Vancouver
3 min

A renewed sense of hope

The NDP swears in its first lesbian MLA

Nov 19 dawned full of hope and sunshine, two rare commodities in our monsoon-prone November and in a province that has been governed from the right for far too many years.

The day had Road Trip written all over it as we met in our designated spots. Brent, Sharon, Christina and I climbed into the small co-op car and headed for the ferry and Victoria to witness an historical event for our LGBT community.

Today was the day that Jenn McGinn and Spencer Herbert were to be sworn into the BC legislature.

After a typical Victoria lunch at a vegetarian deli where soup and salad were de rigueur, we rushed to the foot of the imposing Rattenbury’s baroque BC legislative buildings.

Hordes of lesbians began to show up, lesbians walking proudly, holding hands and glowing with a sense of accomplishment.

That’s not to say there were no gay men or other interested and excited people, but the Lesbian Nation was there in full force for they had a victory to celebrate. For the first time in our history, an out and proud lesbian had been elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

After a long and valiant fight for representation in our government, they had won and they were not hesitant in celebrating this rare victory.

After passing through security and marking our names off a well-planned visitors list, we filed up the elaborate marble staircase that had the smell and atmosphere of an old brick school house and found ourselves in the gallery overlooking the cramped splendour of the Legislative Assembly.

The ceremony was short and terribly British in nature as Spencer and Jenn swore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth and her heirs.

As suddenly as it began, at precisely 2 pm the ceremony was over and we were herded to the reception in another corner of the venerable old building. Free wine, both white and red, and a splendid display of finger food awaited the quickly filling room.

Spencer was radiant as he and his partner Romi circulated around the room; Spencer has a social grace that should prove very helpful in serving his constituents.

Jenn and her partner were so busy hugging and being congratulated by all her friends and supporters that the sense of joy and accomplishment splashed around the room filling all in attendance with the significance of what had just occurred.

The total lack of Liberal members of the Legislative Assembly seemed startling and rude and I initially attributed it to the adversarial nature of our political system. Then I learned that many members of the Liberal caucus, including the premier, were in Fort Langley celebrating BC’s 150th birthday.

Sometime after my third glass of California red the irony of the situation stuck me. British Columbia was born with extreme diversity: James Douglas, the first governor, was born in the West Indies with a Scottish father and a Creole mother; his wife Amelia was Metis with a Scottish father and a mother from the Cree Nation.

As the privileged country club known as the BC Liberals was in Fort Langley celebrating our province’s diverse birth, the NDP was making history swearing in its most diverse caucus since James Douglas and his wife cut the ribbon in 1858.

Looking around the room at the assembled NDP caucus, it struck me that these people are ready to govern and to govern from a solid foundation of diversity.

The major hurdle that they will have to overcome in the next few months leading up to the May election is their perceived lack of fiscal responsibility.

Yet as we clutch our purses on the way to the bank in the West End, stepping over and around the growing number of homeless people, passing residents tossed into the street due to the lack of protection in our weak Tenancy Act, and strolling past our grossly under-funded LGBT Centre, I have to wonder what fiscal responsibility is really all about.

Is fiscal responsibility about keeping the disadvantaged members of our community in a state of extreme poverty and giving tax breaks to the wealthy? If indeed that is fiscal responsibility then I prefer to have a government that represents all people in the province, not just the privileged few.

As we watch the wave of change in governments that has swept the United States, and most recently created radical change in our own City Hall, I do indeed hope the sweep continues and our provincial government becomes more representative of the struggles of all our citizens.

Diversity is essential if a government is truly about all the people.

The wonderful and historic afternoon came to a flurried end as we realized that the 5 pm ferry was doable if we bid a quick adieu and hit the road.

The ferry ride home continued with several hopeful discussions about the future of our community and the possibility for real change in May. Our job now is to work hard and give of our time and money so that our newly elected out and proud MLAs are victorious in the spring election.

Change can happen, but it requires hard work and a nurturing of hope. So let us celebrate our victories and fight for change in our province, a change that will empower all our citizens to live a better life.