3 min

Mayencourt seeks return to politics

Former MLA faces off against former mayor for Liberal nod

"The attitude I find on the right is more open to change and innovation," Sam Sullivan says. "The public sector unions are resistant to change." Credit:

Former Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt wants to return to the legislature.

After several years away, the two-term MLA for the old riding of Vancouver-Burrard, who served from 2001 to 2008, wants to represent the Liberal Party in the Vancouver-False Creek riding this May.

The riding’s incumbent, Mary McNeil, announced her intention not to seek reelection last August, along with at least a dozen other Liberal MLAs. The party will elect a new candidate for Vancouver-False Creek on Feb 20.

Mayencourt is considered a frontrunner, along with former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan.

The victorious Liberal candidate will face NDP newcomer Matt Toner, a digital media producer who took the nomination from Park Board commissioner Constance Barnes in November and Green Party candidate Daniel Tseghay.

Also running for the Liberal nod is lawyer Brian Fixter.

Sullivan, a 15-year veteran of city politics, tells Xtra he’s running to be the Liberal candidate because the riding is his home and because he believes in the Liberal free-market philosophy.

He says his family background is one of union activism, so many thought he would gravitate toward the NDP. But, he says, “the attitude I find on the right is more open to change and innovation. The public sector unions are resistant to change.”

“The Liberals definitely represent more accurately what I believe,” he says.

Sullivan unsuccessfully sought a second NPA nomination in 2008 to run for mayor again but was defeated by former city councillor Peter Ladner, who then lost the mayoral race to Gregor Robertson.

Since then, Sullivan says, he’s been running a public policy think-tank, hosting discussion salons and working as an adjunct professor in architecture and landscape architecture at the University of British Columbia.

“I’ve been enjoying myself in the world of public policy and debate,” he says. “Now, I’d like to transfer that learning back into the public arena, this time at the provincial level.”

Mayencourt, who is gay, left provincial politics in 2008 to run for federal election with the Conservative Party in Vancouver Centre, where he came in second to Liberal Hedy Fry.

While still in the legislature, he founded the Baldy Hughes Therapeutic Community near Prince George to help people recover from addiction. “It’s pretty amazing,” he tells Xtra.

He says he wants to return to the legislature to help create similar centres for First Nations people and for women.

For the past few years, Mayencourt has been a supporter of Premier Christy Clark. He supported her successful run for the party leadership, which vaulted her into the premier’s seat, and more recently has been working with the party to mentor MLAs and help them connect with riding residents.

It was through that work, he says, that he realized he has the skills to represent his home riding, so he decided to throw his hat into the ring once more.

Mayencourt is the founder and first executive director of the Vancouver Friends for Life Society, which helps people living with AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. He says returning to government would allow him to advocate for Friends for Life, A Loving Spoonful and the Dr Peter Centre to get funding to allow them to better serve the community.

He would also advocate for the renovation of St Paul’s Hospital in the West End, he says.

“It’s not getting the money it needs through the health authorities,” he says, noting that work needs to be done on patient care, ambulatory care, the centre for HIV/AIDS and treatment for mental health and addictions.

“It takes a lot of talking and cajoling with a lot of MLAs to make that happen,” he says.

Sullivan says he would like to see a more aggressive approach to the redevelopment of St Paul’s, where he sits as a member of the St Paul’s Hospital Foundation Governor’s Council. He’d like to see seniors’ housing added to the healthcare mix for redevelopment at the site.

In June 2012, Clark said the government was moving ahead with finalizing a concept plan and business case for the redevelopment of the aging hospital. She said there’s half a billion dollars in the budget and a business plan that’s before the provincial Treasury Board.

As a government backbencher, Mayencourt became known for his 2004 private member’s bill to deter aggressive panhandling, called the Safe Streets Act.

He also chaired the provincial Safe Schools Task Force and introduced the Safe Schools Act in 2005 to combat bullying in the school system. Many gay educators felt the act didn’t go far enough to specifically protect queer students from homophobic harassment in schools.

Mayencourt says more legislation can be expected from the Liberals around harassment and other associated issues.

He has prepared legislation on workplace bullying, he says, and notes that the number one issue in that campaign will be homophobic bullying.

“Homophobia isn’t as bad as it was, but it’s still the number one reason kids are harassed,” he says. “We have to have a way of saying, ‘No, no, no, this is a segment of people who have every right to the education system, as you do.'”

Sullivan says all students are entitled to “a safe and caring [environment] where people can be who they are.”

But he’s not sure if homophobic bullying should be addressed as a stand-alone item or a component within the overall issue.

“I don’t know what the right answer is,” he says. “Is it a specific policy or a general policy?”