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Gay man sets sights on return to Queen’s Park

This time I'm going to win: Paul Ferreira

Paul Ferreira says gays and lesbians are concerned about pocketbook issues during the Ontario election. Credit: courtesy Paul Ferreira

Former York South-Weston MPP Paul Ferreira thinks he stands a good chance of being sent back to Queen’s Park in the Oct 6 provincial election.

 
Ferreira snatched the riding for the NDP from the Liberals in a 2007 by-election but then lost it to them during the general election later that year. That loss, by less than 500 votes, was the narrowest NDP defeat in the province.
 
The riding, which contains the old city of York and parts of southern North York, is shaping up to be another tight two-way race between the Liberals and the NDP. While it has long been a Liberal stronghold, the NDP has posted gains over the last several federal and provincial elections, and New Democrat Mike Sullivan defeated Liberal Alan Tonks by a substantial margin in the May federal election. 
 
Oct 6 will be Ferreira’s fifth election campaign: as well as his two provincial runs in 2007, he ran for the NDP federally in 2004 and 2006.
 
Having spent the last four years working in various capacities at Queen’s Park, first as chief of staff for former NDP leader Howard Hampton, then as senior advisor to current leader Andrea Horwath, Ferreira has kept provincial issues close to his heart.
 
He says the issues that most concern his riding are affordability and the cost of living.
 
“I’ve knocked on 31,000 doors since June 1,” Ferreira says. “Each and every day I talk to people who are struggling to pay the bills. Invariably they come back with the hydro bill. The McGuinty HST is an unfair punitive tax because it’s a tax on essentials.”
 
The NDP platform promises to gradually remove the provincial portion of the HST from home hydro and heating, as well as from gasoline. Some environmentalists have complained that the pledge essentially encourages people to be more wasteful with their energy consumption.
 
But the tax reduction will come as a relief to families who need it, Ferreira says.
 
“The fact is you need to keep your house warm in the winter, you need lights, you need hydro to cook dinner,” he says. “We need to encourage people to conserve, but the cost of energy, even if you are conserving, is going up. It’s a double whammy because they’re being hit with this tax.”
 
Ferreira says gay and lesbian constituents in York South-Weston are saying the same things when he meets them in the riding.
 
“The community out here tends to be smaller,” he says. “I’ve met a number of LGBT seniors who live out here in York South-Weston; they’re on fixed incomes, and they’re thinking of giving up their homes because they can’t afford it.”
 
Ferreira says the NDP has long been at the forefront of queer equality and that his candidacy could be an inspiration for the next generation of queers.
 
“My riding is not one where you would normally think that an openly gay candidate would be elected. But I’ve been elected here once before and I think I have an excellent chance of being elected again,” he says. “I hopefully can be a role model, especially for younger people.”
 
Beyond politics, Ferreira has been active in the queer community for a long time. He says he’s participated in the AIDSwalk (now the Walk for Life) and is a former vice-president of Arco Iris, a club for queer Portuguese Canadians.
 
Other issues that Ferreira wants to push as an MPP are housing and public transit. He says he wants to see “a province-wide system for landlord licensing to make sure that everyone has a decent safe place to call home.”
 
The NDP has also pledged to return to funding 50 percent of the operating shortfalls of municipal transit systems in exchange for a four-year fare freeze.
 
Ferreira faces off against Liberal incumbent MPP Laura Albanese and Progressive Conservative Lan Daniel. The Green Party has not yet nominated a candidate.