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Ottawa Centre riding is expected to see a vigorous election campaign when the writ is dropped later this year or early next year. Ed Broadbent’s recent announcement he plans to retire after this term due to his wife’s illness has thrown open the race. Richard Mahoney, a well-connected Liberal and close friend of Paul Martin won his party’s nomination May 17. The Conservative choice is Keith Fountain, a former foreign service officer.

In the last two decades, either the Liberals or the NDP have usually won Ottawa Centre riding both provincially and federally.

Mahoney lost the 2004 race to former NDP leader Broadbent but has kept a high media profile. Mahoney has nurtured connections within the gay community for years. But many local gays and lesbians are watching the NDP nomination race to see if out gay man Jamey Heath, the research and communications director for the caucus under leader Jack Layton, scoops his party’s nomination.

Heath announced his candidacy May 23. The riding’s NDP members, he said in a media release, need someone able to beat Mahoney. Heath did better than expected when he carried the NDP banner in Ottawa Centre for the 1997 federal election. Up against entrenched Liberal Mac Harb, Heath nevertheless pulled in approximately half the votes of Harb and nearly doubled the votes of the Tory candidate.

Heath, 32, has a background in community politics. A former writer for Capital Xtra, he has worked on housing, environmental and education issues since 1991.

Lawyer Tammi Murray and Paul Dewar have also declared in the race for the Ottawa Centre NDP nomination. The nomination meeting is Jun 23 at 6pm, at St Anthony’s Soccer Club, 523 St Anthony St (off Preston St, just north of the Queensway).

There’s a new Papa in Rome, but the same old stuff continues.

In his first clear pronouncement on gay marriage, Pope Benedict declared Jun 6 that same-sex marriages are fake expressions of “anarchic freedom” that threaten the future of the family. We’re in good company; other anarchic freedoms include divorce, artificial birth control, trial marriages and free-style unions.

Meanwhile, Rowan Williams, the head of the Church Of England, proposed May 28 that Anglican priests should be able to enter into civil unions with their boyfriends – as long as they remain celibate.

In the United States, an AP-Ipsos poll found that citizens of that country are far more likely to give clergy a say in public policy than are citizens in nine other nations that are close allies. Nearly all US respondents said faith was important to them and only two percent said they did not believe in God, noted an AP news report.

Christian activists and deeply committed Christians have secured Conservative riding nominations for the next federal election. According to a May 27 report in the Globe And Mail, at least three riding associations in Nova Scotia, four in BC and one in suburban Toronto have nominated candidates with ties to groups such as Focus On The Family.

Halifax resident Ross Haynes, who lost a nomination to a Christian activist noted, “The difficulty, from a party perspective, is that it begins to hijack the other agendas that parties have.” Single-issue candidates, such as those running against same-sex marriage, “probably can’t get elected because they certainly don’t represent any mainstream population view,” he added.

The Globe quoted Nova Scotia Presbyterian minister Tristan Emmanuel, who backed three Christians seeking Tory nominations in his province, as being unapologetic. “It’s time we stopped apologizing and started defending who we are. The evangelical community in Canada, by and large, and socially conservative Catholics, are saying we have been far too heavenly-minded and thus we have been of no earthly value for far too long, on too many fronts.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s religious right is preparing to launch a social policy think-tank to try and influence government policy to more Christian values. The Institute For Canadian Values intends to kick off with an annual poll of social issues across the country. Supporters reportedly have been spurred to action by the recent debate over same-sex marriage, a debate that has also brought major US Christian groups, and their multi-million dollar budgets, onto Parliament Hill.