2 min

Top aide’s sexual orientation hurts leadership candidate

Toronto’s Jaimie Watt, gay rights activist and avid campaigner for the political right, has caused his bosses embarrassment in the past. And he’s done it again.

Watt helped shape Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution and helped get the Tories elected for their first mandate back in 1995.

But he was forced to resign in the early months of the new government after a mid-1980s fraud conviction came to light.

Now his active homo past is coming back to haunt his new boss, Canadian Alliance leadership candidate Tom Long.

Watt, who did not return Xtra’s calls, co-chaired the Canadian Human Rights Campaign’s push for same-sex spousal rights. Watt’s contribution was recognized by out Toronto MPP George Smitherman during his speech on the historic Bill 5, which gave same-sex “partners” spousal rights in Ontario.

“On this legislation, where I have an opportunity to stand before you and make remarks, I really need to be very careful, to pay dues to all of those who have done the hard work here,” Smitherman said back in October. “Jaimie Watt, who is more familiar to some on your side [the government side], who has been a leader in the community through the human rights campaign… these are people who have done the hard work that has helped to move the ball of equality forward.”

Watt’s activism has also been recognized in a more negative sense by the religious right group Campaign Life Coalition. It’s at the centre of the religious right’s attacks on Long.

“Long’s inner campaign circle includes media guru Jaimie Watt,” explains the Campaign’s newsletter in an article called Long Win Would Be Alliance Disaster.

“Watt, a self-proclaimed homosexual, is a prominent gay activist and no friend of pro-lifers. As co-chair of the Canadian Human Rights Committee [sic] in 1997 he traveled to Ottawa to lobby MPs for increased ‘equality’ rights for homosexuals.”

This has dragged queer issues out of the Alliance campaign closet, and forced each candidate to take a stand on “self-proclaimed homosexuals.”

Sandra Bucklar, Long’s media spokesperson, has enthusiastically denounced her man’s far-right critics.

“We were very disappointed by the comments made by that group. For the most part this party is composed of good people that are interested in lower taxes, law and order, good health care. We believe in equal rights for everyone, and everyone is welcome if they believe in the Canadian Alliance platform.”

When told that this platform includes the not-so-open and inclusive pledges to uphold heterosexual definitions of marriage and family, a definition that Canadian Alliance members vigorously defended in the recent debate over Bill C-23, Bucklar clarifies her candidate’s position.

“Yes, that’s true, but Tom Long also says that he doesn’t believe you have to tear down other people in order to build yourself up, you shouldn’t have to tear down other groups to build the family up. When he says he believes in traditional family, he also believes that the government has no right to go behind bedroom doors.”

When asked about Long’s stance on the spousal rights Bill C-23, Bucklar is uncertain.

“I don’t know about that, I really don’t. I’d have to ask him. What did the other candidates say? If he believes in a traditional view of marriage, I guess he would have voted against it.”

Far-right journalist Michael Coren’s (syndicated Toronto Sun) article on the Campaign Life affair concludes with a question that many homosexuals may have as well: “The only party to oppose the government [on Bill C-23] was Reform. Almost all of whose MPs and most of whose members are now in the Canadian Alliance. What then is Jaimie Watt doing as a key player in the campaign of the man who wants to lead them?”