Former Committee of Progressive Electors (COPE) councillor and out lesbian Ellen Woodsworth wants to return to council chambers on the party’s slate in this November’s municipal elections.
She says the queer community’s presence at City Hall has diminished during the three years of Mayor Sam Sullivan’s term.
“It must be restored,” Woodsworth says.
“I really struggled with myself,” she says of watching the losses at 12th and Cambie in the past three years. “I’m not done. I want back in.”
Woodsworth says Vancouver’s police force needs a designated gay representative on the chief’s diversity advisory committee, and that Pride needs a stronger voice at City Hall. She would like to see advisory committees such as those working on queer, women’s and seniors’ issues returned to City Hall to assist the next council in its decision-making.
“I think it’s important to elect people who are out and proud, people who will stand up for our community and not let these issues slide,” she says.
Vision Vancouver’s Tim Stevenson has been the only openly gay councillor at 12th and Cambie since the last municipal election in 2005, in which Woodsworth lost her seat.
Woodworth believes that preserving the identities of Vancouver’s distinct communities and neighbourhoods is also central to maintaining this city’s diversity.
She points to Vancouver’s queer enclaves such as the Davie Village and Commercial Dr as communities which foster arts, culture and business.
“Who but the queer community has made those areas livable and vital and revitalized the business communities?” she asks. “We need to continue to strengthen neighbourhoods. They’re the backbone of city. We give people places to have their own identities.”
Woodsworth also lists Vancouver’s housing crisis, which is affecting the entire city and the West End in particular, among her top priorities.
The housing crisis has become so bad in the Downtown Eastside that it has morphed into a health crisis, she says.
“We need strategies in place using the property endowment fund to provide more social housing,” she says. “We need strict regulations about changing apartments into condos, and SROs [single-resident occupancy rooms] into market housing.”
Woodsworth takes aim at NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner, who she says parroted Sullivan’s policy line throughout this council’s tenure. She doesn’t think much will change with Ladner as mayor.
She is also advocating elected representatives on the regional transit board, as well as that board opening its meetings to public scrutiny.
COPE’s nomination meeting to select its candidates for this fall’s civic election will take place Sep 28. Woodsworth is currently COPE’s external chair, and has been advocating a joint COPE-Vision Vancouver slate for the next election.