11.09.2011

Vancouver Sun - 'No LGBT History in the NDP'

The Vancouver Sun and other Post media papers ran a piece on November 5 called 'Public figures urged to come 'out'.


It's not a bad piece except for the fact that it clearly leaves out the one party that has done ground breaking work on the matter.  The article fails to point out that the first openly gay member of parliament was an NDP member, that the NDP have the largest openly gay caucus of any political party.  They even fail to point to some of the reasons for the NDP's success in electing and recruiting LGBT candidates for Parliament.

Instead the article focuses on two Ontario MPPs, one who replaced the other.  Glen Murray was successful in getting the nomination for the Liberals in Toronto Centre to replace George Smitherman an openly gay MPP.  Murray got his start in Manitoba where with the support of the NDP won a city council seat and that ongoing NDP support saw him elected as Canada's first openly Gay Mayor of a major Canadian city.

Murray is a competent MPP and politician, yet part of the reason he was successful was because a political party, the NDP was ahead of the others in recognising that sexual orientation should not be a barrier to being a candidate.  The NDP has mandated constituencies to seek out qualified candidates from several under representative groups for almost 20 years now and provides financial support for them to do so.

The one party that has consistently stood up in the House of Commons to support equality for LGBT communities has been the NDP.

The NDP were part of the reason I as a gay man felt I could participate in politics.  In 1988 I was a newbie to election volunteer work for a political party. I was the financial agent and local riding chair for the Federal NDP in Williams Lake BC.  Our candidate was an electrician from a local sawmill. One night we were coming back on a lonely back woods road from a small campaign event and the candidate was driving his big 4x4 truck.  He said he had a question for me.  He said quite a few of the guys at his mill were saying his campaign was being run by a bunch gay guys.  He wanted to know from me if that was true.

I was a little surprised he would ask as I was pretty open in those days, the town queer.  That meant my partner and I got dinner invites from all the local A-list folks in town.  I told him that yes, his e-day organizer, me and the phone canvasser were gay and that yes, we did have many other volunteers that were LGBT.

I'm sure it shocked him. His response was, 'that's cool.'  Incidentally we were in a riding we weren't suppose to win. The Progressive Conservatives won by just 289 votes. We made up over 11,000 votes. He thanked me and the gang of LGBT folks after the election.

My experience with the NDP allowed me in 1989 to feel empowered to stand up at a BC Government Employee's Union convention and speak to a resolution from my local asking the union to make bargaining of same-sex benefits a union priority.  It did become a priority and we began the road to equality.

So while the other political parties had LGBT folks elected. Not one was ever out of the closet.  The NDP put a plan in place and it has paid off.  The Vancouver Sun did a disservice to its readers in not showing them how it has been done by at least one political party.

2 comments:

Jennifer McCreath said...

great points here, but what every article i have read on this topic fails to disclose, is the fact that this should be an article about LGB, not LGBT. none of the three major political parties have ever run an openly trans candidate in any election.. and that too is a real shame!

Rick Barnes said...

I agree and I will bet it will be the NDP before the Liberals or Conservatives do. Maybe Toronto Centre is a good place to start!