Tuesday, July 27, 2004

REVEREND IS REVVING UP to RUN

Underbelly of Vancouver
Downtown Eastside

REVEREND IS REVVING UP to RUN

Hi All!

Well its official, the Reverend is revving up to run in the May 2005 provincial election. City Councilor Tim Stevenson has decided to pack his bags and call it a day at the municipal level. As some of you recall, Tim Stevenson served the people of Van-Burrard while the NDP was in power from 1996-2001. He even for a short time served in cabinet under then Premier Ujjal Dosanjh. He was defeated in 2001 by local upstart Lorne Mayencourt. That campaign was like no other I've seen before. Talk about these 2 Gay Guys duking it out. As a political observer the campaign offered high drama, smears, distortions and slurs. It was amazing to observe. Talk about a Queen Fight!!!

After his humiliating defeat and not being one to lick his wounds easily, Councilor Tim decided to seek a seat with the municipal party, COPE, in the November 2002 election. He was successful, and the bloodbath that political veterans observed in the 2001 campaign continued unabated.  These two men,  Mayencourt and Stevenson really appear to have it in for each other. A local paper the Westender even ran a spoof cover page of these two tying the knot after same sex marriage became legal.

Who left who at the alter though won't be  be played out until the 2005 election.
This blogger is willing to assemble odds over what could possibly be the biggest cat fight in the history of the Gay community and Political life of of Vancouver. Adding fuel to the fire, rumor has it that perhaps a Lady may enter the race to somewhat cool the temperature down.

Looking into both Lorne and Tim's'  careers, one can't imagine how these two grown men could despise each other so much. But they do and that's all that matters. To  understand Tim's rise to political office, I must first take viewers on a Journey to the land of OZ.

Tim Stevenson, grew up in West Vancouver and for all intents and purposes had a comfortable middle class lifestyle. He even married I'm told a real Lady in hopes, one assumes to live and lead a more normal existence. That was until the moment, Tim affirmed his desires of other Men. I suspect the sparks really flew in bed and the rest is history. Or is it.

This much we know about Tim. He was studying to become a Minister of the United Church. The church though, had yet to deal with the issue of Gay Clergy. Admirably, Tim fought the powers that be but he didn't do it alone. A small mission church in the Downtown Eastside, accepted Tim's gayness and supported his bid for ordination as a Minister of the Church. This blogger's Mother was one of the members of the congregation who also having a transexxed child, saw the need for equality and justice,  joined forces with Minister Tim to fight the good fight. The seeds of Tim's political path were sown. His crusade for rights of the downtrodden, marginalized, affirm and poor took shape and centre stage from  this little church at Hastings and Gore in the Downtown Eastside.

After 10 years serving as minister of first church,  Tim Stevenson saw the need to enter the political arena. In 1995, Tim  was poised to run for COPE in the upcoming  municipal election. However, Emery Barnes who held the provincial seat for the NDP in Van-Burrard, was set to retire. Since Van-Burrard has a considerable gay population, Tim was influenced to run and after some soul searching tossed his hat into the provincial ring. Rev Tim was successful and had a rather quiet career other then a few local papers referring to him as a  political maverick.

I assume this title came about due to Councilor Tim opposing his government position on the issue of expanded gambling. You see the NDP along with their Union friends had invited and were encouraging a Las Vegas casino operator to build Seaport Casino on prime waterfront land adjacent to the poverty stricken neighborhood of the Downtown Eastside.

Neighborhood activists were aghast over this crass proposal and fought tooth and nail against it. The local fight was led by Chief Organizer of DERA, Barb Daniel. Progressive lawyers Connie Fogal-Rankin  and her husband, longtime City Councilor Harry Rankin, spearheaded the City wide fight. During the course of this battle, news surfaced that the United Church of Canada also objected to this issue of expanded gaming. They publicly announced their opposition to this destination casino with slots. And serving in the NDP were two members, John Cashore and Tim Stevenson who while inactive  Ministers of the Church, nevertheless were members of the Church. Obviously, Mr Stevenson and Cashore needed to state their opinions and they did. They both came out against the Seaport proposal  and confidential sources confirm that Mr Stevenson was informed by the Premier that he could forget about becoming a cabinet minister for his opposition.  One assumes this is where the maverick status given to Tim came into being.

Tim though wasn't totally left outside in the cold. You see later on NDP premier Glen Clark was drummed from the premiership over allegations of corruption regarding gambling. Ujjal Dosanjh became leader of the NDP, hence assuming the captain of the ship role. Premier Dosanjh, after some hesitation, named Tim Stevenson to Cabinet. This posting was short lived as the NDP, Premier Dosanjh and Minister Stevenson with storm clouds hovering, went crashing down to political defeat.

Mr Stevenson, licking his wounds,  returned to the Church and also taught religious studies at Langara College. In due course, Mr Stevenson, unhappy with being defeated and supposedly unhappy with BC Liberal policies charted his comeback. Seeing that Cope once desired him, he made the correct political choice and ran for COPE in the upcoming civic race. Winning a council seat allowed Mr Stevenson to speak out on some of the BC Liberals policies that he found distasteful. He tailored his attack mainly in the direction of Lorne Mayencourt, so most political observers assumed Mr Stevenson would at some point strike a comeback to provincial politics.

However, something unusual happened to Mr Stevenson along the way. While fulfilling his civic duties, he appeared to lose sight of his social justice vision. A few issues of equality and justice came to the forefront at City Hall.  First up was the new office/work/live space being proposed for urban professionals. A presentation was successfully made to council that this new re-zoning discriminated against sex trade workers/escorts by banning their business. You see escort services are licensed by the City under the General Office category so it made no logical sense to ban Escorts. Councilors Roberts, Woodsworth, Louis and Cadman agreed and voted down the offending by-law. Councilor Stevenson, Green and the Mayor were absent for the vote but once they got wind of this progressive action, set out to rescind the by-law. Sources confirm that Councilor Stevenson privately  led this attack against escorts and sex trade workers.  But why?

Then a year later, up  comes the heated No Slots in Parks issue. A neighborhood which traditionally votes COPE was aghast that Unions and the Mayor were set to support the re-zoning of Hastings park, allowing for  a destination casino to be built in the midst of their neighborhood and community. In very strong numbers, these residents voiced their opposition. To no avail, their concerns appearing to fall on deaf ears, the rezoning was passed with Councilor Stevenson, Green, Louie and the Mayor casting the deciding votes . For most political observers, many of us were not surprised by Mayor Campbell's support of expanded gaming, however it was disturbing to watch Councilor Stevenson defending his political position. I for one was profoundly disappointed by Councilor Stevenson's decision. Again the question begs asking - Why was Councilor Tim supporting Casinos?

As in politics  I have leaned,  there's always two certainties -  price and payoff's. Councilor Stevenson appears to have wasted no time in getting a payback. Just one week after this Casino vote, Councilor Stevenson arranged a press conference announcing his intention to seek the Van-Burrard seat. Attending in support of Councilor Stevenson was Councilor Green, Louie and Woodsworth. Also notable in his attendance and public endorsement of Councilor Tim was none other then our bubbly Mayor, Larry Campbell. 

Aren't paybacks  Grand!   

Jamie Lee Hamilton
(604) 781-3361
tricia_foxx@yahoo.com
  




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