Why does a straight candidate for city council seek queer endorsements?
It might be to show they’re open and welcoming to a broad constituency. But dig a little deeper and it might be to help defuse their biggest potential opponent — an out lesbian expected to run in the same ward.
Tam Goossen is running for city council in Trinity-Spadina, the ward left vacant when Olivia Chow won her federal seat in January. Goossen is a longtime activist on diversity and equity issues with a good track record of queer support, as pointed out in a news release issued Feb 7. The release seems like a gutsy move until you consider that Goossen expects her main rival to be Chow’s openly lesbian former constituency assistant Helen Kennedy.
Kennedy wouldn’t confirm the rumours of her candidacy, noting that she hasn’t filed any papers for the Nov 13 municipal election. Candidates can register anytime between Jan 3 and Sep 29. City staff must resign or take an unpaid leave of absence once they register, and so often delay their declaration.
Goossen’s team meanwhile released a press release entitled “Tam Goossen’s candidacy in Trinity-Spadina endorsed by LGBTTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, queer] members.” Endorsers included Church St business woman Kristyn Wong-Tam, current Trinity-Spadina school board trustee Chris Bolton and activist Min Sook Lee.
“They are all people that I have worked with in the past, all people that have known me,” says Goosssen, 58, who represented the ward on the Toronto District School Board for one term in 1988. (She represented Riverdale in her first two terms.) “I will be releasing groups of people who are endorsing me over the next few months; this is one of the first groups to come out.”
She says she wants to show cross cultural linkages between different groups she has worked with over the years including Urban Alliance On Race Relations, St Stephen’s House, the Ontario Press Council and the Community Social Planning Council Of Toronto (CSPCT), where Goossen had a month left on her term as president.
CSPCT executive director John Campey, who is not permitted to give endorsements, worked as Goossen’s campaign manager when she first ran for school trustee in 1988, and later was her running mate when he ran for trustee himself.
“As we moved through things like setting up the Triangle Program and situating the board’s antihomophobia policy within the overall equity policy, Tam was very helpful with making the links with other equity seeking groups,” says Campey. “She is one of very few politicians whom I trust implicitly. Her integrity is unquestionable. I can’t think of a time when she hasn’t been 100 percent supportive of LGBT issues.”
Next for Goossen (and possibly Kennedy) is the battle for the endorsement of the Trinity-Spadina provincial NDP riding association. While political parties don’t formally nominate candidates to council, they will often support a candidate by providing resources, lists and party workers.
Meanwhile in Ward 27, home of the gay village, one candidate so far has declared his plan to run against openly gay councillor Kyle Rae. Gary Leroux, a former member of the board of directors of the 519 Community Centre and a graphic design instructor at York University, is vying for the seat Rae has held for 15 years. Rae ran uncontested in 2000; in 2003 his stiffest competition came from drag queen Enza “Supermodel” Anderson.