In the race for city council in Somerset Ward, the LGBT community is well represented. Of the 11 candidates who are running, three are openly gay: Jeff Morrison, Denis Schryburt and Catherine McKenney. Restaurant manager and small-business supporter Thomas McVeigh is also running and has made his support of the LGBT community known throughout his campaign. McVeigh lives in the ward with his wife and two young children.
No stranger to public life, McVeigh served on the board of the Wellington West Business Improvement Association and recently resigned as president of the Centretown Citizens Community Association. He worked in a Victoria gay bar and has been a supporter of Pride since the late 1980s.
He is not giving up on Pride just yet, despite Capital Pride’s recent bankruptcy filing. “I marched in the first Pride parade we held. Next year, if Pride doesn’t organize itself, I’ll walk down the street with a banner myself. Whether it’s organized or spontaneous, it’s going to happen.”
At the Centretown Citizens Community Association, one of his chief projects was the Community Design Plan. “It’s about directing growth where we want it rather than haphazard, ad hoc reactions to developers’ plans,” he says. “Shaping our neighbourhood is critical in terms of creating safe neighbourhoods for women and minorities.”
To run in the election, he is taking two weeks off from his job as general manager of Absinthe, a restaurant just outside the ward, in Hintonburg. He says that managing a business downtown makes him keenly aware of the challenges facing small businesses in the ward.
Here are his views on some of the issues:
He supports a “broad spectrum of housing in terms of income and size — singles, couples, families, co-ops.” He and his wife have chosen to live and raise their children in a diverse neighbourhood — next to not only a million-dollar home, but transitional housing and a low income, 10-storey building — and he wants to support that kind of diversity.
He doesn’t have a plan specific to Bank Street businesses, saying, “You can’t really support specific businesses, apart from showing moral support.” However, he does intend to create an atmosphere such that small businesses all over the ward are more likely to thrive. “We should be a resource for businesses that are opening up, helping them get permits and sort out the little details,” he says. “I also want to help them promote themselves, [such as by] showing up at anniversaries.”
“I read a study that said LGBT youth were 40 percent more likely to commit suicide than those with housing, so having a holistic housing policy will save lives,” he says. To that end, he supports the introduction of an emergency shelter or transitional shelter for homeless LGBT youth. “When you’re queer and young and homeless, you’ll be wondering where to go and how to survive, and having somebody say, ‘We’ll get you through this and here are some steps to get you back on your feet’ is important.”
Safe injection site
“Ottawa’s HIV infection rate is through the roof. The transmission of disease through needles is exorbitant. I’ve been pushing the need for harm reduction since early on in my campaign.”
McVeigh is looking forward to the LRT, because it will reduce fossil fuel emissions and reduce traffic in the area. “I live on one of the main thoroughfares into the downtown core, so I have a vested interest in reducing that traffic,” he says.
He’s also in favour of improving conditions for pedestrians, including the introduction of seasonal audits of the walkability of the city’s streets. He also wants to increase the number of bike lanes and would like to see the vehicles owned by the city switched to hybrid or electric. “When you start thinking of all the vehicles the city has — it’s a whole fleet — and if we can switch all of those over, it’d be great.”