News
10 min

Van Centre and Van East candidates verbatim

On possible Harper majority, Canada Customs' authority, blood donor regulations and more


VANCOUVER EAST:

Note: Up to press time, Xtra West’s numerous attempts to schedule an interview with Conservative candidate Ryan Warawa went unanswered.
 
  Libby Davies, NDP Mike Carr, Green Party Ken Low, Liberal Party
(with commentary by Kevin Chalmers, Low’s campaign manager)
1 What would a Harper majority mean for queers? I think it would be bad news. We’ve already seen what he’s done, whether it’s cutbacks in arts and culture, whether it’s his law and order agenda, whether it’s their appalling record of dealing with HIV/AIDS and things like Insite — the list goes on and on. I think we’ve got to do everything we can to push back and make sure that he doesn’t have a majority. I suspect it would be heavily anti-gay, as much as he can get away with in this country, where Canadians actually do respect diversity and difference. Canada was one of the first countries to institute gay, lesbian marriages. And the Green Party was actually the first federal party to official support the introduction of same-sex couples and civil marriage. LOW: The Harper majority scares me, actually, the way he carries on things. Very, very defined agenda on his own beliefs. He won’t even let his ministers speak. He runs a one-man show, so whatever he believes, he would enforce it on to Canadians. And I believe in open government, human rights, I believe in equality, all the beliefs that the Liberal people believe.
2 If your party were to introduce a law that discriminates against queers, like withdrawing the right to marriage, would you resign from caucus and speak out against the proposal in the loudest possible way? I could never ever imagine that happening, and if it did happen, yeah I’d be out of there. It’s the most basic, fundamental principal of human rights and equality. Our position on same-sex marriage has been adopted at our convention. I could categorically say it wouldn’t happen, it wouldn’t be the NDP — it wouldn’t be the NDP anymore — so yeah, I’d be gone. Oh absolutely. But our party won’t do that. I’m very supportive of these rights. Human rights should automatically be included for everybody, logically, right? But because we have this twisted kind of approach to it — and it’s a reflection I think of our past, our society — this white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, narrow, what we call fundamentalist religion now. And that’s the sort of heritage of all that and it’s totally anti-body and anti-gay and anti-sex, and I’m totally against it. KEVIN CHALMERS (KC): That’s not going to happen, that’s not going to happen. I’m sorry but just for the record — I appreciate where the question is coming from — we don’t answer hypothetical questions. But if you look at the track record of Liberals, we are the party of immigration; we are the party that supports that. If you want to ask us whether a Conservative government would push an agenda that would look to repeal human rights, we would fight like crazy as opposition to block, stall, deal with [that], and I know the courts are against that. So that’s the only reason that that’s not a fair hypothetical because that doesn’t reflect the reality of our party. (To Low) Sorry, I didn’t mean to…
LOW: Yup.
 
3 Do you support bringing Bill C-10 back to the House of Commons to re-open the debate on withholding tax credits to films deemed “contrary to public policy?” I think the issue is something that we have to still take up. And of course the NDP was a party in the House of Commons that went after C-10 and helped expose its deeply embedded flaws in terms of censorship and giving huge political discretion to what could and could not get credits. We’re not going to let that go. We have to make sure that decisions of supporting arts and culture are not based on a narrow political ideology. I support the fact that we should. Harper’s tinkering around with culture here. He has a narrow view of what culture is and what it should be and it’s again that kind of Canadian Reform Alliance Party approach to it. Politicians should not be the ones deciding what art is. LOW: Okay, um, I have to admit that I didn’t get the full details on Bill C-10 because I focus on the future, whatever’s in the House right now. I’m not 100 percent familiar with it, however…
KC: I think the issue is really around the idea of funding on a fair basis to all. I’ll let Ken talk about his involvement, but the idea that we’re going to censor based on our own personal belief structure, the way that we take government funding and offer it to people based on our own personal beliefs is 100 percent contradictory to Liberal values.
 
