Next up in my roundup of gay and lesbian
MPs is NDP MP Philip Toone, whom I caught up with late last week.
Xtra: How did you spend your summer?
Philip Toone: I certainly spent a lot of time in the
riding. We’re just at the point of setting up our riding association up there –
I think it’s going to be a good thing. I started working with the gay and
lesbian group, too, that’s just starting to set up over there, and I think that
we’re going to have a nice relationship. I’m very happy that they’re there. The
main thing for this summer was just trying to make sure that people knew that
we were around. I think there was a really positive reception, because in the
past, the MPs didn’t make their presence known an awful lot in the riding, and
we’ve got a reputation now out there of being a little hyperactive as compared
to the previous administrations. But it’s been well received – the honeymoon
for the NDP is seemingly going strong, and people are receptive, and it’s going
to be a nice four years.
Xtra: What are you looking forward to in the
PT: Next week, the gay caucus in the NDP,
we’re going to meet and talk about what we want to do. I think number one on
the list is going to be the trans bill. That’s one of the priorities. The
economy’s tanking, and that’s going to be the number one issue for most Canadians,
and that’s something we’re going to work really hard on, but when it comes to
gay and lesbian issues, frankly the trans bill has been a long time coming, and
it’s going to be a little challenging yet, because we have a majority
Conservative government, and Conservatives aren’t necessarily the most
open-minded on those sorts of things, but we’re going to have to see where we
are on that. There’s an opening even on the Conservative side, so we have to
make sure that we speak to them and we really push hard, and keeping things
positive is going to help. One thing that we can start to bring up is Monday
was the first day where Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell no longer has any effect in the
United States, and I think that can be a beacon of hope even for Conservatives
here – they can look at that and see it as a positive development.
Xtra: Even though it’s been like that since
1992 in Canada?
PT: That’s right, but even with this in Canada, every
time there’s a positive reinforcement it helps. I think people forget that
we’ve come a long way in Canada and there’s still work to be done. We can see
in the US, it’s still something that’s very important and there’s a lot of work to be done, but when you have politicians over here who are looking at how in
the United States, where they’re even more conservative, that they were able to
get that done, I think it can prove that you can move forward on gay and
lesbian issues here and still hold true to your values, whatever those values
Xtra: In terms of your committee work this
fall, what are you looking forward to there?
PT: I’m the sub on justice, and with the
crime bill coming up and the reform of the Criminal Code, there’s a lot of work
to be done there. The Conservatives are basically going to criminalize every
single activity under the sun, and we really have to put a stop to that. The
other committees that I sit on – Fisheries and Oceans – is something that’s
important to people in my riding, not the least of which is that the UN said
that in 40 years, if we keep going the way we’re going, we’re not going to have
a commercial fishery anywhere in the world. That’s really quite worrisome, and
the underlying question is what are we doing to the planet that in 40 years
we won’t have enough fish to commercially harvest. This is a frightening thing.
That’s something that I’m going to push really hard on – getting Fisheries and
Oceans to actually be responsible for a change and not just politically hand
out quotas left, right and centre to keep a bit of political favour in certain
ridings. As far as the other committees, the other committees that I sit on are
largely administrative, and we’re just trying to keep things civil in the
House. We’ve come a long way already. There’s certain pockets in the House that
keep on bickering, and that’s not very helpful. If we keep a positive atmosphere
– we want to keep Jack’s message alive: there’s hope.
Xtra: Anything else you’re looking forward to
with being in Ottawa?
PT: I found myself an apartment, and I’m
very happy. I think it’s a great thing that when you live in downtown Ottawa,
it’s a very small circuit, so I’ve got to make sure that I branch out. When I
left Ottawa [after growing up here] there was no gay village, so I want to
actually go and find out what this thing looks like. Politically, the thing I
really need to do is I want to meet as many MPs as I possibly can. Getting back
to the trans bill, the way this is going to work is one-on-one. Even the Conservatives
that are open to our values – I want to sit down and see what we can do for them
and they can do for us. That’s my main preoccupation for the fall.