Paul Ferreira blames a campaign of homophobic sabotage for his narrow defeat in the Ontario election Oct 6.
“There was an attempt to drive a homophobic wedge through this riding,” he explained after speaking to supporters at the Ambiance Banquet Hall in York South-Weston.
The evening was a nail-biter as NDP candidate Ferreira and Liberal incumbent Laura Albanese stayed neck-and-neck even after polls closed. With only three polls remaining and about 500 votes separating the two, Ferreira stepped up to the microphone at about midnight, forced a smile and thanked his campaign team to thunderous applause.
In his speech, he said that homophobia featured prominently during the campaign and that it is the main reason for his defeat.
“I am a gay man. A lot of buttons were pushed in this riding at the doorstep because of that,” he tells Xtra. “Those were messages of intolerance and division. This community deserves better.
“The people here in York South-Weston are loving and tolerant and accepting… Not once at the door did anybody make an intolerant or homophobic remark. Not once. But there were folks that went to the door pushing those buttons. It’s an unfortunate way to do politics. It demonstrates we still have attitudes to change, especially among our leaders.”
In the final days of the campaign, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak went on the defensive about campaign flyers that rivals have called “disgusting” and “homophobic.” A few days earlier, the National Post and the Toronto Sun came under fire for running a transphobic ad from the Institute for Canadian Values that protested proposed revisions to Ontario’s physical and health education curriculum. The Post eventually apologized for the ad, but the Sun refused to.
Then, Willowdale PC candidate Vince Agovino distributed a similar transphobic ad by mail that contained a letter stating he would “defend” Catholic schools from “queer issues.” Agovino lost his riding.
NDP MP Mike Sullivan, who was on hand to support Ferreira on election night, says the homophobia in the campaign spilled over into the riding of York South-Weston. Ferreira was the target of “anti-gay epithets,” Sullivan says.
“Paul’s personal life has no business in politics in this day and age,” he says, sighing. “I was looking forward to working with him. Paul is a class act. He deserved a whole lot better than he got. And it was so darn close.”
Ferreira, senior advisor to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, plans to spend some time with his partner, Tim, and his mother, who was diagnosed with cancer during the campaign. “I’m going to recharge the batteries.” He says it’s “far too soon” to say if he will run again in the next provincial election.
This was Ferreira’s fifth election campaign, including two provincial runs in 2007 and runs for the NDP federally in 2004 and 2006.