3 min

My kind of MLA

Does more than just parrot the party line

Credit: Xtra West files

I’ll tell you who I’m not voting for on May 17. Lorne Mayencourt. I’m sorry, Lorne. I just can’t.

I’ve read and re-read your answers on page 12 of this issue and though some of them sound pretty good, my gut says otherwise.

My gut says you spend more time parroting the party line, and angling for cheap tough-on-crime points, than you do lobbying for your constituents’ needs in the legislature.

And that’s not the kind of representative I want in Victoria.

I want an MLA who fights for my needs, even when that fight is a losing battle. I want someone I can count on to stand up to his caucus and say, ‘No! My gay constituents won’t stand for that.’

I don’t want an MLA who listens to my needs only long enough to justify his party’s point of view.

I don’t want an MLA who reassures me, for example, that his party already increases its funding to HIV/AIDS groups each year, when those same struggling groups say the increases don’t even keep pace with inflation.

Nor do I want an MLA who sits quietly by while his party cuts funding to essential services across the province, then capitalizes on his constituents’ discomfort with the resulting surge in street people.

I want an MLA who will thoroughly research his constituents’ concerns, bring his findings to caucus and demand action.

I want an MLA who sees himself as a representative of the people who elected him, not the party he sits with.

I want someone like Tim Stevenson.

Every time I turn around, Tim is standing up for the gay community in city council. Whether he’s buying the Pride Society a little extra time and a gentler debt repayment schedule; or asking staff for an immediate stop work order in the face of a perceived threat to Davie Village nightlife; or convincing council to give The Centre $100,000 for a feasibility study on a new building-Tim gets things done for us at 12th and Cambie.

He doesn’t tell us why the mayor is opposed to what we want, or what great things the mayor is doing instead; he simply lobbies the mayor on our behalf.

Granted, city council is a lot smaller and less complex than the BC legislature.

And to be fair, Lorne was instrumental in restoring funding for Youthquest. And some of his gay constituents really seem to like him and appreciate his initiatives.

And maybe Lorne has been doing his best and we just don’t see everything that happens behind the scenes.

Maybe. But that doesn’t ease the disappointment over his Safe Schools Task Force. He said his task force would tackle homophobia in schools across the province; it didn’t even directly address it in its recommendations.

Of course, he did draft his new Safe Schools Act, just four months before the election.

And to his credit, its latest draft would have actually plugged an important hole. It would have required all school boards across BC to implement codes of conduct and add sections specifically prohibiting harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity-something gay education activists have been demanding for years.

Even that almost didn’t happen, though.

Lorne’s initial press release announcing the bill made no mention of mandatory codes of conduct. It just said codes of conduct must specifically prohibit homophobic harassment.

Critics promptly protested that the Safe Schools Act wouldn’t make districts without existing codes any safer. And it wouldn’t do enough to address the underlying culture which accepts homophobia in school. It’s just a belated bid for re-election, they charged.

Lorne could have acknowledged their concerns, reached out to them, consulted them and re-tooled the bill. He could have worked with them to draft the best possible Safe Schools Act.

He could have finally become the kind of MLA I want to have.

He didn’t. Instead, it seems he just quietly changed the bill-while publicly insisting it made codes mandatory all along-and plowed ahead.

Then he blamed his gay critics when the bill didn’t get anywhere in the legislature.

Now he says he’ll re-introduce the bill if we send him back to Victoria.

Sorry, Lorne. I just don’t think I can count on you.

Robin Perelle is Managing Editor for Xtra.