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12 min

Getting to know the Liberal nomination candidates for Ottawa Centre

The gaybourhood's Liberal candidate to be decided in Sep 9 vote

In the leadup to a likely federal election this fall, Capital Xtra is launching a series of Q&A interviews with the political candidates who are vying for a shot at the Ottawa Centre riding. Through this series, we hope to give our readers an insider’s look at each of the candidates and their positions on a number of issues that affect the queer community.

We begin with the Liberal nomination candidates — Scott Bradley and Janet Yale — who are currently campaigning for the Liberal candidacy in Ottawa Centre for the upcoming election. We’re down to the last week before the Sep 9 vote that will determine which of the two will carry the Liberal banner for the gaybourhood this time around — a vote that is open to all card-carrying Liberals. Read on for an introduction to both candidates.

SCOTT BRADLEY

Scott Bradley says that if there’s one thing any would-be politician running in Ottawa Centre can’t ignore, it’s the riding’s sizable queer community.

“The [queer] community has a huge political influence in Ottawa Centre,” Bradley says. “For us as the Liberal Party, we haven’t been effectively able to connect with the [queer] community for the last couple of elections. So, for my end, it’s a strong focus for me both in terms of trying to identify a couple of key issues that are important to the GLBT community that we can carry forward.”

“If you’re to be a credible candidate for the Liberal Party in this riding, and not have a focus on the GLBT community, you’re not going to win,” Bradley says. “For me, simply recognizing that the political importance of the community is critical in terms of putting together a solid, credible campaign.”

This is Bradley’s second attempt at the nomination to become the Liberal candidate for Ottawa Centre. His last run saw him come in a close second to Penny Collenette, and that gives him the benefit of experience in this race.

“The biggest lessons I took from last time were just how hard you have to work at a nomination, and it’s a matter of every conversation counts,” Bradley says. “Every membership bought counts – it’s a very personal decision for every single person why buys a membership for the Liberal Party.  You need to be able to connect to people, and recognize that they want to have the conversation, they want to have a chat, they do want to express their opinions, and I think they want to feel that they have some connection to you.”

“When people put $10 on the line, they themselves are passionate,” Bradley says. “They have an investment in you, the candidate, and you can’t let them down, you have to keep working hard. They’re looking for that personal connection to politics as well, and when you can provide it to them, they’re going to respond favourably and positively, and come out and support you.”

Q: What do you plan to do about fighting the criminalization creep relating to HIV?

A: I think that there’s still a burden of proof on the court system to be able to demonstrate that someone has maliciously performed an act for the purposes of creating a criminal charge. As long as the courts have to prove that, I would suggest that the law as it currently stands is appropriate at this point.

Q: What would constitute an appropriate level of funding for Canadian arts and culture groups, and how do we get there?

A: I don’t think you can put a number on funding for arts and culture groups. Art Space in Toronto was very successful in trying to build an arts-focussed neighbourhood, and the gay community in fact supported that investment in Art Space, and it played a key role in terms of building social capital in the neighbourhood. Arts and culture funding is obviously critical to that, but I think what you do see when you are making investments in arts and culture, particularly in urban Canada, [is that] it’s helped to drive positive results in terms of regenerating communities. At a larger level, in terms of what it means to have successful urban areas and successful cities, arts and culture funding is critical to the social and economic rehabilitation of those communities. Certainly we’ve seen a much narrower view of the benefits of investing in arts and culture, and I think we need to be taking a much broader view of it and recognizing that the social and economic benefits of an arts and culture investment is far greater than what I think many look at.

Q: Do you support the inclusion of trans people in the Canadian Human Rights Act?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Do you support increasing mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes?

A: No. I think our Criminal Code is strong as it is. We, for the most part, have a success story here in Canada in terms of our Criminal Code, our ability to ensure that those who can be rehabilitated are being rehabilitated, those who can’t are staying in prisons and, for the most part, I think our criminal justice system works very well and is doing what we want it to achieve.

Q: What is your take on the 2007 cuts to Status of Women funding?

A: The easy answer is to say yeah, let’s just restore funding. I would say why don’t we dig a bit deeper into gender issues as a whole.
 
Q: Recent legislation on assisted human reproduction has created additional challenges for gays and lesbians looking to start biological families. What changes do you think should be made to these laws?

A: There are specific issues in terms of how you help people have a child, versus the issues of paying for a surrogate parent or paying for sperm donation. Having just seen it very closely with my sister — who has conceived a child on her own with a donor and didn’t pay for it — it can be done. You don’t want to broaden out the issue too much [but] to say what are the practical objectives? Which is to allow people who want to have children to have children in a way that are their biological children. I think that that issue shouldn’t be confused with issues with regards to paying for a surrogate or paying for a sperm donation. My experience is, I’ve seen it first-hand with my sister, and in her case it worked out. The bigger issue for her was the issue of cost; the more important issue is to ensure that we have access.
 
