Ignoring the queer vote is the way to win the Vancouver Centre riding in a possible fall federal election, says a letter from the newly anointed Vancouver Centre Conservative Party candidate.
But, Rachel Greenfeld tells Xtra West, she won’t ignore the queer community, but competing for votes long-time incumbent Liberal Hedy Fry has in her pocket is not a sensible campaign strategy.
“I’m not fighting Hedy Fry to get votes away from her that I know I can’t win,” she says. “I’m going to focus on the people who won’t leave their apartments to vote.”
However, the Greens, Liberals and NDP all say that approach is discriminatory and will backfire on the Tories.
Greenfeld, a social-networking company owner, says she’s just returned from a party hopeful bootcamp, and is ready to run in one of the most heavily gay-populated ridings in Canada.
“If you are concerned with Conservative policy towards gay rights and abortion issues, I am pro-choice on both fronts and am more of a centrist than anything. I would not join a party that did not agree with me on these issues,” she says in a letter sent to the Coal Harbour Residents Association by campaign manager Mark Ingram.
What that means, she says, is that she doesn’t think people should involve themselves in others’ lives.
“Live and let live. Paint your hair green. I don’t care,” the self-described libertarian says.
The Conservatives fielded gay candidates in Vancouver Centre in two of the last three outings to the polls.
The Conservative Party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s leadership has a record of resisting gay rights issues.
In December 2006, MPs voted 175-123 against a Conservative motion calling for the government to introduce legislation restoring the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Most Tories supported the bill. The bill aimed to defeat the Liberals successful introduction of legislation sanctioning same-sex marriage in 2005 after a series of court rulings said barring gay couples from marriage was unconstitutional.
In July this year, responsibility for the Marquee Tourism Events Program was taken away from Minister of State for Tourism Diane Ablonczy not long after she approved $400,000 for Toronto Pride. Saskatchewan Conservative MP Brad Trost told the anti-abortion website LifeSiteNews that Ablonczy was being punished for the decision.
Greenfeld says she has asked for assurances from the Conservative Party that it will not bring the same-sex marriage issue and abortion back to Parliament.
“They are no longer on the table,” she says. “I had to have that absolutely clear. I couldn’t stand for that. It goes against my sense of being a human being.”
Harper and the Conservatives have been in power with two successive minority governments since January 2006.
Liberal Hedy Fry has held the seat since toppling Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell in 1993. And, she’s running again she confirms.
She asks how Greenfeld hopes to represent all residents of the riding if she’s not interested in all their votes.
“It represents an attitude that is so typical of the Conservatives,” Fry says.
Deputy Green Party leader Adriane Carr already has her party’s nomination for the riding.
She says Greenfeld has no hope of winning the riding without the queer vote.
“She’s crazy,” Carr says. “You just have to look at Stats Canada to see that the GLBT population is a quarter of the riding.”
Vancouver Centre NDP riding association president Tim Armstrong, who’s gay, says with the level of diversity in the riding, plans for the Conservatives to exclude any group won’t be tolerated.
“It’s shameful that anybody running as an MP would want to discriminate against a group of people based on sexual orientation that’s protected under the Charter of Rights and the Human Rights Code.
“MPs represent everyone regardless of who they are. It’s typical of the Conservatives,” Armstrong says.
Armstrong says the NDP is just beginning its candidate selection process.
Fry won the riding in October 2008 with 19,506 votes. Conservative Lorne Mayencourt took 14,188, while then NDP candidate Michael Byers logged 12,047 votes and Carr, 10,354.
If an election is forced by a non-confidence vote in Parliament as promised by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, it would be the fourth return to the polls in five years.