4 Is it time to revisit Canada Customs’ authority to seize materials they consider obscene at the border?
It’s an issue that as parliamentarians we have to be vigilant on, because I think unless there’s a strong political oversight to ensure that Canada Customs isn’t acting in a very reactionary, narrow way, then that will happen. I would support in some way having a review to make sure that decisions aren’t being made either bureaucratically or politically that limit people’s choice and access to material. Oh absolutely. The Green Party would end the targeting by Canada Customs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered bookstores and any other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered businesses. It makes us look like a country that’s still living in the 19th century. LOW: I believe the law is clear, there are certain rules that the border guards are using to seize illegal materials. That being said, that law should be clear and precise, and everyone is going by those laws accordingly and not trying to interpret the law themselves.
5 How could the federal government better support local queer festivals, like Pride and Out on Screen? I think it’s really important to show political support. In terms of the [Pride] festival itself, it’s a major event in our city. It has a huge attraction, so just from a pure economic point of view it needs to be supported. But I also think in terms of arts and culture policy, supporting queer culture whether it’s through the festival and the many events that happen over the Pride week, this is a very important element of Canadian arts and culture and I don’t think it gets the support that it deserves. You kind of have to go beyond the token. You have to go beyond the symbol and you have to dig in and say, ‘This is an important part of our city as it is in most major cities across the country, and it’s got to get like equal treatment.’ There are other big festivals that get big bucks. Well, this one should too. Put some money into them, and also support public education to end prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. LOW: I think the Pride parade is a wonderful thing. I’ve seen it — a lot of people. It brings a lot of business to the local merchants, and it marks Vancouver on the map. I think a lot of people from all over the world come to this.
KC: There’s been too much arbitrary funding on the part of the Conservative government. The Liberal government will fund programs through arms-length organizations which will be allowed to distribute within an appropriate policy of the programs.
 
6 If elected, what would you do to solve Vancouver’s affordable housing crisis and stop our community’s displacement? We have to demand that the federal government accept responsibility for housing. You talk to a lot of elected people or people running and they say, ‘Oh, it’s no longer a federal responsibility, we gave that up years ago.’ We’re living the consequences of that today. It is now difficult, if not impossible, to build social housing. In fact, it’s impossible. There is no money. We have to have a national housing strategy; I actually think it’s one of the overriding issues in Vancouver in this election.  I would fight like hell for it if a Green Party was elected, if we became the government. I think we’re not going to be this election, but if we did, the Green Party is to reinstitute a national housing program. Canada is the only country in the G8, the rich countries, that doesn’t have a national housing program. We know there’s at least 2,500 homeless people in Vancouver — but it’s probably more than that — while there are 18,000 empty condos that have been built and can’t be sold, or some of them are being owned by people from other countries that don’t even live there — are just speculators. That is a crime. There’s four million Canadians who are living currently in substandard and/or unaffordable housing as defined as being more thirty percent of your income. And as energy prices and rents go up, there could be a lot more homeless people if that’s allowed to continue. LOW: The way to solve it first is to build a strong economy so people would be steady, financially, and the government would have money. Then with that we can do something with affordable housing. We need to work with the three levels of government to provide more affordable housing and in connection with that, we need programs to educate people to help them find jobs, to train them so that they are marketable, so that they can help themselves.
7 Would you advocate changing Canada’s blood donor regulations to stop excluding gay men? Yes, I think it’s discriminatory. You’ve won equality under the law and then you’re confronted with policy decisions and processes that are still discriminatory. So I think we have to challenge that and make it clear that it’s not acceptable. Yes, absolutely. I mean, I’m sure that things are checked for HIV and AIDS and that, and I think it’s just a prejudice against gay people. LOW: I don’t realize there is a… I believe in equality, it’s a strong Liberal belief. I believe everyone should be treated equal.
8 Would you amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the basis of transpeople’s gender identity or expression? Yes. I support changing the Canadian Human Rights Act to include trans rights. I support Bill Siksay’s bill. I seconded the bill. It’s really important for all of us in the queer community to show our support and solidarity for trans rights. Absolutely, absolutely.  It’s ridiculous that we have to keep adding new lists of people to a thing that should automatically include all humans. But in the twisted environment we live in we have to keep doing that until we get to a more advanced conception of humans — all humans being part of humanity. LOW: Again, I believe in equality to all Canadians. That’s why I’m in the Liberal party. I myself, I wasn’t born here. I came as an immigrant. There were cases where I was discriminated against so I know how it feels.

