Michael Connolly is only running on a few hours of sleep.
He got home at 4am the night of the historic election. It was a decisive win for the Alberta NDP, who swept the polls to overturn the 44-year Progressive Conservative (PC) political dynasty. And he didn’t get much sleep when he did get home.
“It’s hard to sleep when everything is happening so fast,” Connolly tells Daily Xtra on May 6. “It’s exciting.”
And in the process, Connolly, along with fellow NDP MLA-elect Ricardo Miranda, made their own history as the first of at least two openly LGBT candidates elected to Alberta’s legislature. A third NDP MLA-elect has also been named on social media as being openly LGBT, however that person had not publicly confirmed it or responded to Daily Xtra’s request for comment as of press time.
Connolly has been politically involved for some time. However, for a young NDP member, there weren’t many opportunities to get politically involved in Calgary — at least, not then. So Connolly headed to Ottawa where he studied at the University of Ottawa and volunteered at Member of Parliament Niki Ashton’s office.
When he returned to Calgary, he split his time working on his own campaign and those of Stephanie McLean, MLA-elect for Calgary-Varsity, and Marc Chikinda, who lost to Liberal leader David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View. He was also one of the NDP’s candidates for the federal election in Calgary, a position he resigned from on May 6.
“Earlier in the campaign, I was talking to the organizer in Calgary, Scott Payne, and he told me that there was so much demand for signs and volunteers that I might actually have a chance of winning this thing.” As the campaign went on, he began getting even more positive responses — Connolly says he got many emails from formerly stalwart PC supporters who decided to vote NDP.
Connolly first learned that no LGBT MLAs had ever been elected in Alberta in a Daily Xtra story about Liberal candidate David Khan, who was running in an adjacent Calgary riding, Calgary-Buffalo (Khan lost to NDP candidate Kathleen Ganley).
“I was surprised that there hadn’t been an out LGBT MLA ever elected,” he says. Connolly says that he and Miranda are also the first out LGBT candidates ever elected in Calgary at any level of government. Miranda has yet to respond to Daily Xtra’s request for comment.
Now that Connolly has won, it’s time to think about governing. He has no plans to introduce legislation at this time, but Connolly says that if he can tackle LGBT homelessness and more inclusion of LGBT issues in Alberta’s school curriculum. He’s also in support of updating Alberta’s human rights code to explicitly include gender identity and expression as enumerated grounds of discrimination.