On the reproductive technologies issue, I should declare a conflict [of interest], as the company I work for is a major manufacturer of women’s health medicine for fertility.

Q: There have also been a variety of bills in the House of Commons over the past decade about the online collection of personal data for police purposes, including dispensing with the need to secure a warrant. Do new controls for the internet need to be implemented, and if so, what should they look like?

A: For criminal purposes, yes we need controls of the internet. The internet doesn’t need to be…for regulation purposes, we shouldn’t be regulating the internet, but for criminal purposes, yes, I think we do believe that police need to have access. Certainly what has been proposed, both by groups and associations, and even by telecom companies is simply that the police need to provide a warrant to search records. I think it’s appropriate that if a crime is being committed, police should have access to information on the internet as long as they’ve been able to go out and get a warrant. You simply can’t just go and tap someone’s phone lines or tap their internet line, but as long as police have a warrant and they’ve gone through the court process, received a warrant to gather information, I think it’s legitimate and they should have access to it.

Q: In the last Parliament, they had a vote on raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 — how would you have voted on that bill, and would you support the reduction of the age of consent for anal sex, which is currently set at 18?

A: I think 16 is an appropriate age of consent. I’m not comfortable with the idea that a 40 year-old man could be sleeping with a 14-year-old girl. I think 16 is appropriate for the age of consent, and my understanding, as well, is that there’s a three-year gap, which I also agree with. In terms of anal sex, I would also concur that there should be equalization with what the legal age is as well – if it’s 16, I’m comfortable with it, but I would have voted to raise the age of consent to 16, as well.

Q: Ottawa Centre has gone through a long debate on harm reduction. Given that the federal government controls some of the exemption levers, what would you do to bring in some of these measures?

A: The federal government should be supporting harm reduction facilities. In many cases, it is our best opportunity to interact with persons at risk, and I don’t think we’re best serving the interests of persons at risk if we’re not providing those facilities for them.

Q: Do you support the legalization or decriminalization of sex work and/or possession of marijuana?

A: The decriminalization of marijuana, yes I support. The sex trade — I think there’s a very easy to answer to a much more complex question or problem. I think the sex trade, in part, is related to addicts and people at risk, and I’m not sure that if we have anywhere near the systems or social support network in place at this point right now to support the decriminalization of the sex trade. I think it would take a massive investment — we are premature in terms of making a decision of that type. On the marijuana issue, I think we’re far more advanced in terms of having a policy debate and in terms of having an understanding…of what’s reasonable in terms of decriminalizing marijuana for personal use.

For more information on this Liberal nomination candidate, go to: www.votescottbradley.ca.

JANET YALE

Janet Yale says that it was her many years of volunteer experience has set the stage for her first formal run at political life.

“I think about it as a natural extension of the community and public service work that I’ve been doing for many years,” Yale says. “Between my professional career and my volunteer work, I’m not unused to very long days and lots of evening commitments.”

Yale led the city’s United Way campaign in 2001 and is an active volunteer with the National Arts Centre, the Great Canadian Theatre Company and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. She’s also working on the city-wide initiative looking at homelessness in the city. All this on top of her day job as an executive at Telus.

“As I started to look at all of these issues and causes that I work on as a volunteer, I started to get increasingly frustrated with the failure of the Harper government to address some of these issues [systematically],” Yale says. “[I] decided that I could make a bigger difference if I took all of that energy and time that I put into it, and tried to actually be part of a government that could put into place progressive policies that would address many of these issues in a more meaningful way.”

Yale cites the need for a national housing strategy and stable funding for arts organizations as issues that have spurred her run at federal politics.

She says that, in listening to community members during the Liberal membership process, she has found that people are most concerned about the affordability of housing, water and air quality and the need for a proper transit strategy. She also hears from new Canadians who need to have their credentials recognized in order to put their skills to work in Canada.

“One of the things that I think a Liberal government stands for, [which] the Conservatives typically don’t, is a policy of inclusion, and making sure that any kind of economic growth strategy provides for those who are less fortunate than ourselves,” Yale says.

Q: What do you plan to do about fighting the criminalization creep relating to HIV?

A: I think prevention is a better approach to all issues associated. The instinct to make things a crime and punish rather than dealing with the fundamental problem, which is one of prevention, isn’t the way I would approach any of these issues. For me, prevention is the thing that I focus on, so the whole Harper agenda of tough-on-crime and turning things into crimes that aren’t is something that I don’t support.

