3 min

Like night and day

Why I'm voting for COPE and Vision Vancouver on Nov 19

How many of you are suffering from COPE complacency?

How many of you have been lulled into the mistaken belief that three years of responsive city government, three years of having a voice at city hall means there’s no going back?

Well, snap out of it.

With the municipal election just days away, the threat of an NPA resurgence means we can easily go back. In fact, we could lose everything we’ve gained since 2002, if we’re not careful.

Remember the days when Pride got neither funding nor support from city hall, and barely any acknowledgement for its contributions?

Remember the days when new gay spaces had to wait years rather than months for permission to operate in the Village, and had to struggle every step of the way?

Remember the days when there was no one to call on Cambie St if you needed answers, let alone action, on gay issues?

I do, and I don’t want to go back there.

That’s why I’m voting to keep COPE and its spinoff party, Vision Vancouver, in office this Nov 19 and I urge every single one of you living in Vancouver to do the same.

“It’s like night and day,” Randy Atkinson told me in July 2003, on the eve of our first Pride under a COPE-dominated council.

City hall had just approved the first-ever Davie St fair for Pride, had not only approved but facilitated gay bars staying open late for the festivities, and had, at Councillor Tim Stevenson’s urging, cut the Pride Society a little slack and given it a bit more time to repay its debts. Council soon followed up with $12,781 in grant money-up from zero in previous years.

“It’s really a testament to getting a council who understands the importance of this festival to the community,” Atkinson said. What a difference a year-and a city election-can make.

What a difference indeed.

Under the previous NPA administration, council simply enforced the status quo, deferring to its own previously established policies to set the course-even if that course excluded communities who had been excluded when the policy was set in the first place.

Which is exactly what Sam Sullivan will do if he gets elected mayor Nov 19.

“Once you develop policy and it’s well deliberated, and it makes sense and it’s rational and it’s intellectually defensible, you don’t go around adjusting it for any group that happens to come by,” Sullivan recently told my teammate Matt Mills (see page 17).

That’s fine for groups considered worthy of inclusion when the original policy was drafted, but where will that leave queers under the NPA? Same place as before. Without grants for Pride, without new gay spaces, without city support or recognition.

Jim Green, in contrast, says he’s willing to consider designating the Davie Village as an entertainment district, which would recognize the Village as the gay community’s prime social gathering space and facilitate licensing for its bars and clubs.

That’s a good sign. An even better sign is that he’s got Tim Stevenson on his team.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Tim Stevenson gets things done for the gay community at city hall. He’s accessible, he’s responsive and he’s effective. I want to send him back to council surrounded by his new Vision Vancouver running mates who seem more than happy to take his cue on gay issues and support his initiatives.

And I want Ellen Woodsworth and the rest of the COPE team to sit beside them.

A behind-the-scenes activist pushing for all sorts of social change, Woodsworth has quietly supported Stevenson on numerous occasions since becoming the first out lesbian ever elected to city council three years ago. Lately, she’s been rallying the COPE team to keep supporting Stevenson’s initiatives. Together, they make a great team.

COPE also has my vote for the Vancouver School Board and parks board.

Led by COPE school trustees such as Jane Bouey, the Vancouver School Board made history last year with its groundbreaking, comprehensive anti-homophobia policy. The only trustee dragging his feet: John Cheng, the lone NPA member on the board.

On Nov 19, I’m voting for Bouey, Stevenson, Woodsworth, Green and the rest of the COPE and Vision Vancouver slates, and I hope you will too.

Don’t let the city’s decision-making bodies go back to the NPA.