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6 min

Ontario’s political leaders speak about queer issues

How do they stand up?

Xtra spoke to the province’s political party leaders to see where they stand on queer issues. Their responses (and non-responses) are below:

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Frank de Jong, Green

How do you reconcile that freedom from discrimination on the bases of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability are all explicitly protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code, while gender identity is not?

Obviously I don’t. It’s not reconcilable. We must also protect gender identity under the Ontario Human Rights Code. It’s a huge embarrassment that we have not done so so far. That would be a first order of business of the Green Party.

Ontario delisted sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in 1988. What would you say to a voter who needs to undergo SRS but who can’t get the care they need in Ontario and can’t get funding from OHIP to seek it elsewhere?

I would say that the Green Party considers sex reassignment surgeries to be integral to human health and it should be fully funded.

How would your government address homophobia in schools and make queer children safe in all Ontario schools, public, private and separate?

Not only is homophobia on the decline but homosexuality is also on the upswing. It’s cool. I think teachers in the school board and the curriculum should do everything they can to demystify homosexuality and school boards should be proactive in making sure that gay, lesbian, bisexual lifestyles are included and treated as normal.

What is your party’s provincial HIV strategy?

De Jong declined to answer saying that he needed to get back to us. In an email follow-up he wrote:

“The GPO [Green Party of Ontario] will provide funding for medical expenses under OHIP and legislate compensation to those affected by HIV.”

What will your government do to provide services for Ontario’s growing population of queer senior citizens?

De Jong declined to answer saying that he needed to get back to us. In an email follow-up he wrote:

“The Green Party of Ontario will… proactively ensure that senior queer couples are treated equally in seniors centres and seniors homes.”

Why should a queer person vote for your party?

We have been completely clear that we are gay-positive and inclusive of all lifestyles and all sexual lifestyles. This is the first international party that has been upfront from the beginning in being progressive in these issues.

Xtra readers recently voted Queen’s Park the best place to have sex in public in Toronto and Xtra has made a plaque to honour this distinction. As premier, would you display it outside the legislature?

No, I don’t think so. That’s going a bit too far.

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Howard Hampton, NDP

How do you reconcile that freedom from discrimination on the bases of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability are all explicitly protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code, while gender identity is not?

I don’t think you can exclude one and include the others. That’s why one of our MPPs, Cheri DiNovo, introduced Tobey’s Act, which is about the right to be free from discrimination because of gender identity and all New Democrats support it.

Ontario delisted sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in 1988. What would you say to a voter who needs to undergo SRS but who can’t get the care they need in Ontario and can’t get funding from OHIP to seek it elsewhere?

The law needs to be changed in Ontario, which is something the McGuinty government promised to do but a promise they failed to keep. If Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec can include this in their health insurance plans, then Ontario can and should.

How would your government address homophobia in schools and make queer children safe in all Ontario schools, public, private and separate?

I think the first principle is all students and their families should feel safe in their schools and communities, and I think the responsibility of the Ministry of Education is to provide the information and curriculum guides and encourage boards to move forward on this and support those school boards that are saying, “Yes we need this.”

What is your party’s provincial HIV strategy?

One aspect is individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS and sometimes cannot work. For a short time that means Employment Insurance but in the long-term that means ODSP [Ontario Disability Support Program] benefits, and no one can live on ODSP. ODSP benefits need to increase to cover the cost of living so people can live.

What will your government do to provide services for Ontario’s growing population of queer senior citizens?

Long-term care is a big issue. We believe in the principle of publicly funded and properly administered long-term care homes. Where there’s a need we need to assess that need and meet that need and that includes for lesbian and gay individuals.

Why should a queer person vote for your party?

We live in a wealthy province but that wealth is not distributed fairly or equitably. People who are genuinely concerned about the distribution of equality, the rights of all not just the rights of some, those are the issues New Democrats care about and dedicate ourselves to, even when they’re not popular.

Xtra readers recently voted Queen’s Park the best place to have sex in public in Toronto and Xtra has made a plaque to honour this distinction. As premier, would you display it outside the legislature?

That would be an interesting plaque. Let me put it this way, I’d certainly want to see the plaque. Whether it deserves a place in the legislature or the park outside I’d have to look at, but I’d want to see the plaque first.

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John Tory, Progressive Conservative

How do you reconcile that freedom from discrimination on the bases of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability are all explicitly protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code, while gender identity is not?

I sat down and met with the people from the transsexual organizations and have had this discussion with them and said I was open to further discussion. Even the tribunals have said that it’s not as clear as your question suggests.

Ontario delisted sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in 1988. What would you say to a voter who needs to undergo SRS but who can’t get the care they need in Ontario and can’t get funding from OHIP to seek it elsewhere?

This is something I’m willing to take under active advisement. [Trans activists] been in to visit me and gone through the explanations with me regarding the small number of people who actually go through the very extensive project of going through the surgery.

How would your government address homophobia in schools and make queer children safe in all Ontario schools, public, private and separate?

I think we have to work to educate people and discuss what we are teaching to our children about difference. It’s understanding that we’re only going to build a strong and cohesive society in Ontario if we accept that we’re all in this together. Part of it falls on the schools and teachers in the classroom and part falls on all of us.

What is your party’s provincial HIV strategy?

We have not seen a specific reason to differ from the program of the present government. I’m receptive to people coming to me but I haven’t had anybody come into my office to recommend to me things to do. I think there is nothing more important that we can do than fight as effectively as we can both the cases we have and prevent more cases.

What will your government do to provide services for Ontario’s growing population of queer senior citizens?

Much of what I believe the queer senior citizen population would look for is protection from soaring taxes forcing them out of their homes… I have not had any organizations in with me to articulate any concerns, but if there are people who want to come to me, I’d be open to it.

Why should a queer person vote for your party?

I’ve been a person marching at the front of the parade, ensuring that human rights are enshrined and advanced and protected. I think if people look at my track record, the way I’ve led the party, that I will be not just a spokesperson but a powerful spokesperson.

Xtra readers recently voted Queen’s Park the best place to have sex in public in Toronto and Xtra has made a plaque to honour this distinction. As premier, would you display it outside the legislature?

I don’t think so. I don’t think it is something that I would like to see on the seat of government. There’s a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t put up in Queen’s Park, in a park that has a memorial to the veterans of war.

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Dalton McGuinty, Liberal

Dalton McGuinty would not speak with Xtra before press time. A spokesperson at the premier’s office said McGuinty’s duties as premier and his need to take vacation time with his family before the launch of the official election campaign made it impossible for him to spend 10 minutes speaking to the 100,000-plus queer readers of Xtra, Capital Xtra and Xtra.ca.

Xtra requested a written statement from the premier’s office about why he wouldn’t speak to our readers. He didn’t explain his refusal to participate. The statement read in part:

“We’ve improved our public services and we’ve done that by working together with all Ontarians, including those from our gay and lesbian communities.

“I’m proud of the fact that George Smitherman is Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Health Minister, and I’m proud that Kathleen Wynne has strengthened our schools as Ontario’s Education Minister. Both have been a strong voice in my government for Ontario’s gay and lesbian community.

“Together, we moved early in our mandate to pass legislation that allows gays and lesbians to recognize their love through marriage.”