This story is part of Rainbow Votes 2019, special Canadian election newsletter by Xtra. You can sign up here to receive the newsletter directly in your inbox, every Tuesday.
If there’s any good news ahead of Canada’s 43rd federal election, it’s that it’s bound to be a short campaign. We’re already well into September, and the writ is only dropping this Wednesday — some consolation given the marathon election we experienced last time, in 2015.
But short doesn’t always mean sweet.
Candidates are already at each other’s throats, slinging insults on Twitter and trying to intimidate one another (rather awkwardly) at public events. And during a strange week in August, our first ballot box issue became . . . same-sex marriage?
It started when Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale dredged up a speech on the marriage equality debate made by Andrew Scheer 14 years ago, in which the Conservative leader likened gay marriage to dog tails. In response, the Conservatives outed Liberals — including Goodale! — for not voting in favour of gay marriage themselves in the past. (The Conservative party also managed to avoid talking about Scheer’s current feelings on the subject.) And then New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh inserted himself in the kerfuffle by saying the NDP wouldn’t prop up a Conservative minority government because of their record on LGBTQ2 rights.
In the middle of all of this drama are LGBTQ2 communities — folks who never wanted to relive the ugliness and the homophobia of the same-sex marriage debates a decade and a half later. Many feel that pulling these anti-gay skeletons out of the closet (not that closet) is not about queer people at all, but rather straight, progressive voters — people who might be surprised to hear that many politicians still harbor anti-gay and anti-trans views.
As RM Vaughan puts it, the lives and rights of LGBTQ2 Canadians are being tossed around as vote bait for cishet citizens. “We are not real communities to our federal leaders — we’re a metonym for all things progressive and forward-thinking,” he writes. But “human rights are not a partisan issue to be played with, and certainly not fodder for cheap political ‘gotcha’ moments.”
It’s not the first time politicians have used us to signal a message to their bases (and it certainly won’t be the last). Back in January, Alex Verman explored the ways politicians — including Maxime Bernier, the founder of the fringe People’s Party of Canada — pick on trans and non-binary folks for political gain. “The preoccupation with trans people is a strategic move by conservatives to appeal to their traditionalist bases and a partisan ploy to paint the left and their values and ideas as irrational, ideological and dangerous,” Verman writes. Two sides of the same coin.
Political analysts say we’re going to see more of this: Liberals will likely keep picking away at Scheer’s dismal record on social issues like LGBTQ2 rights. It’s an easy way for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to win points with progressives — after all, you would have been hard pressed not to see him at a Pride parade somewhere in the country this past summer.
This week in #cdnpoli
👉Mass exodus or mass confusion? Fourteen NDP candidates in New Brunswick defect to the Green Party — only for some to claim they were never leaving in the first place. [Global News]
👉Meanwhile, Elizabeth May says members of the Green Party won’t be prevented from reopening the abortion debate, before backtracking just hours later. [CBC]
👉Known bigot Maxime Bernier calls 16-year-old Greta Thunberg “mentally unstable”. . . then “brave”? Doesn’t this guy have, like, an adult to pick on? [Global News]
👉From Bernier’s comments to Islamophobic protesters: Susan Delacourt says it’s all a sign of a very divisive, very nasty election campaign ahead. [Toronto Star]
👉Get ready for a heaping dose of Fake News, Canada. Why a misleading video about Trudeau and the media is making the rounds. [CBC]
Meet an LGBTQ2 candidate
This election, Xtra wants to hear from LGBTQ2 candidates of all political stripes. That’s why we’ve reached out to openly LGBTQ2 candidates across party lines with a questionnaire about their biggest issues and what they want to see over the next four years.
In each edition of Rainbow Votes 2019, we’ll publish snippets of the responses we receive. Stay tuned for more!
Want to know where one of the four major political parties stands on LGBTQ2 issues? Keep an eye on Fae Johnstone’s policy tracker throughout the election. We’ll be updating it all through the campaign.