There’s been a lot of kvetching post-election about what a waste of time the whole exercise was; how too much money and energy was expended on all sides to arrive at a parliamentary arrangement that is only marginally different than the one we had previously.
It’s true we traded one Conservative minority for another Conservative minority, albeit a slightly more powerful one. That result, sad to say, had many Toronto queers cheering on election night after having lived in fear of a Tory majority since the election was called in September.
But the result isn’t just in the number of seats won and lost. Something else was accomplished in the process, and it wasn’t in our favour.
Many of us — queers, Torontonians, progressive people in general — have been left feeling somewhat alienated in a country that so recently seemed to more closely reflect our values. Is Harper’s Canada really the same Canada that saw various queer rights passed into law? Or is it a place where we are at risk of losing the ground that it’s taken decades to gain?
Throughout the campaign Toronto ‘mos flailed in frustration, feeling helpless to counter the threat of a Tory majority. On one hand we were confident that none of the city’s ridings were at risk of going blue but on the other we were at a complete loss as to how to prevent the Tories from swaying surrounding ridings. Which they did.
On election night we watched in dismay as incumbents with histories of homophobic comments were easily reelected. We watched in horror as the Tories made inroads in the GTA. Hell, even in Toronto Centre, home to the gaybourhood, it was a Conservative candidate that came second, though incumbent Liberal Bob Rae kept a healthy lead.
This may well be, as suggested in the article Voter Turnout Hits New Low, the result of low voter turnout among NDP supporters in the riding who felt there was no point in voting when Rae had taken the riding by such a large margin in the previous by- election. But what does a result like that say to the rest of the country? It leaves the door open to imagine a Toronto where even a downtown riding, even the gaybourhood, is a viable target for Tory candidates. I shudder to think what that would look like.
Now that the dust has settled what do we make of it all? While politicians and lobbyists ponder how to make a third consecutive minority government function, armchair activists need to start thinking about how to connect to the rest of Canada.
We’ve probably all got friends who live in ridings that either went Tory or came too close for comfort. Talk to them. Find out what the pressing issues are in their neighbourhoods. Find out how much they know about the current incarnation of the Conservative Party and its ties to evangelical Christianity. If you put a bug in their ears now — and a couple of hard facts to back it up — chances are they’ll pass it on to others before the next round at the polls.
But maybe talk isn’t enough. Maybe what it will take is for every one of us to adopt a riding and to really care about what goes on there. Even if you find yourself hard-pressed to connect to the majority in a particular riding — let’s say Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, which saw raving homophobe Cheryl Gallant retake the riding with 61 percent of the vote — then find it in your heart to connect to the ‘mos in that area. What can we as urban queers do to support them, knowing that in supporting them we’re also affecting the political climate of their riding?
We are probably safe from another election for another few years but we can’t afford to hang around and wait for the call, hoping that the tide will have turned on its own.