The more conspiratorial part of my brain thinks the Liberals couldn’t have possibly managed it better. Last week when I questioned if our new health minister is walking back her party’s pledge to end the ban on gay blood donors — what would appear to be a pretty major slap, considering it was the party’s key promise to our community — Pride Toronto dropped the announcement that Trudeau would be marching in this year’s parade, making him the first sitting prime minister to do so.
Judging by the social media shares and hits on Daily Xtra, the news about the Liberals’ apparently broken promise never stood a chance against the tsunami of feels inspired by Trudeau’s commitment to walk down a few blocks of Yonge Street six-and-a-half months from now.
Nevermind that Trudeau’s presence at Toronto Pride isn’t exactly groundbreaking. He marched last year, and had planned to march in 2014 before parade delays meant that he had to leave for another event before the Liberal contingent marched. The Liberals have even advertised on Grindr to get gay men to come march with him.
I get that Trudeau’s still sitting pretty in his honeymoon period now, and his team has done a pretty good job in setting a friendlier tone with our community than the Harper regime did. But, presumably by next June, there’ll be a record to judge him on. What does Trudeau expect people to be talking about at the parade when they see him coming?
My guess is that unless he plans to do the walk down Yonge shirtless and in heels, Pride revelers will be wondering: Wait, what has he actually done for us?
Without some focused work soon, there’s a good chance we’ll just be hearing more promises next June.
There are only six months before Pride, less if you count all the weeks Parliament isn’t sitting. And the Liberals already have a packed agenda for the year, with its family tax plans, infrastructure spending plans, the missing and murdered indigenous women inquiry, trade deals, climate change, health accords, pension reform and more on the docket. Given how slowly the machinery of Canadian democracy works, how far can we expect legal reforms on trans rights or age of consent or sex work to proceed by then?
If our prime minister is going to appear at our parade, then we should use the opportunity to hold him to account for the promises he’s made to us on the campaign trail and demand even more. Let’s not let Trudeau use the parade as a fig leaf for delay and obstruction of LGBT progress.
The Trudeau camp ought to be warned that if it doesn’t have some big announcement on LGBT issues by June, then it will be marching through a figurative minefield and a possible publicity nightmare.
In 2016, can’t we do better than just having politicians pander to us by appearing at our events as if their public relations stunt is all we’re looking for?
Perhaps instead of marching in the parade, the tradition should be that the prime minister is stationed at Yonge and Gloucester Streets and forced to watch the procession. Instead of just shaking hands with spectators, he has to shake hands with the thousands of activists and community members who are loudly demanding our rights and pushing forward our issues. Maybe that would put some urgency into government action on LGBT rights.