Capital Xtra sat down with four candidates aiming to win the provincial riding of Ottawa Centre in next month’s election. Check out what they had to say about queer issues.
Will you lobby to re-list sex reassignment surgery (SRS) as a covered procedure under OHIP?
GREG LAXTON, GREEN: Yes.
WILL MURRAY, NDP: That is very clearly the position of the NDP and it’s certainly one that I support. You have to wonder why it hasn’t been listed. We’re not taking about a lot of money.
YASIR NAQVI, LIBERAL: It’s something that I would seriously have to look into. It’s a serious issue that it’s not listed right now. What I want to is to sit down further with the [queer] community, get a good assessment of what is needed.
TRINA MORISSETTE, PC: SRS is something that is absolutely worth looking into. John Tory as spoken in this issue, and he says it’s something worth looking into. It’s something we should discuss.
Will you lobby the province to make mandatory crack pipe programs (or other harm reduction strategies like safe injection sites) in the province’s largest cities?
LAXTON: My view is that harm reduction programs through crack pipe distribution in our major centres as well as other programs to bring assistance to people who are addicted to crack.
MURRAY: I know we would do everything we could, whether in government or in opposition. It’s a health issue, it shouldn’t be a political football. It’s hard to believe that in my city something that just makes sense from a health perspective hasn’t been allowed to continue.
NAQVI: We need to seriously look at harm reduction programs. The crack pipe program: it’s an unfortunate the decision that was taken. One of the things we need in this city is a rehab facility. Harm reduction and treatment should go hand in hand.
MORISSETTE: I think that the City Of Ottawa has taken a good position on this. We really need to make the drug centres accessible to them. Drug addicts are all over, pushing in Ottawa Centre. We have elderly people that can’t walk to the store without running into needles, our children are going to school and finding needles on the ground. That’s a huge problem.
Clients of Ottawa’s sole sexual health clinic face four-hour waits at the drop-in and a month-long wait for appointments. Will you lobby to build two more sexual health clinics in Ottawa to promote access to anonymous HIV/AIDS testing?
LAXTON: The funding for additional clinics, if the city felt that they were needed, would come from surplus funds that the city would likely have in its budget if we were to put the burden of costs of transit and social housing at the provincial level where it was.
MURRAY: If people are more likely to get tested for HIV anonymously, we’ve got to work out how to get that done.
NAQVI: This is where I think community health centres are good, instead of reinventing the wheel. They already have programs established. I’d have to look into it, in terms of what the barriers might be to anonymous HIV testing, because it is important in some cases.
MORISSETTE: I think it’s a good example of, generally, the health care system. We need to improve access to these services. Although Dalton McGuinty promised to have more doctors available to Ontario citizens, the number of people who are waiting for a family doctor has increased.
Will you lobby to add gender identity and gender expression for protection in the human rights code?
LAXTON: Yes. The Green Party has been consistently a strong advocate for queer people. We were first federal party to have an openly gay leader in the 1990s. So our track record speaks for itself.
MURRAY: Yes. I believe that’s Toby’s Bill, which Cheri DeNovo introduced [in Mar 2007]. That’s NDP policy. If the Liberals were genuine in their support of lesbian and gay issues, why do the NDP have to fight? Why isn’t this law?
NAQVI: These are the kinds of things we should have. For me, equality is not about shades of grey. It’s a black and white issue. Either you’re treating everybody equally, or you’re not.
MORISSETTE: I think that anything that deals with discrimination should be addressed; however we do have strong protection in the human rights code. But of course, if there’s something that should be looked at, whether its that or any other issue…
What will your government do to make long-term care facilities gay-friendly and gay-sex friendly?
LAXTON: Institutionalized care is not always the best alternative for most people. Not all people who are old need to be full-time in an institution, but unfortunately our system is so crude it only characterizes people as well or not well. What the Green Party is proposing is funding that would allow people to stay in their homes longer.
MURRAY: One of the issues that’s important in this riding is not just having a village, but having a community centre and one would expect that, as boomers are aging, they would also have seniors care. That’s something I’d like to help get behind.
NAQVI: First of all, we need to look after our aging population, so we need to invest in public health care. Then more importantly we need to work for the special needs for [queer] seniors. We need to make sure in terms of long-term care, in terms of home care that they get the same services necessary to ensure that their lifestyle is maintained.
MORISSETTE: It’s all about education. It is not just this or that, it’s the same for any institution. We have to educate people, we have to encourage people to learn more about the community.
Are you in favour of uploading public health, day care, social housing and assistance, and ambulance services from the municipal governments back to the province?
LAXTON: I would advocate a reversal of the Harris-Tory program in the late 1990s. The costs were obviously downloaded as an attempt to overburden the largest cities, namely Toronto, with unfair public housing and transportation costs.
MURRAY: The NDP program for uploading the download, it’s been announced. In terms of the deal the city’s getting — transportation, for example — we’re undertaking to pay half of those costs. There’s no reason our cities are paying for disability cheques or the drugs associated with them.
NAQVI: Absolutely. Premier McGuinty has made that promise. Almost a billion dollars was announced in terms of uploading the disability support program and the drug support program. That is already law. That’s not a campaign commitment.
MORISSETTE: Municipalities are cash-strapped. There’s no question. McGuinty is preparing a report that is going to be released after the election. We don’t have time. We need need to act on this now. John Tory has said he will ask the report to be prepared immediately, so we can act on it [for the 2008 budget].
Municipal governments are looking at downloading social service delivery to the not-for-profit sector and churches. What would a government led by your party do to make sure that those organizations are accountable and keeping their beliefs out of service delivery?
LAXTON: We’ve returned to a social assistance system that was in place before the rise of the welfare state in the 1930s and ’40s. The Green Party would try to see to it that the government takes responsibility for the funding and distribution of these services and partnerships would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
MURRAY: My position is that, unlike when I was growing up, today the social safety net is in tatters. We shouldn’t be relying on charities for basic human rights. Mike Harris broke a lot of these systems. McGuinty promised to fix it. He broke that promise.
NAQVI: I’m a believer in collaboration. Agencies mean well, they do great work — the Salvation Army, the United Way, the Mission. Sometimes you need oversight. There are other options like making sure that other related agencies are funded. If there are agencies that provide services to the [queer] community, then we need to make sure they are funded as well.
MORISSETTE: When it comes to those sorts of services, it’s not just about government, it’s about the community. The community has to want to get involved, it has to want to do this. It is through community initiatives that we’ll get things done.