While British Columbia has retained its three main queer champions in Parliament, a continued swing to the right in the province may leave queers outside Vancouver feeling blue.
Gays can take heart that Vancouver Centre Liberal Hedy Fry, Vancouver East NDPer Libby Davies and Burnaby-Douglas NDPer Bill Siksay will return to their seats in the House of Commons after the Oct 14 federal election.
While Siskay and Davies are gay, Fry once again defeated a queer opponent in an election — this time, Tory Lorne Mayencourt. In 2006, she beat out Canada’s first openly gay MP, NDPer Svend Robinson.
But despite the province-wide shift to the right, gay University of Victoria political scientist Dennis Pilon suggests that no party can backtrack on gay rights, or else they would risk losing support of middle-of-the-road voters.
“The issue is not an issue,” Pilon says as he surveys the election results. “We’ve become something that everyone has to pay lip service to. Even the Conservatives have to say that.”
He says if the Tories push too hard the wrong way, they could now find themselves losing Liberals who straddle the Liberal-Conservative divide on social issues such as gay rights.
“It makes it harder for bigots to think that everyone agrees with them,” he says.
Overall, BC voted 44.9 per cent Conservative, 25.8 per cent NDP, 19.2 per cent Liberal and 9.3 per cent Green.
Compared to 2006, the Tories were up almost seven per cent while the NDP dropped three and the Liberals eight.
By election day’s end, the Conservatives held 22 BC seats, the Liberals five and the NDP nine. The result was a gain of five seats for the Tories, primarily at the expense of the Liberals.
And that’s the swing Liberal-Conservative vote of which Pilon speaks. He says it’s something that could keep Prime Minister Stephen Harper looking over his shoulder in the next Parliament.
Elsewhere in BC, the NDP’s Nathan Cullen held the riding of Skeena-Bulkley. But two politicians who are no allies to the gay community, Conservatives Stockwell Day and Jay Hill, also held their ridings of Okanagan-Coquihalla and Prince George-Peace River.
And the queer community likely can’t expect a friendly voice out of BC’s Fraser Valley. The region is known as BC’s Bible belt.
Controversy erupted there recently when the Abbotsford school board cancelled a ministry-approved course containing teachings about tolerance so it could further review it.
The region remains represented by three Conservatives.
Among them is Mark Warawa in the Langley riding. His son, Ryan, unsuccessfully ran against Davies in Vancouver East. Warawa senior voted against gay marriage and his son failed to return repeated Xtra West calls during the campaign.
In West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast, John Weston defeated former Liberal-turned Green Blair Wilson. A lawyer, Weston is purported to be a member of the Christian Legal Fellowship. That organization’s website says the group support “issues threatening sanctity of life, religious freedom [and] the traditional family.”
And Richmond has lost a Liberal MP who voted in favour of same-sex marriage in 2005. Tory Alice Wong defeated incumbent Liberal Raymond Chan.
In a campaign news release, Chan said Wong is associated with the Canadian Alliance for Social Justice and Family Values Association. The far-right group has fought legal protections against hate crimes and hate speech for gays and lesbians.
Wong is also alleged to have donated to the group, attended fundraising dinners and been a member and fundraiser for Defend Marriage in BC.
In Aug 2003, Wong spoke at a rally against Bill C-250, which added sexual orientation to hate-speech laws.
“It is abundantly clear now that Alice Wong has supported and even donated and fundraised for an organization which all reasonable Canadians would deem to be extreme and objectionable,” said Raymond Chan in a news release.
However, there is hope in the BC Southern Interior riding.
The riding was held by NDPer Alex Atamanenko. The riding includes the city of Nelson, which has a sizable queer community. It is also one of the few interior cities to host a Pride parade.