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Mike Farnworth’s lucky charm

Port Coquitlam MLA names education, trans health and housing as top concerns

MLA Mike Farnworth (shown here during his NDP leadership campaign) says queer people are moving to his riding so they can own affordable homes, something he says is out of reach in Vancouver. Credit: Janet Rerecich photo

Port Coquitlam incumbent MLA Mike Farnworth has an election campaign good-luck charm. When he’s out canvassing for support, he always goes to the same house first.

“Some hockey players lace up the left skate first,” he says. “I just knock on that door first.”

Farnworth has represented Port Coquitlam off and on since first being elected to the legislature in 1991. He’s feeling confident about his chances of returning to Victoria after the May 14 vote.

“It’s the community I’ve grown up in,” he says in his first-ever interview with Xtra. “Things are going good. I’m campaigning hard.”

Farnworth publicly paid tribute to his partner of two decades, Doug, when he sought the NDP leadership in 2011.

He first took his seat in the legislature in 1991 in Premier Mike Harcourt’s NDP government, after serving several terms on Port Coquitlam council. He was reelected in 1996 but lost his seat in 2001 when the NDP was reduced to two seats in the legislature as the Liberals began their almost 12 years in power, under first Gordon Campbell and now Christy Clark.

During the NDP’s 1997 to 2001 government, led by premiers Glen Clark and Ujjal Dosanjh, Farnworth served in numerous cabinet positions, including health and seniors, municipal affairs and housing, employment and investment, and social development and economic security.

He says issues of interest to all British Columbians — such as health, affordable housing and transportation — are also of interest to the queer community, though he also cites several issues of specific interest to queers.

He points to the NDP’s promise to introduce a provincewide standard for school codes of conduct to ensure that policies exist to “deal effectively” with homophobia and transphobia.

It is a provincewide issue, Farnworth says, and it “will happen if we form government.”

Ensuring whatever policy is passed has some legal teeth to it “may well be nice,” he adds.

But what shape the codes take should be determined in consultation with the public, he says. “We want policy to be effective, not just down on paper.”

Farnworth says it’s also important to ensure that members of the transgender community have their healthcare needs met.

“That’s one of the areas where we can look at making improvements,” he says, noting that as NDP health critic he heard about healthcare needs from the trans community.

“There needs to be a greater awareness around transgendered health issues. It’s been neglected,” he says. “As there’s greater awareness, people want to do more. Education is a key part of the solution.”

Affordable housing is another important issue for many community members, he says. He sees greater numbers of queer people moving to his riding so they can own affordable homes, something he says is out of reach in Vancouver.

New Westminster has seen a similar migration, he notes. He expects the completion of the Evergreen SkyTrain line to the Tri-Cities will make that migration even easier.

Farnworth’s name comes second on the Port Coquitlam ballot, after BC Libertarian candidate Jogender Dahiya. BC Conservative Ryan Hague is third on the list, followed by Liberal Barbara Lu, and Brent Williams of Your Political Party of BC.

Farnworth says he’s seeing more Conservative Party signs than in the past. “It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out on election day,” he says.