11 min

Q & A with the Drive and West End candidates

Six candidates, eight queer questions

Xtra West recently sat down with provincial election candidates to discuss queer issues. Check out the interviews by clicking on one of the links below:

>> Jump to the WEST END Q & A

>> Jump to the DRIVE Q & A


Laura McDiarmid, Liberal

Spencer Herbert, NDP

Drina Read, Green
Why should the gay community vote for you? I have a proven track record of supporting and being there for my gay community, my GLBT community, for over 25 years. I’ve worked in the West End since 1981 and I’ve been a strong advocate for the GLBT community since coming out in 1974. I’ve been an outspoken advocate for the gay community, both here with the recent gaybashings but also in Victoria, pushing for stronger support for our community in schools, in the rentals act, and on St Paul’s as well. I pledge to continue to work my hardest to be open, accessible, visible — and sometimes a little outrageous or flamboyant doing it. I’ve been a member of the community for over 20 years, and actually I’m quite disturbed by all the gaybashings that have been going on lately. The Green Party has always promoted diversity so we’re probably a very good choice for the community because we’ve had the same values for over 25 years since the party was founded in 1983.
Would you lobby BC’s Attorney General to instruct Crown counsel to seek hate crime designations in all gaybashing cases? I will be the voice for, I will be a champion for, our community. I will be the voice inside government explaining to the caucus what they may not be aware of or may not understand. And where there is a conviction of a hate crime, then I will absolutely make sure that that is within caucus, they know that these things have to be challenged to the highest extent of the law. Yes, definitely. If the evidence is there, then absolutely they should prosecute as such. Most definitely, that’s not even a question.
What changes would you make to the Residential Tenancy Act? I have a lot of experience in dealing with acts and regulations. I think there’s gaps in a number of our acts right now that need to be reviewed and the Residential Tenancy Act is one of those. And I would work to do that, to make sure that it’s fair and equitable for all people concerned. We would have, first off, a comprehensive review of the Act to create a better balance between landlords and renters. We need to eliminate the clause that allows for renovictions and put in something like Ontario’s right of first refusal. I think we need to stop cases of geographic area increases where we’ve seen applications for increases of upwards of 70 percent in people’s rents. I’ve been a renter my whole life and I can see that not only are renters not protected, but landlords are not protected. So the Residential Tenancy Act needs to be completely overhauled and there have to be protections for renters and landlords alike. We need to have rent control because right now people are being forced out of the community.
How would you change the curriculum to make schools gay-
I think that people’s ideas about certain groups and certain things happen at a very young age, so I think that it’s important that our education system reflects the ability to have knowledge on all fronts around people from different ethnicities, people from the gay community, even with disability. Murray and Peter Corren, through their legal challenge, they’ve made some forward movement but so far the ministry refuses to say whether or not school districts even have the Human Rights Code in their codes of conduct. We need to make sure that every school has not just a code of conduct stopping homophobia but that in curriculum, throughout the province, groups promoting diversity, teaching about homophobia, about racism, about sexism, have a place. Diversity is so important, not just for the gay community but for all minorities really, so it should be integral. I would also like to see it go even further and have civics classes — when my mother’s generation were going to school, that was a normal part of their education. People need to learn to treat each other with respect on all levels.
Would you lobby the government to maintain funding for queer arts festivals like Out on Screen? I’m a strong supporter of the arts. If I was in government then I would speak to my caucus members. I think that would be far more effective to put someone within the government to work on your behalf. Absolutely. I think in the BC NDP platform we actually pledge to increase support for arts and culture organizations, in both operating but also support for capital, so for theatres, for art galleries, that kind of thing, whereas right now the BC Liberal plan is about a 50 percent cut in support for arts. Yes, of course. And arts in general. There’s just such a lack of funding for everything arts related.
Do you support keeping St Paul’s as a full-service hospital in the West End? You’re asking for yes or no answers and there is no yes or no answer in this one. I strongly support St Paul’s Hospital and I strongly support the need for a hospital within our community. Right now there’s a report that’s being done that’s very inclusive. I think it’s too early to make any comment on that, but I definitely want to see what that report says. All the way. I’ve met with the health minister, I’ve worked closely with the Save St Paul’s Coalition, and I’ve worked with the St Paul’s Foundation. Except for the minister, everybody in our community seems to be in agreement that we do need a hospital in the West End. To close it or to take key programs out and to downgrade it, as the BC Liberals seem to propose, would be the absolute wrong move for our community. I can’t say it forcefully enough. Of course. St Paul’s is integral to the community. Right now it’s just a complete lack of communication on the part of the Health Authority, so what they’re doing is they’re leaving the community in limbo. They need to answer because it’s our community.
What will your government do for BC’s growing population of gay and lesbian seniors? Considering that I am close to that place myself, who better to be a strong advocate for British Columbia’s gay and lesbian seniors? I was part of a group that was going to start a seniors co-op for members of the gay community. Nobody’s talking about that sector of our community and I would absolutely be a champion for their rights. We would pledge to increase the number of long-term care beds by 3,000 beds, but also we need to make sure that there’s proper policies in place to support the inclusion of seniors of all walks of life so that there could be a gay seniors home, or there could be a mixed seniors home where if you’re gay it’s not a big deal and you can continue to be out. First of all we need to deal with housing and social issues. It would be equal for everyone so we wouldn’t target a specific community, but we would like to see 24-hour health care centres that are available for everyone.
What would you do to help The Centre get a new home? Everything I possibly can. I’ve tried over the years to see if we can get a developer to donate a space. I worked with a couple of people, I had a whole program set up, and about a year and a half ago I went to LA to look at the GLBT centre there and I was completely impressed. It’s going to take a lot of work and I think I’ve got the right stuff to assist in making that happen. Certainly we’ve got to help in fundraising, and that’s both fundraising from individuals, corporations, as well as government. We seemed close a little while ago with the municipal government, and I think that’s still a good model to follow, but we need to shake some of the cobwebs off and actually get the real plan enacted and bring the community involved. Certainly from my MLA office we would do whatever we could to continue to support their growth. In the ‘70s, when we did have an NDP government briefly, they set up the neighbourhood houses. We still have Gordon Neighbourhood House right in the heart of the West End. I can see the Green Party looking at something similar that would serve the community.


