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Four openly gay or lesbian new MPs elected to Ottawa

New faces replace four queer NDP MPs who went down in defeat, retirement

The new wave of Trudeaumania did more than return Justin Trudeau to the house on Sussex Drive where he grew up. It also ushered in big changes to the makeup of the LGBT caucus in Parliament, with three big names going down to defeat and four new MPs to match them. Along with one retirement, that leaves six openly gay or lesbian MPs in Parliament.

The Liberal caucus will feature four out gay men — a record for the party — including returning incumbent and former cabinet minister Scott Brison (Kings-Hants, NS), returning MP Rob Oliphant (Don Valley West, ON), and newcomers Randy Boissonnault (Edmonton-Centre) and Seamus O’Regan (St John’s South-Mount Pearl).

Boissonnault and O’Regan are the first openly gay MPs ever elected from Alberta and Newfoundland. Both have been touted as possible cabinet ministers, and if Brison is reappointed to cabinet, it would set a record for most openly gay ministers in a federal or provincial cabinet.

Boissonnault is a bilingual Rhodes scholar who founded the non-governmental organization Literacy Without Borders and works as a management consultant. O’Regan is a well-known former journalist and television presenter.

Election night was not as happy for the New Democrats, who lost, along with more than half their seats, three strong openly gay incumbents: Craig Scott (Toronto-Danforth), Dany Morin (Chicoutimi-Le Fjord) and Philip Toone (Gaspésie-Les Îsles-de-la-Madeleine). All had tabled legislation relating to LGBT issues in the last parliament, and all lost to Liberal challengers.

The Liberal wave also knocked out longstanding straight NDP allies of the LGBT community, like Megan Leslie (Halifax), Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) and Peggy Nash (Parkdale-High Park). All three had championed various LGBT issues in Parliament, including the need for LGBT youth shelters and LGBT rights on the global stage.

The NDP queer caucus has been reduced to two members: Randall Garrison held on to his seat in Esquimalt-Sanich-Sooke, and Sheri Benson won in Saskatoon West. Benson is the first openly LGBT MP elected in Saskatchewan, and will be the only open lesbian in the House of Commons.

The NDP ran five other gay and lesbian candidates that were defeated: Scott Bell (Saskatoon Grasswoods), Jacqui Gingras (North Okanagan-Shuswap), Paul Harris (Red Deer-Mountain View), Deborah Chief (Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman) and former Saskatchewan finance minister Andrew Thomson (Eglinton-Lawrence).

Defeated gay Liberal candidates were Jeffrey Rock (Red Deer-Lacombe) and Christopher Brown (Peace River-Westlock).

The election was also notable for being the first time an openly trans person was put on the ballot for an established party. Jennifer McCreath ran under the new Strength in Democracy banner in Avalon, NL, where she received 84 votes (0.2 percent). Strength in Democracy was a new party made up of two former NDP and Bloc MPs — neither were returned to Parliament.

With Libby Davies’ retirement, Scott Brison is now the longest-serving openly gay MP in Parliament (both joined Parliament in 1997), although he’ll have to win one more election to beat the 25-year record set by Svend Robinson, who retired in 2004.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Seamus O’Regan’s last name.

 

An earlier version of this story said that Sheri Benson is the only open lesbian in Parliament. In fact she is the only open lesbian in the House of Commons.)

This story is filed under News, News & Ideas, Politics, Canada
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