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Gary Mitchell steps aside

Gay Conservative didn't seek party nomination

DISTANT THIRD Credit: Gary Mitchell

When it came to a choice between a three-term Liberal member of parliament, a previously unknown NDP political scientist and a gay Conservative businessman, voters in Vancouver Centre chose Liberal Hedy Fry in the last federal election last June.

Gary Mitchell, the gay Conservative, placed a distant third. At the time, he said he was determined to stay with his party and remain in the riding that is home to one of Canada’s most geographically concentrated queer communities.

“I have to keep working from within,” he said. “Nobody can agree with every single policy of a party.”

Mitchell was the only out gay Conservative Party candidate to run in the 2004 federal election. He repeatedly spoke out against his party’s anti-gay election rhetoric.

He even went so far as to form Conservatives for Equal Marriage this March, something which no doubt rankled some of the more conservative members of Stephen Harper’s party.

“I’m not finished here,” he told Xtra West’s Toronto sister paper Xtra, Mar 3. “I’m gonna keep fighting. I will probably run again when I see more issues in a platform that supports stronger urban centres.

“I hope it’s for the Conservative Party,” he added.

Three weeks later he reiterated to Xtra West’s Ottawa sister paper Capital Xtra that he would stay with the party and keep working from within, after his fellow delegates voted to officially oppose same-sex marriage at the Conservative Party’s policy convention in Montreal.

That was in March.

On May 5, the Conservative Party’s Vancouver Centre riding association released its shortlist of nominees to run in the next federal election (whenever that may be).

Mitchell’s name was conspicuously absent from the list.

Did the riding association pressure him to step aside?

Not at all, says Mitchell. On the contrary, its members really wanted him to run again, he says.

“I just wasn’t ready to do it again,” he explains. “Not twice in one year.”

Mitchell says he needs more time to build his business before he takes the months off work required to contest another election. Last time, he says, he had to take about six months off and he can’t afford to do that again right now.

He agrees the battle last year was a tough one.

It’s a battle Tony Fogarassy, the Conservative Party’s new pick for the riding, is about to wade into.

On May 9, the Vancouver Centre Conservative riding association chose Fogarassy, a married father of two, as its candidate in the next federal election.

“I am eager to move to the next stage to take on Hedy Fry and get our positive message out. I strongly believe that when people hear what the Conservatives have to offer, they are going to come back to us in droves,” says Fogarassy, 44.

Mitchell says he’s “100 percent” behind Fogarassy. He even agreed to be his campaign manager.

He says he and Fogarassy share similar views on a number of topics. They both support sound financial planning and socially progressive policies. Mitchell says Fogarassy is very gay-friendly, for example.

Fogarassy says he supports equal marriage for queers. And, he says, he’s committed to the issue being decided through a free vote in Parliament.

“I couldn’t think of anything but supporting the gay community,” Fogarassy stresses. “It’s part of Vancouver.”

This is the second attempt to run for office for Fogarassy, a lawyer at a prominent Vancouver law firm.

As for Mitchell, he says he’s still not leaving the party.

He’ll keep working from within on his Conservatives for Equal Marriage committee. The group currently has 20 steering committee members and more than 100 endorsements on its website.

Mitchell says he got a lot of positive feedback from party members after forming the group. It demonstrated to Canadians that the Conservative Party has diversity, he suggests.