(A new era of positive politics? Liberal incumbent Hedy Fry, left, welcomes a hug from NDP candidate Constance Barnes, right, on Oct 19, 2015. Fry beat Barnes by nearly 22,000 votes in Vancouver Centre./Janet Rerecich photo)
I think I’m Liberal MP Hedy Fry’s inverted lucky charm. In the past decade, I’ve consistently endorsed her NDP opponents and she’s always emerged victorious.
The Oct 19, 2015 election was no exception. While my political soul-searching predictably deposited me on the NDP’s doorstep, Fry walked away with Vancouver Centre, this time nearly 22,000 votes ahead of her nearest competitor (the NDP).
Don’t get me wrong, I respect Fry. I think she’s a strong, articulate woman and a consistent gay ally, neither of which can be taken for granted in our Parliament.
It’s Fry’s party that gives me pause.
Granted, party leader Justin Trudeau enthusiastically launched his campaign at Vancouver Pride this year, while his key opponents were no-shows. And yes, the Liberals have a long-standing, if at times grudging and even court-ordered commitment, to gay rights.
And yes, I appreciate the party’s renewed commitment to social spending. But I still wish they’d acknowledge they cut the spending in the first place. Imagine if they’d said: “We know we profoundly reset Canada’s course in the mid-1990s when we made deficit-cutting a higher priority than funding social programs, such as health care and housing. But we had to live within our means then, and now we’re ready for a different course, and here’s why.”
That’s an important discussion still worth having publicly, and would have been a refreshingly honest move from a party that pledges to usher in a new era of transparency in Ottawa.
Still, the Liberals just swept Stephen Harper out of office and that’s a victory I’ll wholeheartedly and gratefully embrace.
That the Liberals turfed Harper on a platform of renewed (if calculated) compassion gives me hope, both for the promises I hope they’ll now keep and for Canadians who finally rejected a decade of cold, Conservative fear-mongering.
Trudeau wasted no time setting a new, positive tone, first with his warm, inclusive acceptance speech on core Canadian values, then in a press conference Oct 20 where he actually answered reporters’ questions, a welcome change from his brick wall of a predecessor.
Back in Vancouver’s gay village, the candidates also seemed to usher in a new era of openness and civility. Green candidate Lisa Barrett graciously tweeted her “love and respect to sister candidates @HedyFry @ConstanceBarnes @ElaineAllan” on election night, while NDP runner-up Barnes came over in person to congratulate Fry, who welcomed her hug.
Of course, if my Facebook feed is any indication, Tuesday night’s tears of relief soon dried into squints of skepticism, at least for some.
“I’m elated we no longer have those awful, awful people running the show here anymore but let’s not kid ourselves in thinking we’ve ushered in a new era,” wrote journalist Rob Easton. “Our world will be just as fucked tomorrow as it was this morning and now we must work harder to get a potentially more sympathetic ear to act on what really matters.”
“Anyone-but-Harper may have worked a little too punch-drunkenly,” said my high-school friend Anile Prakash. “Some very capable, hard-working and long-standing NDP MPs got unseated, yet too many still voted for the Conservatives. The party that voted for Bill C-51 and has a record of corruption is now in power with a majority, which means cooperation/collaboration is a vague concept at best. A moving Layton/Obama-inspired speech sure felt good, and it’s thrilling that Harper is gone, but real change? I hope so. Prove it.”
“Prove it” soon became the recurring theme in my Facebook feed. Celebrate change but hold the change-makers accountable. New hope, both tempered and fuelled by new determination from a re-engaged electorate ready to demand better governance on multiple levels.
I think it’s a healthy place to be. Neither defeated, nor blinded by optimism, however sincere our approachable and charming new prime minister may be.
Let’s seize this new energy to make a list of all the Liberal promises we want to see kept. I know what tops my list: a compassionate realignment of values and renewed social spending, plus a substantive overhaul of Bill C-51 (though I’d rather see it repealed). What tops yours?
(Robin Perelle is the managing editor in Vancouver of Daily Xtra and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RobinPerelle.)