 

  

VANCOUVER CENTRE:

         
  Michael Byers, NDP
Adriane Carr, Green Party Hedy Fry, Liberal Party
Lorne Mayencourt,
Conservative Party

 
1 What would a Harper majority mean for queers? A Harper majority would mean the queer community would need the strongest human rights champion in Ottawa possible. A Harper majority is scary and negative and to be avoided by the queer community and everyone else. He’s quite challenging and homophobic. It would mean the end of subjective equality rights. I’m absolutely shaking about that. It would mean a government that cares about all different kinds of people and families. It will get them the support they need.
2 If your party were to introduce a law that discriminates against queers, like withdrawing the right to marriage, would you resign from caucus and speak out against the proposal in the loudest possible way? Absolutely. But I don’t think that is a possibility because my party has always been at the forefront of LGBT rights. It would never happen but yes, I would. We [Liberals] brought in all that legislation for equality for same-sex couples. I would not need to. Stephen Harper has announced the discussion is closed. He fully supported what happened in Parliament in 2006.
3 Do you support bringing Bill C-10 back to the House of Commons to re-open the debate on withholding tax credits to films deemed “contrary to public policy?”
No, because C-10 is piece of legislation that isn’t possible to reverse. I’m glad it’s dead. Let’s start from scratch and do it properly. The provision within C-10 should be axed. This is highly prejudicial. It puts too much power in the hands of a minister. Absolutely not. It is the Liberals in the Senate that fought that bill and stopped it from going any further. I support it coming back for debate so we can examine the implications of it to the film industry and multimedia outlets.
4 Is it time to revisit Canada Customs’ authority to seize materials they consider obscene at the border? Canada Customs should be deprived of its mandate to interfere with any artistic and intellectual exploration on the part of any Canadian citizen. The targeting of LGBT materials by Canada Customs is prejudicial. [We must] end prejudicial holding of materials. It is very clear under the legislation what is pornographic and obscene. This issue has always been about Customs officers being appropriately trained. I believe a review of the Canada Customs issue and their ability to seize materials they deem obscene has been done. Canada Customs has been instructed to be very careful.
5 How could the federal government better support local queer festivals, like Pride and Out on Screen? By having a party that is proud to participate in the Pride parade and has done so consistently over the years. We need more vibrant and expansive funding through Heritage Canada. We would invest funding into the arts, culture and sports. Events like the festival and Pride fall under that. By funding them as community events as we do for minority groups when they are seeking equality. This is a minority community, and they do have a specific culture. They can support Out on Screen through funding support but also through having a healthy dialogue through events such as the Pride Parade. All of these things are valuable for opening a dialogue with the gay and lesbian community.
6 If elected, what would you do to solve Vancouver’s affordable housing crisis and stop our community’s displacement? I would reinstate the federal affordable housing program that was cut by the Liberals between 1993 and 1996. I would request restoration and funding increases from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. We would want to see a national affordable housing policy. A Liberal government would have a housing strategy as we said we would (before the last election). I would bring forward to caucus and push for legislation which empowers [The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation] to provide tax credits to people that are building affordable housing and to non-profit societies.
7 Would you advocate changing Canada’s blood donor regulations to stop excluding gay men? Yes, if there’s no medical basis for that exclusion, and there’s not. Absolutely. No. There are groups that should not be giving blood. Clinical principles would be used. Yes. I believe the rationale for disallowing gays to be blood donors is a relic of the past. We have adequate safeguards in place. It’s purely a discriminatory practice.
8 Would you amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the basis of transpeople’s gender identity or expression? I would push for amending the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to that effect. That is the constitutional document that protects all Canadians. Absolutely. [Yes]. This is a travesty. Transgendered is a medical diagnosis. We do not deny people with diabetes access to health care. I hope to be able to advance that cause. I introduced two bills in the [BC] legislature to amend the Human Rights Code to protect people on the basis of gender identity.