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5 min

Running in Olivia’s shadow

Two queer candidates vie for Ward 20

Helen Kennedy

In Toronto’s upcoming municipal elections there are few uncertainties. Most current councillors are running for reelection; most will be elected again.

But Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina, which encompasses the club district, Chinatown, much of the waterfront development, the University Of Toronto and the Annex, is one of the few races in the city where a new representative is guaranteed. Former councillor Olivia Chow is off in Ottawa as an NDP MP.

The front-runners, based on their already-existing public profiles, are Helen Kennedy and Adam Vaughan.

Kennedy was Chow’s executive assistant for seven years, and as such was the face of council for many area residents in their dealings with City Hall. Kennedy is also an experienced queer activist and a member of the Amazons, a queer women’s motorcycle club. She won the NDP nomination for the seat in a bruising nomination battle with Tam Goosen, former head of the Urban Alliance On Race Relations, a battle which may have cost her some support.

Vaughan has the name recognition that comes with being a long-time City Hall reporter for CBC and CityTV, even though he is a neophyte to political office. He is also the son of the late Colin Vaughan, a former city councillor.

Also running in the ward are Desmond Cole, one of the City Idol winners, openly gay candidate Chris Ouellette, Doug Lowry and Joseph Tuan. Candidate Devendra Sharma did not return a request for an interview and Carmin Priolo provided no contact information.

Helen Kennedy

What are the major issues affecting queers in Trinity-Spadina and the city?

The police and sensitivity training and accountability. There needs to be much better training for the police in queer issues. We need more funding for our youth programs. Agencies like Supporting Our Youth are tremendous.

We have U of T in our ward. I recently spoke to a trans man there. He’s having tremendous problems with transphobia. What are we doing to educate people? We just recently, before I left City Hall, got gender-neutral washrooms.

What are the major issues for Trinity-Spadina in general?

Garbage is huge and public transit. People want more money put into infrastructure. People are talking about incineration versus landfill. I don’t think incineration is the way to go. If you’ve got an incinerator you need to feed it, then you have to dispose of the ash. We need to stop garbage at the source. Now that we have a new landfill, we can’t get complacent.

Why should queer voters in Trinity-Spadina vote for you?

I’m the best candidate for the position. I’m not so naive as to think that just because I’m a dyke, other dykes will vote for me. I have a proven track record. Council is dominated by white men. I fit the categories: woman and minority. I can’t believe that I’m the first out dyke to, hopefully, get elected.

Adam Vaughan

What are the major issues affecting queers in Trinity-Spadina and the city?

The most significant issue on the horizon is respect for human rights and the backlash from Parliament. We all have to line up together. If you don’t defend the rights you’ve won, all your rights will be taken away.

City Hall hasn’t had a very progressive agenda in the last three years. We have to make sure the city’s hiring practices are open and nondiscriminatory. We need a better complaint process initiated at the police.

In Trinity-Spadina, the issue has to do with the livability and affordability of our neighbourhoods. People who are marginalized tend to have difficulty finding housing. People who are on the street and gay and lesbian [people] are vulnerable.

As the housing market tightens up and gays and lesbians have kids, the lack of family housing is a serious problem.

What are the major issues for Trinity-Spadina in general?

It’s about sustaining families, it’s about sustaining streets that are safe. For parents with kids, it’s about making sure downtown schools are open. You start cutting schools downtown and you’ve got an American city. Schools disappear and the middle class goes with them. Without the middle class, you’ve got no tax base.

Why should queer voters in Trinity-Spadina vote for you?

It sounds a little strange, when I’m running against an out lesbian candidate. But I’ll fight to make sure our equity agenda doesn’t fall by the wayside. The lives that gays and lesbians lead are much more complex than just their sexual identity. Some issues may not overtly seem to be part of gay and lesbian lives, but it all dovetails.

Chris Ouellette

What are the major issues affecting queers in Trinity-Spadina and the city?

I have two commitments. We really need to upgrade what our school board calls our sex education component. The municipality of Toronto works hand in hand with the school board.

Hate crimes in general are highly underreported. A lot of that is because people feel frightened or that they won’t be taken seriously, or they’re frightened by the people they’re reporting to.

What are the major issues for Trinity-Spadina in general?

We’re expecting a lot more people and a lot of those are moving into Trinity-Spadina. To date, I don’t think council has been able to guide development in a way that protects families and children.

Why should queer voters in Trinity-Spadina vote for you?

I’m a gay candidate so I probably understand the issues affecting gays and lesbians better than a candidate who isn’t.

Desmond Cole

What are the major issues affecting queers in Trinity-Spadina and the city?

Homelessness among queer youth is a growing concern, both in this ward and across the city. According to research, 25 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LBGT [lesbian, bisexual, gay, trans].

Queer families need to continue to get support from our city. The Family Services Association Of Toronto’s LGBT Parenting Network does great work.

What are the major issues for Trinity-Spadina in general?

Affordable housing and stable rent, garbage diversion, services for new immigrants and development — ensuring developers consider the many visual, social and economic conditions that they affect.

Why should queer voters in Trinity-Spadina vote for you?

At City Hall, I would be a strong voice for inclusion and acceptance as well as a thoughtful problem-solver. My passion for good governance and thoughtful change in our city will elevate the quality of life in Toronto.

Joseph Tuan

What are the major issues affecting queers in Trinity-Spadina and the city?

We should all have the same equal rights. It does not matter who you love or sleep with at night. I know what you go through with prejudice growing up. Does that answer your question? I do not know much about your issues. If I knew more, I could say more.

Why should queer voters in Trinity-Spadina vote for you?

I don’t think it matters what my sexual preference is. I shouldn’t have to say it.

Doug Lowry

What are the major issues affecting queers in Trinity-Spadina and the city?

Years ago, when George Hislop ran, homophobia was an issue. Now over the years, there’s been a change. Many large corpora-tions have changed. The main issues are the same as everyone else: good roads, that the city works. It’s a broader issue. It’s a service issue.

Why should queer voters in Trinity-Spadina vote for you?

If you think you should have a much more activist politician on issues, then maybe you shouldn’t. I give to the AIDS Committee Of Toronto. I’m a subscriber to the National Ballet. When you look at dance, you don’t care if they’re gay, you only care if they dance well.