Jenny Kwan, NDP

John Boychuk, Green

Sherry Wiebe, Liberal
Why should the gay community vote for you? Because I’ve always strongly believed in equal rights for everyone, and ensuring that the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered community [is] afforded the basic human rights and respect in our community. First off, my track record shows over the last five years: when I get involved with something I’m very dedicated. I’m hoping that my background in dealing with different types of situations on a city level, on a provincial level, on a federal level and on an international level has given me some great experience to be able to apply to the people of Mount Pleasant and the things that they need taken care of. Because I represent all diverse groups of people, irrespective of their individual or collective interests.
Would you lobby BC’s Attorney General to instruct Crown counsel to seek hate crime designations in all gaybashing cases? Yes, especially in light of the recent case. You know in a society such as ours there’s just no place for that kind of hate and that kind of cowardly actions, and we need to take the strongest measures to send a message, to say that this is not acceptable in our communities and we’ll not stand for it. You have to remember that gaybashings fall into several different categories: attacks by individuals, attacks by groups of individuals, or incidences that were out of control they end up having individuals attacked. So not all fall within it, but definitely I would lobby to ensure that anything that is deemed as an attack against an individual because of their sexual orientation should be pushed to be a hate crime because that’s exactly what it is. I’m a lawyer and in fact have been an immigration judge, and so there’s a question about whether or not that would be an appropriate thing to do, but certainly, in appropriate circumstances, I’d certainly look at the issue.
What changes would you make to the Residential Tenancy Act? I have a long list! But I will start with the one that I’ve been working on in the last while, and that is to close the loophole in the Residential Tenancy Act for landlords to use renovations as a means to kick out tenants so that they can jack up the rent. British Columbia can close that loophole by ensuring that tenants have the first right of refusal to go back to the units that have been renovated at the same rental rate that they have been paying. We know that the Mount Pleasant area is going to be one of the next areas where the population is going to see an explosion. We have to have to have better incentives for more moderate rental units, not high-priced rental units. We also need to ensure that with the current situation with the Residential Tenancy Act, that people don’t start being evicted, not just because of the Olympics, but because of redevelopment or just because buildings require upgrades or landlords wanting to be greedy. I am actually a tenant, and I have represented tenants in connection with or under the Residential Tenancy Act, so I’m certainly aware [of] the various provisions under it. It’s a pretty broad question to ask if there are any specific changes. As a politician, those are areas I would actually want to consult and speak with my constituents to see what they are interested in and concerned about.
How would you change the curriculum to make schools gay-
Well, that was something that we actually did when we were in government with the NDP, and that is to really introduce educational materials that talked about the different kinds of families. One of the things that I think is very important is a public education around respecting each other, accepting each other, celebrating each other. If you can do that with children at a young age, they will bring that attitude as they grow up to other places. Well there are certain programs that have proven to work quite well. For instance, the work that Out On Screen has done, and their outreach to the schools has been very positive in its acceptance as well as its educational value. So I think that it’s important that we continue to look at these types of programs. I think that tolerance is a very important value that we ought to be teaching at home and in school. In terms of specific changes to the curriculum, I think that one of the best things to do, and it doesn’t have to do with the change in curriculum, is to ensure that we have a strong and sound policies with regard to respect in schools. That we teach tolerance generally.
Would you lobby the government to maintain funding for queer arts festivals like Out on Screen?


