It should come as no surprise that I’m voting for Vision Vancouver on Nov 15.
Since the party’s election six years ago, Mayor Gregor Robertson and his caucus have welcomed the gay community and given us not only unprecedented access to city hall, but numerous opportunities to shape policy direction.
Take the West End community plan. Unanimously supported by Vision councillors last November, it contains so much recognition of the gay community’s presence and its historical and cultural connection to the Davie Village that it’s almost embarrassing.
Just six lines into its contextual introduction, the plan acknowledges the Davie Village as “traditionally a hub for the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.” References to the Village as a gay hub and promises to enhance and strengthen its “unique community identity” and “vitality” are sprinkled liberally throughout the plan, including its policy sections. The contrast between the new plan and its predecessor — which never even mentioned the word gay — is remarkable.
What a difference a quarter century, a stronger political voice and a seat at a sympathetic decision-making table can make.
Less than a year into its first term, Vision created an LGBTQ advisory committee specifically dedicated to our issues, to ensure that our voices would be heard in the corridors of power.
Since then, Vancouver’s city council has granted our Pride parade civic status, promised to find and help fund (through community amenity contributions) a space for a new queer community centre, raised the rainbow flag each year, and officially launched Pride Week on the steps of city hall, while the Vision-led school and parks boards have each passed policies to make their jurisdictions significantly more welcoming to trans people.
It can be easy to criticize a party that’s been in power for two terms, and it’s our duty to question policy when problems such as affordability continue to pose staggering challenges to our city and many of our lives. But it would be a grave error to take for granted the new level of access and support we’ve received in the last six years under Vision.
Let’s not forget that — despite mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe’s baffling claim to the contrary — the previously dominant Non-Partisan Association (NPA) was generally unresponsive to our community’s needs and ignored our requests for an advisory committee to help communicate those needs.
To be fair, I know very little about LaPointe. He, too, says he would be inclusive and celebrate diversity. He, too, says he would champion dedicated community space and Davie Village improvements. But he also maintains that some of Vision’s queer accomplishments “happened under NPA recognition,” which doesn’t match my recollection of the municipal progress I’ve studied and covered for the last 13 years.
It’s not that I think any one party should dominate without dissent and healthy opposition. I don’t need a Vision sweep, but I would certainly celebrate a significant win. That’s why I’m voting for Mayor Gregor Robertson, Councillor Tim Stevenson — who has been a consistent voice for the gay community since he first ran for political office as an openly gay man in 1996 — queer parks commissioner Trevor Loke and all their Vision colleagues for council, school and parks boards this election.
In addition to Vision’s seven school-board candidates, I’m voting for Jane Bouey, who was instrumental in passing the board’s groundbreaking anti-homophobia policy in 2004 and has been a strong advocate ever since, and Green Party candidate Mischa Oak, who I believe will bring a fresh voice to changing school culture to genuinely embrace diversity, rather than simply squashing homophobic behaviour without presenting positive alternatives.
Whether you support my choices or emphatically disagree, I hope you’ll vote on Nov 15.