Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


With interest rising regarding the upcoming November 2008, municipal election and who the candidates for Mayor might be, the gay community is sensing that this election could very well be the first time since Mike Harcourt was elected Mayor, that they have another golden opportunity to actually influence the Mayoral outcome and this is raising lots of hope in the predominantly gay Davie Village area.

So who will the gay community get behind?

While it has been said that the gay community tends not to vote as a bloc, which for many years it hasn't, however, the gay community senses that the election in November 2008, could be quite pivotal and is working on changing the perception of not voting as a bloc and their vote may very well determine the outcome of the Mayoral race.

The last time, the gay community voted as a bloc, Mayor Mike Harcourt, with this support defeated the incumbent Mayor who had refused to support the gay unity week parade. After assuming office, Mayor Mike repaid the gay support, proudly presenting an official Mayoral Proclamation, declaring Gay Unity Week--now called Pride. The gay community went wild and at a subsequent Coronation ball, the new Mayor with his Chief-of- Staff, Shirley Chan, by his side, walked the Commodore Ballroom runway to a thunderous and prolonged standing ovation.

So as Pride is about to reach its three decades of celebrations, where is the gay community currently at regarding potential Mayoral Candidates?

There is significant concern in the West End/Davie Village community regarding current Mayor Sam Sullivan, who is seeking re-election. The gay community, many of whom are renters feel Mayor Sullivan hasn't done enough to address the affordable housing crises in our City. They fear his Eco-Density initiative will further erode the rental housing stock and that the City may become a haven for only the well off.

Another deep-seated fear the gay community has is Mayor Sullivan's closeness with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The gay community vehemently distrusts and dislikes Mr. Harper and believes he has an agenda which would erode them of their hard-fought human rights & equality gains. Mayor Sullivan may not realize it but this will become a recurring theme in the 2008 municipal election. Community leaders will continue to remind community members of the Harper-Sullivan connection and this will hurt Mr. Sullivan.

If the above wasn't enough, Mayor Sullivan also has to contend with the angry gay bar owner lobby who in all likelihood will not support Mr. Sullivan since they feel he hasn't been enough of a champion regarding what they consider to be discriminatory municipal liquor licensing issues. In fact, in the last municipal race this industry backed Councillor Jim Green for Mayor.

So if not Sam--who?

Allan De Genova, City of Vancouver Park Commissioner, has just announced after first announcing plans to seek a Council seat, that he will instead seek the Vision party Mayoral nod.

While he has served four terms on Park Board, gay community members when asked their opinions on a De Genova candidacy for Mayor do not recall him being a particular strong advocate for them. In fact, a number of community members I spoke to cited examples where Mr. De Genova might have been a champion but wasn't. The AIDS Memorial, The murder of Aaron Webster in Stanley Park and his non-participation in the longstanding annual AIDS walks are referenced as leadership areas that Commissioner De Genova was and is lacking.

These issues are very important to the gay community so I think its a fair bet to say that the gay community will not flock to Commissioner De Genova.

What about NDP MLA Gregor Robertson for Mayor?

Don't expect him to run now and that is probably why Mr. De Genova has announced his intentions. But if Mr. Robertson did run, barriers for him in the gay community include the community not really knowing him well. He wouldn't have much time to court the gay vote. and further, there hasn't been any outward demonstrations that Mr. Robertson is doing anything beneficial for the gay community. Coupled with the fact of being a New Democrat, citizens--even gay ones--would be apprehensive of voting for him since they want municipal politics to be free of provincial or federal political interference.

Popular City Councillor, Peter Ladner, appears to be considering the possibility of running for Mayor. If he does, many pluses work to his advantage.

He isn't seen as particularly partisan and he isn't known to be so chummy with provincial or federal political leaders that this would cloud his judgment . He puts Vancouver citizens first in his decision making and since being elected in 2002, neither does he appear beholden to any political ideology. Moreover, he has long demonstrated his support for the gay community. Walking in a number of gay Pride parades, participating in the Davie Village Street festivals, even good-naturedly agreeing to be dunked numerous times in the dunk tank.

A hot-button and pressing issue for the gay community is the need for an accessible community centre. We want this centre in a couple of years. The City has to get behind this. No ifs and buts. Councillor Ladner as the Chair of City Services and Budgets, the gay community believes, will play a significant role in realizing the new Centre dream. This without question bodes well for Mr. Ladner, should he decide to seek the Mayor's chair.

Mr. Ladner is an avid cyclist as are many Village residents and he is known as probably one of the more green Councillors on Council. This endears him well with the high-density-living residents of the Davie Village.

Jim Deva, the hugely popular co-owner of Little Sisters was asked recently whether he might consider running for politics now that he has put his Davie Village bookstore up for sale. Mr. Deva stated that municipal politics interest him but that provincial or federal do not.

He was asked by this writer whether he would seriously consider running municipally. Mr. Deva suggested that he had troubles supporting Vision because he doesn't know what they stand for. He further articulated he doesn't feel comfortable with the NPA. He also stated his perception of COPE is that he would feel pressured to always vote the COPE line.

This Prince Charming of the Village--I call him the Deva of Davie--did say that if Peter Ladner ran for Mayor as an Independent, he would seriously consider supporting him and possibly even running on a slate with him, if asked. Now that is what you call an incredible endorsement of gigantic proportions.

In the weeks and months ahead, many GLBT Community Leaders will be pushing Councillor Ladner to run. The community is itching at another opportunity to influence the outcome of the Mayoral race.

Mr. Ladner is excitedly being spoken about in gay community circles as the next coming of the Harcourt era and if that isn't another zinger of an endorsement, I don't know what is.

Jamie Lee Hamilton