2 min

They’ve had enough

Gays leading the charge in Mayencourt recall

'JUST A PUPPET': Steven McManus and Gay-Mart's Gilbert Fargen want to see the end of Lorne Mayencourt's time as MLA for Vancouver-Burrard riding. Credit: Robin Perelle

Alec Zuke calls himself the accidental activist. He never planned to lead the recall campaign against gay MLA Lorne Mayencourt, he says. He initially got involved because of BC Hydro.

“Everything that’s bad about this government can be summed up by what they did to BC Hydro,” Zuke says, referring to the Liberals’ plan to privatize BC’s energy provider.

Rates go up when electricity gets privatized, Zuke explains. And when rates go up, or even fluctuate, it’s hard on business and consumers. “That’s why we have public power,” he emphasizes, to keep power prices stable.

How does BC Hydro relate to Vancouver-Burrard’s MLA? “He supports this government” and has yet to challenge a single policy it’s put forward, Zuke replies. If Mayencourt were truly representing his constituents, he would speak out against policies like these, or at least ask some hard questions. “He’s basically just a puppet.”

“I am representing my constituents,” Mayencourt replies. He points to his recent interest in street youth; his work with the Safe Schools Task Force (whose report really is coming soon, he says); and his recent success restoring YouthQuest’s funding.

The government cancelled its grant to the support network for rural, queer youth in January. Mayencourt gave YouthQuest $100,000 Apr 15. He also says he’s putting more money into street youth services.

Zuke remains dubious. Just look at the Residential Tenancy Act, Zuke says, referring to the government’s plan to allow landlords to raise rents by three to four percent, plus inflation, every year. There’s even a retroactivity clause, which means renters could be hit with a 21 percent increase by 2007. That’s going to hurt a lot of people, especially in Mayencourt’s riding, Zuke says. But Mayencourt “never even asked one question on behalf of his constituents. Eighty-five percent of us are renters.”

Former NPD MLA Tim Stevenson, whom Mayencourt beat out in the last election, says he’s opposed to recall campaigns on principle but he, too, is appalled by Mayencourt’s response to the rent question.

Mayencourt raised renters’ hopes in March when he erroneously insisted that the new act would only raise rents by three to four percent, period-no inflation. “One doesn’t make those kinds of statements on behalf of the government unless one is certain what one is talking about,” Stevenson says.

“I made a mistake,” Mayencourt admits. But he’s standing up for renters now. “I’m campaigning vigorously to ensure that we get stable, affordable rental accommodations in the West End and other communities,” he says, adding that he’s optimistic his efforts will pay off.

Stephen McManus is not so optimistic. The rent issue is just one of the reasons he joined the recall campaign. There’s also the Liberals’ decision to make people receiving some disability pensions re-apply. “Mostly it’s the fact that [Mayencourt] has been silent. He’s gone along with what the Liberals want to do.”

Neither McManus nor Zuke will say how many signatures they’ve collected so far. In order to successfully recall a sitting MLA, 40 percent of voters registered in the last provincial election, in that MLA’s riding, need to sign the petition. That’s about 14,000-15,000 signatures.

When asked if he thinks the recall will succeed, Zuke says it depends how you measure success. “If you define success as gathering the required number of signatures, I think it’s going to be challenging,” he says.

But if success is about getting the government’s attention before it “rams” through the next piece of legislation, then the campaign is already having an impact, he says, pointing to the government’s reported decision to revisit the rental question.