Q: What would constitute an appropriate level of funding for arts and culture groups, and how do we get there?

A: The cuts that have been made by the Harper government to the performing arts are inappropriate, and I think it jeopardizes not just those organizations but the economy as a whole. The arts play an important role in creativity and innovation, which is one of the foundational elements of a growing, knowledge-based economy. What’s the appropriate level is hard to say — I can’t give you a straight dollar amount, but I certainly believe that enhancing support for the arts, in terms of our performing arts, is important, as well as ensuring that there is appropriate arts education in the schools because I think it’s an important part of creativity and innovation. You have to recognize that some of that is not necessarily in federal jurisdiction, but if [you’re asking] what do I stand for, those are things I would stand for.

Q: Do you support the inclusion of trans people in the Canadian Human Rights Act?

A: I haven’t really put my mind to that question. My instinct would be to be supportive of inclusion, but I’d have to take guidance from the Liberals on some of the specifics. My private view would be I’m on the inclusion side.

Q: Do you support increasing mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes?

A: I find that question very hard to answer, because you have to decide what serious crimes are. I’m more on prevention than tough-on-crime. I believe in prevention rather than tougher sanctions after the fact.

Q: What is your take on the 2007 cuts to Status of Women funding?

A: Cutting the Status of Women budget is a mistake. I think it’s something that is important to support, and I would be supportive of restoring their budget.
 
Q: Recent legislation on assisted human reproduction has created additional challenges for gays and lesbians looking to start biological families. What changes do you think should be made to these laws?

A: If you look at post-menopausal women who are similarly situated, and where there are reasons why these women want to harvest eggs or buy eggs, there are some real issues. The question, as always, is what’s the harm, what are the intended consequences, and how do we make sure that we balance the legitimate concerns against the unintended consequences that we don’t want to see happen? The other question is how do we deal with the fact that it may have particularly severe consequences for same-sex couples and what do we do about that?

Q: There have also been a variety of bills in the House of Commons over the past decade about the online collection of data for police purposes, including dispensing with the need to secure a warrant. Do new controls for the internet need to be implemented, and if so, what should they look like?

A: There’s lot of issues around when and if it’s appropriate to dispense with the normal warrant to seek access to more information. Controls on the internet can range from crime issues, to hate issues, to bandwidth hogs, to invasions of privacy. My business has been about knowing and understanding the communications infrastructure, so there is no single issue around internet controls. Generally speaking, my view is that the police should have a valid court order, properly issued, in order to collect information or ask ISPs to disclose information about what is going on, on the internet. I don’t see why you would need to be able to dispense with ordinary due process that’s there to protect the rights of people.

Q: In the last Parliament, they had a vote on raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 — how would you have voted on that bill, and would you support the reduction of the age of consent for anal sex, which is currently set at 18?

A: I’m comfortable with the fact that the age was raised from 14 to 16, but I would say that consensual sex of any sort, the age of consent should be the same. So the question of 18 to 16 I would support — sex is sex. That’s the way I would look at it.

Q: Ottawa Centre has gone through a long debate on harm reduction. Given that the federal government controls some of the exemption levers, what would you do to bring in some of these measures?

A: I do support the notion that harm reduction strategies should be included, and it goes back to [my work] on homelessness, talking about the fact that a lot of people with addiction issues end up on the street, and our housing first model doesn’t require people to be treated before they get housed. Obviously, as a result of that — that plus other things — makes me supportive of the notion that we should give people ways to deal with their addiction issues.

Q: Do you support the legalization or decriminalization of sex work and/or the possession of marijuana?

A: Let’s deal with the marijuana first. It should certainly be decriminalized — I think that’s a no-brainer. I don’t think people should go to jail or get a criminal record for the use of marijuana. As far as if anything further should be done, I think that gets into questions that require a lot more study and analysis, because once you start talking about legalization, you start talking about which drugs and for what purposes, and how would they then be regulated if they were legalized, and that would have to be part of a much bigger study. [As for sex work], let me begin by saying that from my perspective, prostitution is something that is done whether it’s men, women or children…by necessity, not by choice. I don’t think people choose it as a profession. Viewed from that perspective, we need to look at, consistent with the other things we talked about, where prevention is the answer rather than anything else. Looking at why it is that people who are vulnerable or weak or can be exploited, end up in a situation where there is that economic necessity for them to engage in prostitution, so my perspective starts with let’s get rid of the problem rather than looking at how to deal with it from a legal perspective. I do believe that whether it’s pimps or johns, the focus from a law enforcement perspective should be on the people who take advantage of those who are vulnerable or weak…rather than the people who, because of economic necessity, end up involved in prostitution.

For more information on this Liberal nomination candidate, go to: www.janetyaleottawacentre.ca