After playing a leading role in the successful fight for same-sex marriage in Canada, Alex Munter is ready to return to local politics. But this time, he wants to be the head honcho.
On Feb 13, Munter, who was one of the country’s first openly gay municipal councillors, announced his candidacy for Ottawa mayor in the November elections.
Munter says he will fight for Ottawa’s queers and for other minority communities.
“Like most LGBT people, I know what it feels like to be excluded and to face people who simply dislike you because of who you are and that’s a very powerful experience. For me, that has led me to really firm convictions about the importance of having a city that is open and welcoming and treasures its diversity.”
Munter, 37, was most recently the national co-ordinator for Canadians For Equal Marriage, after stepping down from regional politics three years ago. He was the only openly gay elected official during his first of four terms in local government and would be Ottawa’s first openly gay mayor.
He has also been teaching at the University Of Ottawa and writing a column in the Ottawa Citizen.
Munter supports both the gay Bank St notion and the creation of a LGBT community centre, but says people will have to get involved.
“That’s the great thing about local government, It’s not government telling communities what to do, it’s communities getting organized and government turning dreams into reality. I see good momentum on both of those projects.”
Munter has been looking forward to the creation of a community centre for more than a decade. “I was there when we started talking about this and I’ve spoken about it, I’ve written about it and I understand why it’s important.”
Munter also says he understands how important Pride is to Ottawa, and says he would like to see it receive more funding through the implementation of a hotel room tax.
“When the Pride festival succeeds, it’s good for Ottawa. And so, when it comes to the Pride Festival and other festivals, the city has an interest in helping make sure they succeed.”
He notes that Pride’s funding problems are part of a bigger problem. The city of Gatineau, one third our size, invests more in festivals than the city of Ottawa does, he explains.
Munter also says he would work to revitalize Ottawa. While he supports increasing residential density in the downtown core, he would like to see more affordable housing as well.
He believes the city needs to aggressively pursue opportunities downtown but needs to ensure that what get developed isn’t “Manhattan on the Rideau,” that what gets developed is a broad range and mix of housing.
And with residential intensification of the downtown core comes more potential for fun in the downtown core, which is usually dead at night. Where does he stand on fun? “I’m pro-fun,” he laughs.
“I think that’s an issue around urban planning, that’s an issue around economic diversity, that’s an issue around having people live downtown because one of the things that makes the downtown lively, vibrant and fun is lots of folks, lots of people.”