In a municipal election where mayoral candidate Gerald Derome sees fit to send Xtra an e-mail stating, “I am not antigay, it is just my opinion and conviction that it is not right!” it’s hard to know where to turn.
But city government has a big impact on queer life. From arts funding (think Buddies In Bad Times Theatre) to health promotion (think AIDS Committee Of Toronto), from police attitudes toward bathhouses to the cleanliness of our parks, the decisions made by city council can empower us or oppress us. Or, in the case of hideous development, depress us.
With 275 candidates running in 44 wards, 38 mayoral candidates and more than 130 school trustee candidates, figuring out who’s who isn’t easy. Xtra searched for races and people of particular interest to queer voters. Here are our picks.
DAVID MILLER FOR MAYOR. In 2003 Xtra swam against Miller’s blue-and-yellow tide to endorse Barbara Hall. Miller promised a lot; we weren’t sure he could deliver. So we’re less disappointed than others with his performance over the last three years. He hasn’t been nearly bold enough. But former police chief Julian Fantino has been replaced by community-policing-oriented Bill Blair, the city’s a smidge cleaner and Miller’s tons smarter than his nearest rival, Jane Pitfield.
HELEN KENNEDY IN WARD 20 TRINITY-SPADINA. Our desire to have an openly lesbian member on council is, on its own, not enough reason to vote for Kennedy. Fortunately, Kennedy’s seven years of experience as assistant to former Ward 20 councillor Olivia Chow, combined with her personable style, rounds out her credentials. Rival Adam Vaughan’s celebrity will tempt many voters, but we believe Vaughan is more style than substance.
MIKE MCKENNA IN WARD 2 ETOBICOKE NORTH. Rob “Who won’t I insult today?” Ford has been twice elected here by a landslide. We’d back a two-year-old if we thought she could beat Ford — she’d certainly be more articulate. Out of five challengers, we pick McKenna as our dragon-slayer. He’s personable, is marketing himself as the anti-Ford and has marched in the Pride Parade with Ryerson’s queer group.
GORD PERKS IN WARD 14 PARKDALE-HIGH PARK. One of seven incumbent-less seats, Ward 14 has attracted many promising candidates. Perks deserves to win for his longtime advocacy of environmental issues. But how is this straight man on queer issues? A proponent of community policing, he’s against cops imposing “normality” and “ordinariness.” He’s familiar with the Pussy Palace raids. He thinks each Toronto neighbourhood should have a unique look and feel. Without prompting, he indicated his support of the AIDS Committee Of Toronto and the Hassle Free Clinic. Park sex? “I’ve never given it much thought but I don’t see how that’s one of the top policing issues in the city.”
ALEJANDRA BRAVO IN WARD 17 DAVENPORT. In 2003 first-timer Bravo was only 800 votes short of winning the ward. We like her because she’s pro-nightlife (“Eyes on the street”) yet skeptical of the entertainment district, supports no-strings-attached arts funding, finds Rob Ford’s attitude “frightening” and supports antihomophobia education and safe-spaces programs. Bravo is familiar with the 2002 police raid on the Pussy Palace and supports transparent and accountable policing.
JOE MIHEVC IN WARD 21 ST PAUL’S WEST. Given the resumé of rival John Sewell — as mayor from 1978 to ’80 Sewell supported the candidacy of the late gay activist George Hislop — voters might wonder if Toronto needs Sewell’s blast from the past. Particularly if they’re annoyed with Mihevc over the St Clair streetcar right-of-way (which is silly — it’ll be great). But let’s not lose our heads. Mihevc continues to be a big ally on council. He’s marched in the Pride Parade since 1997, went to bat for Catholic high school Marc Hall over his taking a male date to his school prom and is one of council’s biggest supporters of the arts. We asked both candidates what the city’s role should be in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on swingers’ clubs which okayed sex-on-the-premises businesses. Sewell: “I don’t know. I really don’t know.” Mihevc: “I haven’t given it much thought. I think it’s for consenting adults to figure out for themselves. I can see zoning for it, maybe. Some of that concern about where they would be located will be taken care of by marketing.”
WARD 27 TORONTO CENTRE-ROSEDALE. Home of Toronto’s gay village, this is the ward where queer votes really matter. Incumbent Kyle Rae, Toronto’s only openly gay councillor, was first elected in 1991 and has won heartily ever since. This time Rae has seven challengers.
As a person, Rae is thin-skinned, volatile and frequently responds to criticism with contempt. Ideologically he’s made a slow crawl from left to centre. In the balance between the village’s roles as tourist destination and residential neighbourhood, Rae clearly favours the latter, which is not helpful to business interests nor the nourishment of Toronto’s wider lesbian and gay community. Residents often complain he’s not responsive to their concerns.
When he chooses to be, Rae is capable. He’s one of the city’s few councillors to care about urban aesthetics (think Radio City).
What are Rae’s rivals offering? Susan Gapka is well-intentioned, but scattered. Carol Golench has the backing of a group whose main concern is preventing tall buildings, as if they were bad things in and of themselves. The rest of the candidates failed to make a strong impression on us; none of them seem like an improvement over Rae. We can’t, in good faith, suggest anybody for Ward 27. Spread it around.