Liberal Vancouver-Burrard MLA Lorne Mayencourt is toying with the idea of making a jump to federal politics.
The second-term provincial legislator says he was approached by Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party late last year and asked if he would run as a Tory in the next federal election, which is expected to be called sometime in 2007.
Gary Mitchell, who ran as a Conservative in the 2004 Vancouver Centre race says he attended a Conservative function on Jan 11 at which the buzz was all about Mayencourt.
“I think Lorne would have an excellent shot,” he says. “He knows the issues. If he runs, I want to help him.”
Mayencourt sees the invitation as part of a Conservative attempt to make the party more centrist.
“That would be an interesting role for me,” he says.
But he does not want to be seen as a token minority in the Conservative caucus.
“I’ve always been careful not to define myself as a queer candidate,” he says. “I’m proud and out, but I’m also thinking about the issues.”
He believes that, as a Conservative MP, he could achieve gains in the fields of homelessness and HIV/AIDS.
Mayencourt says he will likely make his final decision by mid-February, but that his choice hinges at least partly on the future of his Safe Schools Act and his Safe Streets legislation.
He says those issues are very dear to his heart and he wants to see them pass through the BC Legislature before he makes any move to another political arena.
After speaking with Premier Gordon Campbell, Mayencourt says he expects some positive movement on the safe schools front by the end of March.
“It’s not going to be the end of bullying in the school system but it’s going in the right direction,” he says. “There’s nobody else who’s going to pick that up. Until that passes, I won’t be considering anything.”
Mayencourt says only one third of school districts in BC have satisfactory policies addressing bullying.
Another factor he cites in his decision to run for Parliament is the Conservative stance on gay marriage. Harper’s party vehemently opposed same-sex marriages, holding that marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
But a Tory motion to re-open the issue was defeated in December and the Harper government has said it has no plans to reopen it.
“It needed to be put to bed permanently,” says Mayencourt.
According to Mayencourt, it’s most logical for him to run in the riding of Vancouver Centre, the seat now held by long-time Liberal MP Heddy Fry.
Fry easily clinched the Liberal nomination late last year for her sixth run at the Vancouver Centre seat. She has held it since defeating then-Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campell in 1993.
Fry says she’s known and respected Mayencourt for many years but won’t comment on what kind of opponent he might be because he has yet to be nominated.
Mayencourt says he hasn’t spoken with Fry about his federal aspirations.
“I have high regard for her,” he says. “I don’t know what her plans are.”
For the NDP, Randall Garrrison is unopposed going into the Jan 21 Vancouver Centre nomination meeting. Svend Robinson, who ran unsuccessfully as the riding’s NDP candidate in 2006, says he won’t be running this time around.
“I think Randall will be an excellent candidate,” he says. “I’ll be doing everything I can to help him.”
So, the next election race in Vancouver Centre is likely to be a Fry-Mayencourt-Garrison three-way.
Kennedy Stewart, a Simon Fraser University political science professor who ran under the NDP banner in Vancouver Centre in 2004, doesn’t think Mayencourt has much of a chance of winning. He says a Mayencourt bid would likely cut into Fry’s support but would also boost Garrison’s chances.
Mayencourt barely retained his seat by a tiny 11-vote margin in the 2005 provincial election. The results were unsuccessfully challenged by his primary opponent in that race, former NDP BC cabinet minister and current Vancouver city councilor Tim Stevenson.
Besides Vancouver Centre, Mayencourt says the Conservatives are angling to take two other prominent ridings in the next election. They’re after Vancouver Quadra, now held by Liberal Stephen Owen; and Vancouver South, held by Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh.
A similar jump from Victoria to the national stage happened when Dosanjh, formerly BC’s NDP premier, moved to the federal Liberals in the 2004 election as a star candidate in Vancouver South.
Dosanjh was part of the same Paul Martin Liberal dream team that featured David Emerson in Vancouver Kingsway.
Just days after winning reelection as a Liberal in 2006, Emerson famously crossed the floor to become a Conservative cabinet minister. That move sparked protests among Liberal voters.