3 min

Creative ideas

Newly out Ian Waddell has a history of making a difference

'I HAVEN'T FLINCHED.' Successfully targetted by the Christian right and the gun lobby in 1993, Ian Waddell holds firm to principles of pro-choice, human rights, and gun control. Credit: Xtra West files

On his 15th run for elected office, Ian Waddell is excited. “This is a good election for us. The NDP is on the upswing. There are a lot of issues-I’ve never seen it so fluid. The government is up for grabs.”

Waddell is confident he can win his former Vancouver-Kingsway riding back from the Liberals. He lost it in 1993.

Waddell’s political background is extensive. Cutting his teeth on political issues as a young storefront lawyer in the 1970s, Waddell worked with former BC premier and lawyer Mike Harcourt, taking on human rights cases.

“I’ve always been interested in human rights,” he notes. First elected MP in 1979, he spent 14 years in Parliament serving first Port Moody-Coquitlam and then Vancouver and, more recently, five years as a member of the NDP government in BC.

He came out to Xtra West readers just this spring.

A concerted effort by the gun lobby and Christian right knocked him out of federal politics in 1993. He acknowledges the pain of losing, but is proud of his progressive stands on capital punishment, abortion, the Constitution, and gun control. “You have to take a stand to let people know where you sit on issues. I haven’t flinched.”

Waddell feels his greatest accomplishment, “was getting aboriginal rights amendments into the Canadian Constitution. It will have enormous implications for the country and in the end will bring justice for native people.”

While working as counsel to Justice Thomas Berger, investigating the environmental impact of a pipeline on Canada’s North in the 1970s, Waddell learned a great deal about native and environmental issues. What he saw sparked his interest in politics. “I saw the plight of the native people in the country and became aware of energy and environmental issues.”

Waddell is proud of his past achievements as an NDP MP. He was critic in a half-dozen portfolios over the years, mainly dealing with environmental and justice issues. Later, he served provincially as minister of several portfolios: culture and tourism; environment, lands and parks, international affairs and sports.

Waddell grew up in a working class family. Mom was a waitress and dad an electrician. He considers himself lucky to have received a good education (he holds an LLM degree in international law from the London School of Economics, an LLB degree and a BA from the University of Toronto) “but I’m worried that the daughters and sons of working class people are not getting the same opportunity today.”

His biggest frustration in politics is “the misunderstanding of the west by easterners-politicians and bureaucrats. They just don’t understand the west-they just don’t treat BC seriously. We have creative MPs with creative ideas and they think they’re flaky ideas.”

In a free vote, Waddell promises he will vote for same-sex marriage.

He believes the bawdyhouse laws “are really outdated and need to be revised. Actions like what happened in Calgary are ridiculous. But I don’t think there’s any easy answers.”

He sees the poorer neighbourhoods in his riding suffering from the movement of the drug and sex trades into their areas. Waddell wants to make neighbourhoods safer by getting tough on the root causes of crime and the drug trade, through greater police enforcement, addiction treatment, harm reduction and drug use prevention. “We have to protect the sex trade workers but we also have to protect neighbourhoods, too. I’m with my constituents on that one.”

Waddell held a benefit in his home to raise money for Little Sister’s during its legal battles with Canada Customs. “It’s ludicrous what Customs has done. Little Sister’s should be congratulated for being at the forefront of the fight against censorship at a big cost to them.”

Waddell lives in Kits with his 10-year-old golden retriever, Frankie. He’s chosen to remain single. “Political life is a workaholics life. It gives you great satisfaction but it takes its toll [on a relationship]. You never settle down.” He has been practicing law again, recently pursing more liberal liquor laws and gambling casinos for Vancouver.

The hours and hours he spent on planes flying back and forth to Ottawa in the past decade prompted him to write a novel “to keep me busy.” The Vancouver International Writers Festival described his first novel as: “a fast-paced mystery with a good dose of adventure.” According to its publicity the book, A Thirst to Die For, “draws on his familiarity with the business of water exports-and on Waddell’s inside knowledge of the Canadian Parliament and its personalities.”

Waddell describes it as “a story about the US coming to take Canadian water. It’s fiction but there’s a minority Conservative-Alliance government and the hero is an NDPer,” he snickers.

“I think people underestimate me, because I’m a little guy with a sense of humour.”


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