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4 min

Eyes on the prize

Who will get the queer vote?

NO RETURN POLICY. Conservative leader Stephen Harper wants to take back queers' right to marry; if the Tories form the next federal government he's promised a free vote to repeal same-sex marriage. Credit: Tucker Doherty

The short 19-month gap between the last federal election and the Mon, Jan 23, 2006 vote means the leaders are the same, many candidates are the same and many issues are the same. Heck, most of the candidates can even recycle some of their old lawn signs.

Though last summer’s passage of the same-sex marriage bill gave some people hope that queer issues would be off the national stage this time around, Conservative leader Stephen Harper has announced he’ll bring the issue back for a free vote if his party forms a government.

But that’s not all that’s gay in this election. All five current out MPs — New Democrats Libby Davies and Bill Siksay, Bloc Québécois MP Real Menard and Liberals Scott Brison and Mario Silva — are running for reelection, as is Canada’s first out MP, Svend Robinson, back from hiatus.

Here are some candidates to watch — or not watch, in the case of some of our foes who are not running this time.

In the village

Despite rumours to the contrary, Toronto Centre-Rosedale MP Bill Graham, Liberal Minister Of National Defence, is back again.

“Perpetually I was being killed off and I was saying, ‘But I’m nominated.’ The [nominations] were so quick because we were worried about an election, and maybe people didn’t notice.”

Graham says he wants to finish what he started in the defence portfolio. He also highlights national unity, the economy and continuing to provide queer rights as key issues.

“Now that we have solved the problem for the gay community, as the whole we need to go forward with a socially progressive agenda to help the people who are still marginalized in society.”

Narrow margins

Several Liberal cabinet ministers are running in extremely tight races; nine of them won by less than five percent of the vote in the last election. In fact, more than 50 races were decided by less than a five percent margin. A shift in voting patterns, a winter storm, holiday travellers or voter apathy could see this election produce a large change in actual seats.

Rookie MP Belinda Stronach, whose walking the floor from the Conservatives to the Liberals in the last session allowed the same-sex marriage bill to stay alive, won by only 689 votes in 2004. She says Harper’s plan to reintroduce same-sex marriage legislation typifies the reason she left the Tories.

“To reopen that… shows a very cavalier attitude toward protecting minority rights,” says Stronach. “It is a sensitive issue for some people. It’s time to move on.'”

Another Liberal facing a tough battle is Tony Ianno, who is for the third time battling Olivia Chow in Trinity-Spadina. Chow, who is resigning from city council in order to run, lost by less than two percent in 2004.

Like most NDPers, Chow is campaigning on the Liberal record.

“They talk more than they actually deliver sometimes,” she says. “After 12 years of a lot of promises, something needs to be done…. We need to get some results after so many announcements.”

Returning queers

NDPer Svend Robinson is challenging Liberal Hedy Fry for the Vancouver Centre seat she’s held since 1993. Robinson had represented the riding of Burnaby-Douglas from 1979 to 2004, but is now trying to win the riding where Vancouver’s gay village is located.

Robinson didn’t run in the 2004 election, taking a leave of absence after pocketing a ring worth $50,000 in April 2004. He received a discharge in August after pleading guilty.

Robinson’s longtime executive assistant Bill Siksay won in Burnaby-Douglas in the last election. In his first term Siksay managed to introduce a private member’s bill (now dead) to amend the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms to include gender identity and expression.

“This was the first time that any trans-positive legislation had been introduced in the House.”

Fellow NDPer Libby Davies is hoping that a return as MP for Vancouver East will allow her to continue the work that she started on a review of sex work and bawdy-house laws (turn to page 10 for more).

Davenport riding’s Mario Silva beat openly gay NDPer Rui Pires in the last election — and then came out himself in the Toronto Star. This time Silva’s facing environmentalist and Eye Weekly columnist Gord Perks. Perks is married to a woman, so it won’t be gay-on-gay this time.

The cheese stands alone

Bev Desjarlais was the successful NDP candidate for Churchill, Manitoba the last three elections, but will be running as an independent this time. After her decision to be the only NDP MP to vote against same-sex marriage, she didn’t get the nomination.

Friends & foes sitting out

Randy White, Conservative MP for Abbotsford, BC, is not running in this election. White made headlines in the 2004 election when he publicly mused about using the notwithstanding clause to override court decisions favouring same-sex marriage.

Another homo-basher, Liberal turned independent Pat O’Brien of the London-Fanshawe riding, has also decided not to run. O’Brien left the Liberals in June, primarily over the same-sex marriage issue.

Carolyn Parrish, former Liberal and current independent MP for Mississauga-Erindale, has also decided to sit this election out. Though she claimed to support gay and lesbian rights, she abstained from voting on same-sex marriage, claiming her constituents were against it.

Etobicoke-Lakeshore MP Jean Augustine has chosen not to run to allow former Harvard scholar Michael Ignatieff to run for the Liberals there. Ignatieff, who has lived outside of Canada for most of his adult life, is considered one of the Liberal’s star candidates.

Former Winnipeg mayor and candidate in the last federal election Glen Murray is sitting this one out — way out. As chair of the National Roundtable On The Environment And The Economy, Murray is required to be neutral.

NDP MP for Ottawa Centre and former party leader Ed Broadbent is leaving following his brief return to politics in 2004 after a 15-year absence. Broadbent’s wife is suffering from health problems and he has stated that he wants to spend more time with her.

New kids on the block

John Baird is a young (36) up-and-comer who is abandoning his third term as a Conservative MPP to run in Ottawa-West Nepean. Baird, a supporter of same-sex marriage, is being touted as the kind of socially progressive candidate that will help the party appeal to more Canadians.

Fellow provincial Conservative Jim Flaherty is hoping to break into federal politics in Whitby-Oshawa. The Liberals have nominated Deborah Coyne, a constitutional law expert, to run against NDP leader Jack Layton in Toronto-Danforth. Coyne is the mother of Pierre Trudeau’s daughter.