7 min

Call your folks back home

Races to watch in 416 & beyond

PHOTO FINISH. Cinematographer Peg Norman, partner of filmmaker Gerry Rogers, is on the NDP ticket in St John's, Newfoundland. Credit: Xtra files

Facing a possible Conservative government – obsessed as it will be with putting queers, women and other minorities in their tightly fitted places – homo voters know that every riding and every vote is crucial in the Mon, Jun 28 election. Voter turnout is sure to be a major factor.

Even in 416, long considered a Tory-free zone, you can see voter anger and the unification of the PCs and the Alliance putting some traditionally Liberal seats at risk. Across the country, there are more out candidates than ever. But they come at a time when polls suggest that Canadians don’t mind politicians who prefer Leviticus to the Constitution. Here are some notable races to watch.

(Aside from its progressive party policy, there’s little to be said about the Green candidates in this brief survey. And I don’t mean that in a mean way. Most Green candidates don’t have an election track record and aren’t rated by queer rights groups. The Green Party spokesperson wouldn’t name any openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans candidates, saying that the party believes in equality based on sexual orientation, but doesn’t think the orientation of its candidates should be an issue. Oh, we wish. That said, because of new election rules, voting for a party, whether it wins a seat or not, will result in more funding for them, $1.75 per vote to be exact.)

• Toronto-Danforth: Liberal Dennis Mills vs New Democrat Jack Layton vs Conservative Luftus Cuddy vs Green Jim Harris. Though it is unfortunate that the Greens chose to run their leader in this hotly contested effort to dethrone hypocritical/deluded/ evasive Mills, a National Post/ COMPAS poll puts Layton, one of the biggest straight queer supporters in the country, well ahead in this race. Mills’ defeat at the hands of Layton would make a Conservative government a little less painful. Just a little.

• Trinity-Spadina: Liberal Tony Ianno vs New Democrat Olivia Chow vs Conservative David Watters vs Green Mark Viitala. Chow lost to Ianno by only 1,800 votes in 1997 and has worked her ass off as city councillor since then. It will still be a tough battle, but if her many supporters get out and vote, there’s no reason the super-supportive Chow can’t bunk with hubbie Layton in Ottawa.

• Toronto Centre: Liberal Bill Graham vs New Democrat Michael Shapcott vs Conservative Megan Harris vs Green Gabriel Draven. Though the straight Shapcott has worked hard to build bridges with lesbian and gay activists, defeating a cabinet minister who regular attends queer events is a tough slog. Plus, the combined Conservative-Alliance vote in 2000 (13,207 combined) almost tripled the NDP vote in the riding (5,300). Graham doubled that PC-Alliance combo, tallying up 26,203 votes. Graham’s safe seat could tempt some Toronto Centre voters to cast a protest vote against the Liberals.

• Scarborough Southwest: Liberal Tom Wappel vs New Democrat Dan Harris vs Conservative Heather Jewell vs Green Peter Van Dalen. Incumbent Wappel is a genuine wingnut who makes George W Bush look moderate. He’s fought everything that smelled remotely gay. He took his riding with 21,466 votes in the last election, with Conservative and Alliance votes adding up to about 10,000. Jewell didn’t respond to questions about her position on queer rights – who knows? Harris came in fourth in the 2000 election with only 3,638 votes, but this is his second time around and could benefit from experience, anti-Liberal sentiment and Wappel fatigue.

• St Paul’s: Liberal Carolyn Bennett vs New Democrat Norm Tobias vs Conservative Barry Cline vs Green Peter Elgie. Incumbent Bennett has been a vocal leader on lesbian and gay issues, and is running again against Cline who, as a PC, took 10,099 votes to her 25,358 in 2000. But will he pick up more than the 5,457 votes that went to the Alliance last time? It’s possible.

• Davenport: Liberal Mario Silva vs New Democrat Rui Pires vs Conservative Theresa Rodrigues vs Green Mark O’Brien. Incumbent since 1968, Charles Caccia mopped the floor with the second-place NDP candidate in the 2000 election: 17,014 to 3,457. But Caccia isn’t running this time, is he? Instead, there are three new faces, all Portuguese, one of whom, Pires, is openly gay. Silva was a city councillor who we’ve never seen at Portuguese Day at Woody’s.

• York South-Weston: Liberal Alan Tonks vs New Democrat Paul Ferreira vs Conservative Stephen Halicki vs Green Jessica Fracassi. In the 2000 election, the NDP trailed a distant fourth – less than 10 percent of what Tonks got. Sadly, Ferreira is unlikely to pick up many of the ample votes that will free up now that that kook John Nunziata isn’t running as an independent. Which is too bad because Tonks, who has opposed or waffled on every queer issue since he became MP, deserves a trouncing.

• Etobicoke-Lakeshore: Liberal Jean Augustine vs New Democrat Margaret Anne McHugh vs Conservative John Capobianco vs Green John Huculiak. Incumbent and cabinet minister Augustine has been an active queer supporter, recently lending support to a forum on homophobia. But her lead was small in the 2000 election (about 4,000 votes ahead of the combined PC-Alliance vote) and Capobianco has attracted some buzz. A riding at risk.

• Newmarket-Aurora: Liberal Martha Hall Findlay vs New Democrat Ed Chudak vs Conservative Belinda Stronach vs Green Daryl Wyatt. This one is painful. Of the three lead candidates, failed Conservative leader hopeful Stronach is the only public supporter of same-sex marriage. But a vote for her is a vote for Stephen Harper as prime minister. Which nostril to hold while voting?

