 1974 under then-Premier Dave Barrett to set aside five percent of BC’s prime farmland for agricultural use.
The ALR remained intact until 2001 when the current government began chipping away at it, allowing condos to be built in place of farms. The government claims that the amount of land has not changed, but that’s because of a tricky maneuver in which they remove acreage from the prime farm land in Richmond and replace it with inferior land up north, far from urban centres where most of us live.
When there’s no more gas we’ll need to grow food locally, but if we don’t protect the ALR there won’t be any local farmland. Talk about paving paradise to put up a parking lot.
Mary Polak. Name sound familiar? It’s not because she won Ms Vancouver Leather. Nor did she perform at a recent drag show. Mary Polak was chair of the Surrey School Board when they banned sex education, condom machines and children’s books that teach tolerance toward queers. The decision to ban queer books was later overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada, costing taxpayers $1.3 million. Polak is the Liberal MLA of Langley and Minister of Healthy Living and Sport. Suddenly I don’t feel so healthy.
Minimum wage. Doesn’t sound like a queer issue? Think again. BC went from having the highest minimum wage in the country to the lowest ($8 per hour, $6 for “new workers”). How’s anyone supposed to pay rent on $6 an hour, let alone buy condoms, sex toys or even dinner?
Homelessness and affordable housing. Sure it’s hard to be the only queer in the office, but compare that to being queer on the street.
Homelessness has risen 350 percent since 2001. One of the first things the Liberals did was make it harder to get onto welfare, then they created loopholes that allow property owners to raise rents higher than the rate of inflation plus two percent, which is the official yearly raise allowable, according to the Residential Tenancy Act.
We have a housing crisis on our hands. If this keeps up, queers won’t be able to live in queer neighbourhoods.
Hate Crime designations. There’ve been five gaybashing trials in the past eight years and only once has the Crown sought a hate crime designation. If these are not hate crimes, why do they keep occurring outside (and inside) our clubs and neighbourhoods? If these are random acts of violence why not on Granville St, Hastings or in Langley?
University tuition. It’s gone up 150 percent under the Liberals. How will our youth learn tolerance and diversity if they don’t have access to education?
Arts funding. It was cut by 8 million dollars in the 2009/10 budget. Queer stories and characters are scarce enough in popular media. Cuts to the arts will result in even less queer content.
Cost overruns of the Olympics. They are already into the billions and the citizens of BC (including queers) will be paying for decades.
Funding for women’s centres and legal aid. The Liberals cut that funding, creating unnecessary hardship for women (including lesbians). Many of us no longer have access to legal representation, which is a constitutional right of all Canadians.
I live in Vancouver’s West End. That means I get to vote for Spencer Herbert. He’s done more for the queer community in the few months he’s been an MLA than most politicians have done for us in years.
If I lived in Vancouver Point Grey, I’d vote for community activist Mel Lehan for his environmental work (including trying to save the UBC farm).
If I could, I’d vote for Jenny Kwan, who’s always been our friend, as well as Jenn McGinn, a lesbian with impressive experience in community organizing and economics. Shane Simpson has also been an ally to our community.
The province is in our hands. You can’t unpave Burns Bog. You can’t grow food on land that is now a luxury townhouse. You can’t save a species after it’s gone extinct.
You can do something about it now.
Do your own research. Question the candidates in your riding. Make an informed choice. And vote.