Oh, absolutely. It is not only educational; it’s just enjoyable, too. The films are fabulous. Absolutely, I would support that. Absolutely. The value behind these programs, and their long-term result, you can’t measure. So we must ensure consistency and strengthening these programs at the same time. I’m aware of them, actually. To the extent that I would be lobbying, I would certainly be working within government to represent the interests of my constituents in that way.
Do you support keeping St Paul’s as a full-service hospital in the West End? I do. I also think that if the government’s looking at developing a new facility, then it’s going to be supporting St Paul’s with what they’re doing. Absolutely. When we take a look at the size of the population of the downtown peninsula and the future growth of the Mount Pleasant area, yes an additional facility is going to be required at some point in time. So I think we should be looking at better care, more centralized care, but at the same time don’t take away what is already a vital service to the downtown peninsula. I am supportive of ensuring that we have got adequate and more than adequate health services that are available in all aspects of the city. Certainly I’d want to look at what services are available and what healthcare services are necessary in this constituency as well, that would also be available or serve the larger community.
What will your government do for BC’s growing population of gay and lesbian seniors? I think affordable housing is very central for people, and that’s really across all communities, but certainly for people who are seniors. And to engender an environment where people feel that they belong and they are welcome. And also the recognition of gay couples and partners, and all the rights that should be afforded to them. One of the party policies in the Green Book is caring for one another. We have to ensure whether it’s young or old that we provide citizens with a livable income, that we provide them with improved healthcare, and that we are able to keep a roof over every single person’s head. We would do for the gay and lesbian senior population the same thing that we would do for all other persons. I don’t see that catering to the needs of a population of diverse persons that are now in seniors’ residence should preclude there being services delivered to whatever the gender or sexual orientation of the persons who are residents in that facility.
What would you do to help The Centre get a new home? I would simply work with the community, to ask them what is the space that you are looking for and what does your space look like to you that best serves the community, and then we’ll work together to identify the financial resources that are necessary in order to get The Centre developed, recognizing of course that The Centre benefits everyone in British Columbia. I would work with them to identify the site locations and work towards accessing the funding that is required to get The Centre built. It’s time for these roadblocks to come down, for the government to realize the importance of the GLBT community and The Centre and what it does and to work with them in finding the land, getting that endowment fund created, and then removing the roadblocks and working with developers to create that Centre, and to have ground broken within one year. I’ll tell you quite honestly, this is something the residents of Mount Pleasant may have some position on and some perspective, and I would do some consultation with them. Certainly to the extent that I could assist and be more informed about it, I would certainly be prepared to hear what the proposals were and to listen carefully.

West End Q&A by Patty Comeau, Drive Q & A by Heba Elasaad.