All five of the openly gay and lesbian MPs who ran for federal re-election last week (BC’s Libby Davies and Bill Siksay, Montreal’s Réal Ménard, Nova Scotia’s Scott Brison and Toronto’s Mario Silva) were successful in maintaining their seats.
Of the 14 openly queer candidates who ran overall (see sidebar), half won their ridings, bringing the total number of out queers in the House of Commons up to seven.
In Greater Vancouver, the queer community had three representatives on the slate: Lorne Mayencourt, Davies and Siksay.
Though Mayencourt’s campaign for the Conservatives was ultimately unsuccessful against longtime Vancouver Centre Liberal incumbent Hedy Fry, he only lost by about 5,000 votes, coming much closer to election than Fry’s last openly gay rival, Svend Robinson.
Davies, NDP incumbent in Vancouver East, easily secured the election with more than 50 percent of her riding’s votes.
Davies says she’s glad the Harper Conservatives did not win a majority. “I know people are very fearful [of] his agenda,” she says. “We have to hold this guy in check.”
Holding Harper in check is a responsibility that Davies feels will fall to the opposing parties —to “remind [Harper] every single day that he does not have a majority support in this country.”
She cites environmental protection and Canada’s role in Afghanistan as areas that will need particular vigilance.
Brian Smith, who volunteered for Davies’ campaign, says her work for human rights and social justice is worth backing, even though he couldn’t vote for her himself. As an American living in Canada, Smith says that for him “it’s kind of a new thing” that leftwing candidates “actually win sometimes.”
This election the NDP ran seven out queer candidates across Canada, almost double the number run by any of the other parties.
MP Bill Siksay attributes his party’s successful recruitment of queer representatives to targeted searches and the extension of extra federal support to minority candidates in order to “represent the diversity of Canada.”
Siksay himself kept his seat by a narrow margin, coming in barely 800 votes ahead of Conservative candidate Ronald Leung, in what he calls a “battleground” riding.
“I always anticipate a tight race in Burnaby-Douglas,” Siksay says, noting that his Conservative opponent’s already-strong campaign was bolstered by the party’s standing in government.
Two new faces join the ranks of queer activists in Parliament this year: New Democrat Megan Leslie in Halifax, and Liberal Rob Oliphant in Ontario’s Don Valley West riding.
Though the number of out politicians in the country is climbing, Siksay says “it’s a challenge” to be taken seriously as an advocate for the whole riding and not to be seen as a one-issue candidate.
“Frankly I think it’s hard for any openly gay or lesbian person to be elected in Canada,” he says.
Davies says that she and her colleagues will “fight tooth and nail to make sure that the clock is not turned back” on queer and other minority rights victories.
Siksay’s private member’s bill on federal gender-identity non-discrimination and hate crime protection, introduced in December 2007, remains to be debated. Siksay says he will continue to make the success of that bill a “personal priority,” adding that there remain important steps in the advancement of queer and trans equality that the government should be undertaking.
“It’s high time that Canada took some measure of pride in our own success in dealing with many issues of equality here,” he says, “and that we started taking those issues to the many international fora that Canada participates in” to ensure that equality issues are on the agendas of other allied countries as well.
“I’m not sure that the Conservatives are going to be the government that actually takes that forward,” he adds, “but I think that they need to be held accountable for Canada’s decisions and that they need to represent those decisions appropriately around the world.”