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Queer candidates feature in provincial by-elections set for Oct 29


Vancouver voters will be going to the polls for the third time this fall after Premier Gordon Campbell announced by-elections for Vancouver-Burrard and Vancouver-Fairview to be held Oct 29.

The federal election is Oct 14 and the municipal vote takes place Nov 15.

The by-elections are to replace queer Vancouver-Burrard MLA Lorne Mayencourt who is now an MP-hopeful for the federal Conservatives in the Vancouver Centre riding, and Gregor Robertson who is running for mayor under the Vision Vancouver banner.

The NDP is running queer candidates in both ridings.

Current parks board commissioner Spencer Herbert, who’s seeking the Vancouver-Burrard seat, says Campbell may be banking on people staying away from the polls because of voter fatigue to get Liberals in the vacant seats.

Herbert will be facing off against former Canucks owner Arthur Griffiths, the Liberal candidate in the riding.

Herbert is critical of the wealthy Griffiths, saying the Liberals are out of touch with common folks who have to deal with rental and housing and social issues in the riding.

Griffiths, however, has moved downtown and says he’s been meeting with people around the riding. He says he’s hearing people want action on the rental crisis, seniors issues such as affordability and safety, as well as the pressing need for help for the homeless and addicted.

As for the timing of the vote, Griffiths doesn’t see any other agenda in play other than the fact that people want their ridings represented.

Meanwhile, the NDP is fielding queer candidate Jenn McGinn against Liberal Margaret McDiarmid in the Vancouver-Fairview riding.

McGinn is the former executive director of the South Granville Seniors Centre and now works in business banking for VanCity —both positions that have helped inform her on the issues, she says.

She says the building of the Canada Line along the Cambie corridor has hurt dozens of small businesses in the neighbourhood with no relief from the Campbell Liberals.

McGinn also says seniors are hurting from cuts to health services as well as the lack of affordable housing.

And they’re all issues that affect the queer community she says.

If elected, McGinn would be the first out lesbian in the BC Legislature.

She too is critical of the timing of the vote, calling it “undemocratic” and says she believes Campbell is trying to bury the by-election between the other elections.

“It speaks to the fact that Gordon Campbell is scared. He’s worried about the message he’s going to get on Oct 29,” McGinn says.

McDiarmid, the former president of the BC Medical Association, says people are becoming confused about the elections and the issues but says Campbell’s choice was now, Christmas or January. “I think this is probably the least bad time,” she says.

She says homelessness, mental health and addiction, the environment and the economy are the main issues people are bringing up as she canvasses in the riding.

McDiarmid says her work as a doctor always comes up. But, she adds, after her own breast cancer diagnosis last year, she’s also seen the system from the other side.

“I really look forward to participating in policy and debate around health care,” she says.