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Does a rainbow come with Alberta’s great orange hope?

NDP's Linda Duncan blocks a Tory sweep of Alberta

FRESH FACE ON THE HILL. Edmonton-Strathcona NDPer Linda Duncan and leader Jack Layton. Credit: electlindaduncan.ca

Election day in Edmonton was a windy cold affair with too few people working the election polls, and as it turned out, too few people voting. The sky was non-committal, diffusing the city with a hazy bleak blue light. With the closing of the polls and news of a “stronger Conservative minority” becoming a reoccurring nightmare cum reality, the dark tarp of night provided some solace. After leaving a local downtown pub where friends were shitting on not only the absence of proportional representation but the sorry state of Canada’s reputation around the world, I couldn’t help but go to bed feeling depressed to be living in a province drowning in Conservative blue.

But with morning came not only the bold presence of the sun but also an orange glow coming from the south radiating hope across the entire province if not all of Canada: NDP candidate Linda Duncan won in Edmonton-Strathcona, unseating Conservative incumbent Rahim Jaffer. Duncan’s victory is a ray of hope stretching across Alberta, warming the faces of the scores of Albertans who didn’t vote Conservative.

For others who didn’t go to bed early like myself the great orange hope victory party began last night. By 9pm most media were reporting Alberta had been swept by the Tories. But in a reversal of last election when Jaffer beat Duncan by only a handful of votes, this time the seat was Duncan’s to take by 459 votes.

Brandan Van Alstine who watched the results come in at Edmonton’s Pride Center. He gave up around 11pm and was making his way to meet his friends to drink and mourn when he received a phone call from a friend that changed his motivations. “I can’t believe she won” came the voice from the other end of Van Alstine’s phone and after figuring out what his friend meant, he went not to mourn but to celebrate.

As Van Alstine’s last night phone call proved, Duncan’s victory not only resonated with Albertans but also with the Edmonton queer Diaspora scatted across Canada who watched the race with baited breath. Through emails and Facebook updates starting last night they expressed their hometown glee “Oh my effing god! I love you Linda,” wrote ex Edmontonian, current Montreal resident Ryan Lomenda on his Facebook page.

At the heart of the excitement over Duncan’s victory is, as Van Alstine sees it, a relief and a feeling among Albertans that it is “nice to see, on a national stage, Alberta be represented not by someone holding redneck values but by someone who makes Edmonton seem a little more socially liberal — which we are.”

In her acceptance speech Duncan acknowledged her new role. “Every corner of this community tonight said that they wanted a different voice for Alberta and I am ready to give it,” she said. “There will be a real load on me to speak for the alternative voice in Alberta.”

As for what alternative means we will have to wait and see. At press time there is not a lot known about Duncan’s stance on issues facing Canada’s queer community, but in her election literature it does state “I support equal rights for all, including equal access to services, jobs, and security of the person, regardless of religion, race, sex, or sexual orientation.”

Known primarily for her environmental work, Duncan has worked as an international environmental law consultant in Edmonton, is the founder of the Environmental Law Center and has served as vice president of the Sierra Leona Defense Fund.

Among members of Edmonton’s queer community it is assumed that since she is from the NDP party she is queer friendly. “What with Jack Layton and Olivia Chow bustin’ it at Big Primpin’ and HomoHops I just figured all NDPers were by default queer friendly, I never bothered to question it,” says former Edmontian Carl Swanson currently studying in Toronto. And he is not the only one. Long time friend of the queer community and owner of The Traveling Tickle Trunk, Brenda Kerber is sure that Duncan is queer friendly but then asked “is there reason to question?”

While there is nothing to point to that proves Duncan is not queer friendly, there is also no harm in asking questions. As the sun sets on the first day of Duncan’s victory and night encroaches, queer Duncan supporters cannot take her victory for granted assuming that it will mean for brighter days ahead for them. She has a big job ahead of her with many passions and agendas of her own. I personally have no doubt about how great Linda Duncan will be. I urge all queer Albertans to support her by getting her up to speed on queer issues to make sure that she is representing our voice in Ottawa.