Tim Stevenson, Vision Vancouver city councillor and the only openly gay candidate in the party, has secured a nomination for a third term. If re-elected, Stevenson says he will lobby for a stronger queer presence in city hall — something he claims the NPA has ignored.
“The NPA really have had a dreadful term — particularly in regard to the GBLT community,” he says. Stevenson claims the NPA have taken a “huge step backward” and it shows through the lack of queer community involvement and support he has seen in caucus.
“The most they [the NPA] have done is proclaim Pride Week. Well, every administration has proclaimed Pride Week. Big deal!”
Stevenson says that under COPE mayor Larry Campbell, queer representation was brought to the table through a mayoral appointed community liaison. “As soon as the NPA came in, they shut it down,” says Stevenson, who was the appointed queer community liaison at the time. “I was very proud and that’s why I’m so annoyed that they [the NPA] have done nothing. They’ve let it go and took it for granted,” he adds.
Stevenson says that addressing the concerns of the queer community is an important task — one that should have never been pushed aside. “We turned the atmosphere toward gay and lesbian people completely around. We opened up city hall and made it a friendly, exciting and open place. We were saying to the community ‘Welcome! It’s your city hall,” he says.
“That was incredible!” recalls queer COPE city council nominee, Ellen Woodsworth. “We had leaders of the Pride movement sitting in the council chamber’s seats, talking about the past and what we wanted to do in the future.” Woodsworth agrees that a stronger queer voice is needed in city hall and that issues concerning the queer community must be taken more seriously. “There needs to be a queer liaison for the police. There needs to be funding for neighborhood programs. We need to help The Centre find a location that is large and physically accessible and pride needs to go back into city hall,” she says.
Woodsworth says that in the last civic election it was the COPE and Vision split that led to the NPA’s consequential rise to power. “They [the NPA] didn’t have queer candidates and it didn’t seem to be an issue in their party,” she claims.
But NPA mayoral hopeful Peter Ladner asserts that gay issues are important to the NPA and says his newest gay city council nominee, Sean Bickerton, will play an important role in addressing queer issues.
Allegations suggesting the NPA was scrambling to find — what some might call — a token gay candidate in Bickerton have been voiced and Ladner says the claims are laughable. “Why is our gay candidate token and other gay candidates a measure of diversity?” asks Ladner.
Stevenson says that the way in which the NPA campaign has been run — with the NPA allegedly approaching more than one gay candidate to join their camp — suggests that the party was desperate to have queer representation on board.
Stevenson and Woodsworth have both said housing, community identity and safety are key issues they hope to tackle if on council next term. Ladner said community safety also tops his agenda and confirmed that the city has given go-ahead to hire 96 new police officers for the Vancouver Police Department [VPD] and are beginning to patrol this year.
During his campaign Ladner says he talked to people and became aware of the community requests for more policing in the gay village. Ladner claims he has spoken with Howard Chow of VPD about the possibility of more police presence in the west end. Ladner says no concrete plan had developed from talking with Chow but asserts the public request was addressed. “I can’t tell police what to do,” says Ladner. “But I can bring it to their attention.” Both Stevenson and Woodsworth have also expressed the need for a collaborative plan with the VPD for more policing in the gay village.
Woodsworth says the issue of creating a police liaison between the queer community and the VPD could have happened sooner. “Peter Ladner has been on council for six years,” she says. Woodsworth says it is “pathetic” that it has taken this long for the issue of community safety to garner civic interest, and she says it seems ironically fitting the issue is finally being addressed around election time.
Stevenson, who is currently the only openly gay city councillor, says that while he would like to see more queer representation on council, he is confident in his solo role. “I think I can handle myself,” he says. “I have been speaking out on behalf of the community for a long time and I know the issues well.”