• Ottawa South: Liberal David McGuinty vs New Democrat Monia Mazigh vs Conservative Alan Riddell vs Green John Ford. The NDP supports same-sex marriage as a matter of policy. What makes this race interesting is Mazigh, who is the wife of Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was deported to his birth country, Syria, where he was incarcerated for one year and, he says, tortured. Why this happened remains a mystery, but it prompted Mazigh, a Muslim, to run for office. She’s pro-Charter, but says her faith won’t allow her to vote for same-sex marriage. If a vote is called, she says she’ll abstain.

• Kings-Hants: Liberal Scott Brison vs New Democrat Skip Hambling vs Conservative Bob Mullan vs Green Kevin Stacey. Since Brison won this seat last time, he’s come out and has, after failing to win the leadership, left the Conservatives for the Liberals. He has floated civil unions as a substitute for same-sex marriage. It’s a rural riding. Sounds dicey, but the National Post/COMPAS poll puts him in the lead.

• St John’s South: Liberal Siobhan Coady vs New Democrat Peg Norman vs Conservative Loyola Hearn vs Green Steve Wilcott. It’s the closest thing we have to a lesbian celebrity election campaign: Gerry Rogers, who made the celebrated documentary My Left Breast, is campaigning to support her partner (and cinematographer) Norman in this newly reconfigured riding. Last time out St John’s was all PC. And the NDP has never done well in Atlantic Canada. But east coasters never liked the Alliance (and vice versa) or approved of the merger, so who knows? Also on the NDP ticket in Newfoundland is pro-life Catholic priest Father Des McGrath; Norman founded the Morgentaler Clinic in St John’s. Incumbent Hearn publicly opposes same-sex marriage.

• Hochelaga: Bloc Québécois Réal Ménard vs Liberal Benoit Bouvier vs New Democrat David Gagnon vs Conservative Mario Bernier vs Green Rolf Bramann. For this election, Quebec is a no-go zone for the NDP and Conservatives and a punishment zone for the Liberals. That leaves openly gay BQ incumbent Réal Ménard easily taking his riding, even though the boundaries have been rejigged.

• Charleswood-St James: Liberal Glen Murray vs New Democrat Peter Carney vs Conservative Steven Fletcher vs Green Andrew Basham. For God’s sake, even old-school former Progressive Conservatives are throwing their support behind openly gay former Winnipeg mayor Murray. (Former PCs threw their support behind Liberal Anne McLellan in Edmonton, too.) Which is kinda funny because Murray should have been running for the NDP – does that make him a nonpartisan candidate? Still, the last Liberal that ran here beat the second-place Alliance candidate by only 2,500 votes, and there are now an additional 10,000 old-school PC votes out there floating around unclaimed. Golden boy or not, Murray’s no shoe-in.

• Calgary South Centre: Liberal Julia Turnbull vs New Democrat Keith Purdy vs Conservative Lee Richardson vs Green Philip Liesemer. In a newly created riding containing a concentration of Calgary’s homo residents, openly gay Purdy has more chance than his NDP predecessor in the old Calgary Centre riding. That time around, the NDP took 1,600 votes compared to 48,400 split between the Alliance and PCs (PC Joe Clark won but isn’t running this time). Purdy is a big-time activist for Calgary Pride, for same-sex marriage and against bawdy-house laws. Turnbull publicly supports same-sex marriage, but the Liberals were a distant third last time.

• Vancouver East: Liberal Shirley Chan vs New Democrat Libby Davies vs Conservative Harvey Grigg vs Green Ron Plowright. Davies has come out about being in a relationship with a women in the time since she won the 2000 election by a narrow 3,000 votes over her Liberal rival. Her Liberal rival this time has not expressed any support for same-sex marriage. Davies is a real progressive, championing not only same-sex marriage, but sex and drug law reform. By any measure, she deserves reelection.

• Vancouver Centre: Liberal Hedy Fry vs New Democrat Kennedy Stewart vs Conservative Gary Mitchell vs Green Ron Mattu. Canadians For Equal Marriage gives all three lead candidates its top rating. Mitchell is the Conservatives’ only openly gay candidate. Fry has been golden with the homos for years, but her cabinet demotion and odd comments in the last couple of years have put her under attack. She only won her riding by about 3,000 votes last time, if you add up PC and Alliance votes against her. Add in the NDP and it turns out that more people voted against her than for her.

• Burnaby-Douglas: Liberal Bill Cunningham vs New Democrat Bill Siksay vs Conservative George Drazenovic vs Green Shawn Hunsdale. Long-time incumbent Svend Robinson stole a ring and took some time off. Even with Robinson’s celebrity status, it was a tight race for him in 2000 against the Alliance and Liberals. His former assistant, also openly gay, is carrying the New Democrat banner this time. Siksay, a vocal same-sex marriage supporter, ran unsuccessfully against Hedy Fry in Vancouver Centre in 1997. Canadians For Equal Marriage gives Drazenovic a failing grade, but didn’t have a rating for Cunningham at press time.

• Esquimault-Juan DeFuca: Liberal Keith Martin vs New Democrat Randall Garrison vs Conservative John Koury vs Green Jake Sterk. Incumbent Martin got voted in as a Reform, then an Alliance MP, then went independent and is now running for the Liberals. He left the Conservatives citing in part their social conservatism – but he voted with them on same-sex marriage and seems something of a loose cannon. Openly gay Garrison is big on human rights, queer and international, but his predecessor in 2000 was beat by Martin with more than three times the votes.

Other openly gay candidates in this election include Paul Jean-François Thibault for the Liberals in Montreal’s Laurier riding, Ted Mouradian for the NDP in St Catharines.

* Go to to find out where and how to vote.