“Are you gay?” Nicholas Simons was knocking on doors in his riding when a burly man confronted him on a doorstep.
“What’s the issue you’re concerned about?” Simons asked.
The man repeated himself: “Are you gay? Because I don’t agree with this same-sex marriage stuff.”
Simons smiled and breathed a quiet sigh of relief. “Well then, it’s a good thing that’s a federal issue.”
Most people, he says, don’t have a problem with the fact that he’s gay. This “is a riding of right-wing reactionaries who don’t care,” the Powell River-Sunshine Coast NDP candidate laughs.
“I think we’re beyond that,” he continues. “It wasn’t even an incident. This guy was just communicating in his gruff way.”
In the last federal election, Simons ran for the NDP in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast riding and garnered 22 percent of the vote. That was his first run for office.
“I thought either I can criticize politicians who don’t represent me or I can say, ‘I’ll go out and try to represent our views.’ You have to stand up because if you don’t, who will?” he asks.
“People should elect politicians who are a part of their community, not figureheads who are in it to promote their own interests,” he continues. “The Liberal government feeds on confrontation. It boggles my mind in a day and time when homelessness has tripled, child poverty is high, and the health care system is in disarray that we have sanctimonious leaders who find issues to divide us.”
Simons is passionate about child welfare and says he feels sickened by government cutbacks. He believes strong social services are the solution.
Youthquest, for example, needs more funding “so it’s available to the isolated youth in this province,” he says.
As for education, “Every teacher qualified to teach should know the importance of teaching diversity and respect. I don’t think the school board should get in the way of teachers who want to teach mutual understanding and acceptance.
“I think about the kids who kill themselves because they think they’re gay, or the families who worry when their children come out,” he adds. “My job as a politician is to bring community together and find common solutions.”
His career spans more than 15 years in the areas of health, justice, social services and child welfare. For seven years, Simons served as the Director of Health and Social Development for the Sechelt Nation; now he’s the director of Child and Family Services.
He grew up in Montreal, finished his undergrad in Criminology in Ottawa, and then earned a Masters degree in Criminology at SFU. He plays the cello professionally. His grandfather was a lay-preacher and active in the CCF party.
Today, Simons lives in Gibsons with five chickens and a rooster. His partner, Scott, has a horse. “He’s more of a farm person than I am,” Simons chuckles. “We have a tiny bit of property and a vegetable garden.”
They found the rooster one day abandoned in the woods. “After some negotiation, Scott said we could take the rooster.” They named him Scrappy.
“He pecked Scott today and drew blood. He has a bit of a temper but we can put up with him. He had no home.”
Someone donated two older hens to keep Scrappy company and then they acquired three younger ones. Simons was excited to discover their first egg just a few weeks ago. “It’s nice to have your own eggs-or in this case, egg,” he laughs. “We’ll share.”