5 min

A dozen reasons to ditch

Our feelings toward Toronto Danforth candidate and NDP leader Jack Layton are clear: do elect him and his spouse, Trinity-Spadina candidate Olivia Chow.

But even if you think Jack is whack, it’s your queer duty to see that his Liberal rival Dennis Mills is deprived of the riding he’s served for more than 20 years. Here’s why.

1) Some of his best friends are gay. “I have people on my staff, volunteers who are active in the gay community. I’ve had advisers who are gay. I’ve even had people live with me who are gay,” Mills told The Globe And Mail on Apr 28, avoiding a question on same-sex marriage. Not good enough, say his opponents. “He claims that he is pro-gay and one of the reasons is that he once had a gay employee. That’s like saying you support visible minorities because you once had a black maid,” says Ian Taylor, founder of Liberals For Layton.

2) It’s a party all the time for Chairman Mills. “Dennis always seems to be more interested in promoting his parties than his constituency. The Rolling Stones or Farm Aid are higher on his list than the equal rights of gays and lesbians in his own riding,” says Chris Phibbs, Toronto-Danforth resident.

3) All publicity is good publicity? Mills proudly displays a link on his website to “The Slinger Series,” a compilation of articles by the Toronto Star’s Joey Slinger that happen to mention his name. Satirist Slinger makes many remarks of questionable praiseworthiness. The fact that Mills quotes this excerpt from an Apr 17 column proves Slinger’s point nicely: “I would also like [Mills] to understand that he has only his Nerf-brained self to blame. If you go around saying as many crazy things as he does and somebody accuses you of saying something else that’s crazy, everybody takes it for granted that you probably did…. He’s a perfect, all-purpose excuse for everything. Blame Canada? Hell, no. Blame Dennis. Here is a man, who, in all humility, is prepared to glory in any kind of publicity. Nobody else has ever been such a willing target.”

4) He doesn’t walk the talk. “[I] will support legislation that removes unfair discrimination against and gay and lesbian communities and same-sex spouses,” wrote Mills in a letter to Egale Canada on Oct 18, 1993. Yet his voting record shows that he didn’t follow through. Given the opportunity on Sep 18, 1995, to support Bloc MP Réal Ménard’s motion calling for equal recognition of same-sex relationships (Bill M-264), Mills voted against it. Just eight months later, on May 9, 1996, he voted against amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (Bill C-33).

5) When you make the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) a promise you should follow through. In October 2003, during the Gatekeeper Squat, OCAP occupied a building at 558 Gerrard St. Mills intervened before the police could evict protesters, promising to turn the building into affordable housing within a month or he would resign. “I was there when he made the promise and asked him to give it in writing. He did. More than six months have passed…. We learned that an aboriginal man died homeless at the corner of Broadview and Gerrard, within sight of the Gatekeeper Squat. In fact there have now been 10 homeless deaths since mid-April in downtown Toronto,” says Cathy Crowe, street nurse and co-founder of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee.

6) It’s not about you personally, really it’s not. “Dennis will endorse a free vote in the House Of Commons and he will endorse the results,” his special assistant Sean McDonald says about same-sex marriage. “Let’s have a free vote – it’s democracy.” Others wonder if it really is. “We must make it clear that parliamentary free votes on human rights are not acceptable,” says Taylor. “They’ll only open the door to free votes on abortion, capital punishment and the right for women to vote. As for Dennis Mills or Stephen Harper – they can come and take away my marriage licence from my cold dead hands.”

7) Jack’s got a point about the Liberals. “We’re focussing on Dennis. We think there are way too many Liberals in Toronto and they have collectively not delivered for the cities. Paul Martin’s agenda is far too conservative for the country right now. Dennis as a part of that team will have to defend that record,” says Jack Layton of his opponent.

8) His “nonelection” signs might get you charged if you

live in his riding. Before the election, Dennis Mills plastered the Toronto-Danforth riding with signs that featured his photo and the words “Save the Waterfront.” He claims they aren’t related to the election. However, the signs violate city by-laws and property owners found with the signs on their property after a set date run the risk of having the cost of removal being added to their property tax bill.

9) He’ll save the waterfront – but from what we’re not sure. “Up until his conversion on the road to Damascus, Dennis has been quite a strong proponent of the bridge to the island, which I believe would quickly be the bridge to a casino on the island,” explains city councillor Paula Fletcher. “Also, he has in my opinion chosen to fly alone and go solo on the portlands and kind of muddy up a progress that’s difficult enough to start with without throwing in a one-man show.”

10) He is MIA when it really counts. “He has a history of being absent for important votes on our issues. That’s because his actions belie his words,” says Laurie Arron of the Campaign For Equal Marriage (CEM). “His actions are a way to avoid being pinned down. He has a history of broken promises.” CEM awarded Mills the lowest possible score in its candidate rating system and have targeted him for defeat.

11) If it’s broke – fix it. “Dennis Mills can bring the Rolling Stones to Toronto, but not one unit of affordable housing in his riding. What’s the point of voting in a Liberal, a party that continues to record surplus budgets and revel in deep cuts to social programs? Broken promises and a broken party,” says Crowe.

12) He once quit the Liberals in support of John Nunziata. Need we say more?

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It’s time to say goodbye to one-time foe Art Eggleton, former mayor and Liberal MP for York-Centre. Eggleton is being replaced in the election battle by hockey great Ken Dryden.

From 1985 to 1990, Eggleton, then Toronto mayor, refused to declare Pride Day. During this time attendance at Pride festivities grew from 8,000 to 40,000.

The Canadian Lesbian And Gay Archives chronicle the battle for recognition. In its timeline, Pride in 1990 was particularly notable: “After he proclaims ‘Official Muppet Baby Day,’ Pride organizers file a complaint of discrimination with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Toronto City Council votes to officially proclaim Pride Day, then recants. The Ontario Human Rights Commission rules against the Committee which is now left with $10,000 in legal fees.”

Pride is finally proclaimed by City Council in 1991; attendance figures doubled to 80,000.

Once Eggleton moved to Parliament Hill he seems to have wised up. In the fall of 1998, as defence minister, he approved federal funding for sex reassignment surgery for a soldier. Egale Canada recently gave him a B rating for his voting record on queer issues over the past several years.

“I know that when he was Mayor Of Toronto he was not great on our issues, but he went along with the Liberal government when they brought forward progressive legislation and that’s why he got a B,” explains Egale’s Laurie Arron.

His record included votes in support of adding sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act and to Section 718.2 in the Criminal Code (to allow for more severe penalties for hate crimes committed against gay men and lesbians). He also supported Bill C-23, which equalized same-sex and opposite-sex common-law couples under federal legislation.