From where I sit in Manitoba, a province that awarded 49 percent of our votes to Stephen Harper on election night, there’s not a lot of good news.
Except for this: We beat the jocks!
In a feeble play for votes in Winnipeg, the Tories ran two former sports stars: Thomas Steen of the long-dead Winnipeg Jets and Trevor Kennerd, a former place-kicker for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. (That’s a hockey player and a football player, for all you non-sports fans out there.)
Had he been elected, Steen would have faded into backbench obscurity. But Kennerd definitely may have posed a problem for homos. During the campaign, a 1999 letter that he wrote to Winnipeg’s largest school division surfaced. In it, he ranted against our “infatuation with social engineering” and said that teachers should focus on traditional lessons, “not on some minority groups’ social agenda.”
Fortunately, Kennerd got punted by Anita Neville, the only Manitoba Liberal MP left standing on election night. She used to be a trustee on the school board and advocated for stronger, more inclusive sex-ed programs.
Other than that, the good news is limited. Northern voters in Churchill elected a 26-year-old dynamo to office. Niki Ashton of the NDP will definitely be a fresh, progressive face to watch in the years to come. Meanwhile, Winnipeggers re-elected New Democrats Pat Martin and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, and replaced long-time NDP MP Bill Blaikie with another Dipper, Jim Maloway.
The other 10 Manitoba MPs are all on Team Harper. Here’s a look at the ones we most need to worry about:
Candice Hoeppner, the newly elected MP for the southern Manitoba riding of Portage-Lisgar, was outed by the Winnipeg Free Press as “a skilled party strategist and social conservative.” Already, speculation is buzzing that she’ll land in Harper’s cabinet sooner rather than later. Why? She’s smooth. When a voter at an all-candidates debate in tiny Altona asked how she would deal with judges who favour “homosexuals and feminists,” she didn’t take the bait. Instead, she responded, “I’m hearing about judges, but it’s not the issue you’re raising. It’s the issue of how to put criminals in jail.” Way to stay on message.
Speaking of justice, there was none on election night for former Justice Minister Vic Toews, who was re-elected in a landslide. A proponent of traditional family values and a foe of gay rights since he was first elected in 1995, Toews recently got himself embroiled in a messy divorce after he fathered an out-of-wedlock child with another woman. Prior to the election, he mailed a mea culpa to his hometown paper, the Steinbach Carillon.
“Every day, every situation and every decision brings choices as to which path to take,” he wrote. “Most times I believe that we choose the correct path; however, as human beings we will sometimes choose incorrectly. I am no exception and I take full responsibility for the decisions I make.” Despite the Christian leanings of most of his constituents, the good people of Provencher riding decided to forgive Toews his sins. However, many people expect that his political path will soon lead to a highly coveted judicial appointment, so that Harper can rid himself of the two-timing president of the Treasury Board.
If newly elected Candice Hoeppner doesn’t replace Toews in cabinet, the next most likely candidate is Winnipeg-area MP Joy Smith. Since first being elected to Parliament in 2004, Smith’s main claim to fame on the national stage has been the Tories’ move to raise the age of consent for sex from 14 to 16, while maintaining the legal age for anal sex at 18. Smith’s pet issue is human trafficking and she lobbied for the bill by spreading the gospel of a group called Beyond Borders, which claimed that Canada was becoming a haven for sexual predators thanks to our long-standing age of consent laws. Beyond Borders’ real agenda is actually to raise the age of consent to 18, or higher if possible. During the recent campaign, Smith was criticized for adding yet another human trafficking conference to her agenda before she was properly re-elected.
Another Manitoba Tory MP who’s rising in the ranks is Winnipeg South rep Rod Bruinooge. A proud fundamentalist Christian, he gained notoriety for embracing an endorsement by the Campaign Life Coalition and speaking out against Henry Morgentaler’s recent Order of Canada award. At least he’s up- front about where he stands. When I met Bruinooge in his Ottawa office on behalf of Canadians for Equal Marriage a couple of years ago, he said he was anxious to tell his constituents that he heard my side. Then he proceeded to explain that he was against equal rights for queers and that nothing would change his mind.
Finally, the new Tory wildcard in Manitoba is Shelly Glover, elected for the first time in the Winnipeg riding of St Boniface. A 19-year veteran of the Winnipeg police force, Constable Glover announced on election night that her win was a “victory for justice.” She got a loud cheer in response. No word yet on where she stands on gay issues, but one of her family members was interviewed on CTV’s local election coverage that night. Not sure if he was a son or a nephew, but he was hot.
I guess the news wasn’t all that bad, after all.