3 min

Stampede of fear

NDP wins West End gay vote

Credit: Xtra West files

I cannot let this election go without a few final notes and observations:

• At first blush (and confirmed in informal discussions with a Hedy Fry insider), it seems West End gays voted mainly NDP this election. Fry has the support of high-profile drag queens, but her popularity with rank-and-file gay voters is clearly wearing thin;

• If the election had been held two weeks earlier, Kennedy Stewart might well have taken Vancouver Centre for the NDP-for the first time since 1948. Internal NDP polls back that up and the Liberals refused to release their own internal polls to media. NDP insiders say Paul Martin effectively reached into this riding with his cynical plea to NDP voters to switch to the Liberals and put a strategic stop to Conservative chances. Ironic really. Voting tallies put gay Conservative Gary Mitchell so far behind that if NDP supporters had stayed with their first choice, they might have been able to stop both Mitchell and Fry;

• Was Hedy Fry snubbed at the Stonewall festivities at city hall-just three days before the election? Her request to read greetings and support from Prime Minister Paul Martin was refused, her supporters say, on grounds that she was straight. The proclamation was read by gay city councillor Tim Stevenson, who credited Fry for obtaining it. But then straight city manager Judy Rogers read a welcome from straight mayor Larry Campbell; Campbell later spoke in person. And straight NDP candidate Kennedy Stewart (Fry’s election opponent) was ushered into a prominent location in the council chambers by city councillor Jim Green, while Fry was assigned a seat in the audience. Hmmm;

• My God, did you catch the lead of lesbian NDP candidate Libby Davies over Liberal challenger Shirley Chan: 23,452 to 10,768. Wow! One of the election’s greatest puzzles was perennial transgender politico Jamie Lee Hamilton’s work for Chan; after all, Davies is the only MP with the courage to call for a review of the bawdyhouse laws that are used against bathhouse patrons and prostitutes-perhaps the single issue closest to Hamilton’s heart (and wallet);

• Isn’t it incredible how fast Paul Martin’s image of invincibility melted away? It took him 10 years to lead a coup from within the Liberal Party but just weeks to turn off Canadian voters. The only way he could guarantee breaking 100 seats in Parliament was to go poaching NDP votes. Is that not the most amateurish federal Liberal campaign in living memory? An election was called and the emperor had no clothes. On the other hand, Conservative leader Stephen Harper had no heart-a much bigger political sin;

• Jack Layton’s performance in the English-language leader’s debate wins the award for disappointment of the campaign. The NDP’s “positive” message evaporated as Layton did his best to imitate Stockwell Day’s infuriating performance in the 2000 debate. Layton’s constant interruptions reminded me of one of those tiny yapping lap dogs, the ones you want to take for a walk in coyote country and then let off the leash to become a coyo-puff snack;

• What’s all this horse shit about the eastern voters snubbing the West and “Western values” in the election results? After all, the province elected Liberals and NDPers across BC, including Vancouver Island and the Skeena valley. Truth is, “Western alienation” is used by third-rate politicians and commentators to keep people focussed on the bogeyman rather than on their own issues. The real story is how, in a country where 80 percent of people live in urban areas and generally share progressive values, the electoral boundaries still favour rural voters and allow a disproportionate number of social conservatives to get elected. With two-thirds of Canadians voting for left and centre-left parties, it’s time to overhaul the electoral system to reflect this urban reality. Good on Jack Layton for making electoral reform the NDP’s top priority as a price for propping up the Liberal minority;

• Politicians weren’t the only people to do embarrassing things this election. Yours truly overstepped his authority as co-host of the Vancouver Centre all-candidates debate. I’m still pink about my comments to longtime (but no longer) Liberal David McCann. I’ve personally apologized to McCann since (he accepted the apology), but I wanted to also do so publicly.

So, on to minority government. The Constitution’s notwithstanding clause can be put back in its box and safely deep-frozen.

Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.