Broadbent Institute takes a run at NPA candidate Kirk LaPointe for not publishing photo of men kissing
The day after Kirk LaPointe announced his entry into the Vancouver mayoral race, the free-market Fraser Institute did him a favour.
It released a report condemning the City of Vancouver's finances, using older data to present a misleading illustration of how it compares to the City of Surrey and other municipalities.
The impression was that Vision Vancouver can't really be trusted to look after the books.
Today was payback time for LaPointe and the NPA.
On the eve of Pride weekend, the Broadbent Institute issued a Press Progress bulletin conveying an impression that LaPointe and the NPA are no friends of the LGBT community.
(The Broadbent Institute's Vancouver-based director of strategic partnerships, Mira Oreck, "played an instrumental role in the campaigns of current Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson", according to her biography. She has assured the Straight that she has no influence on editorial decisions concerning Press Progress.)
The Press Progress article notes that as editor-in-chief of the Hamilton Spectator in 1999, LaPointe wrote a signed editorial explaining why the paper chose not to publish a photo of two men kissing.
In "Photo decisions based on needs, taste", LaPointe stated that "the image would be offensive to a number of our readers" and that it was a "provocative gesture" and "staged".
One of the men in the photo, Bryce Rudyk, took exception to LaPointe's column.
In a letter to the editor, Rudyk wrote: "In the space of a few typewritten lines, LaPointe devalued and marginalized our relationships, essentially saying that we were offensive and not 'normal' enough to run a picture in his paper".
The Broadbent Institute would have done well enough to stop there, but it tried to drive the knife in deeper by claiming that the NPA has a "less-than-stellar record on gay rights".
The justification? In 2006, the NPA-controlled council voted against a motion by Vision's Tim Stevenson to create an advisory committee on LGBT issues. At that point, LGBT issues were part of the committee addressing diversity.
Here are some things that the Broadbent Institute neglected to mention in its Press Progress bulletin:
• In 1986, the NPA's Gordon Price was the first out gay man elected to council in Vancouver history.
• The NPA's Alan Herbert, a champion of LGBT rights, was elected to council in 1996. Herbert is a former chair of the Vancouver Pride Society and AIDS Vancouver.
• In the 1990s, the NPA had three members of the LGBT community on the seven-member park board.
• It was Vision Vancouver, rather than the NPA, that decided not to run bisexual writer Trish Kelly as a park-board candidate after she had been nominated.
It's true that there has occasionally been a rocky relationship between the LGBT community and the NPA.
This was notable with regard to liquor-licensing issues under NPA mayor Philip Owen. It was a factor in Herbert being dropped from the slate in 1999.
The NPA also irritated Herbert and others by nominating Ronald Leung as a candidate for council in 2005.
The NPA's mayoral candidate that year, Sam Sullivan, insisted to the Straight that Leung was respectful of human rights and had friends who are gay, even though Leung had publicly opposed same-sex marriage.
Leung later ran twice for the federal Conservatives in Burnaby-Douglas.
In 2008, the NPA once again found itself in trouble with the LGBT community when it wouldn't let sex-trade activist Jamie Lee Hamilton put her name forward as a candidate for a nomination for park board.
At a news conference in the West End, the only NPA candidate who stood by Hamilton's side was Christopher Richardson. He's running as an NPA school-board candidate in 2014.
At the time, the NPA insisted that Hamilton's gender identity had nothing to do with the party's decision to refuse to let her seek a nomination.
More recently, the NPA expelled school trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo from caucus when they voted against the board of education's proposed amendments to its sexual orientation and gender identities policies. It's a sign that the party's no longer in a mood to tolerate politicians who take positions in opposition to LGBT rights.
It's worth noting that NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball has always been a friend of the LGBT community.
So just as with Vision Vancouver's record on finances, the NPA's approach to the LGBT community has been mixed.
But for the partisans at the Broadbent Institute, that doesn't fit with the narrative they want to send to Vancouverites in advance of the election.
In defence of the Broadbent Institute, the Fraser Institute is playing a similar game with its characterization of civic finances.
The Fraser Institute neglected to mention that the city's $205-million debt is lower than it was in 2002.
The city repays debts within 10 years even though capital assets can last for a century. And only about 2.7 percent of annual revenue goes to cover interest on the debt.
What's the lesson here?
In an election year, don't always trust what comes out of third parties commenting on civic issues.
Sometimes, they just say what the politicians are afraid to mention for fear that they'll be swatted down for playing fast and loose with the truth.
In closing, it's worth noting, perhaps, that I tried to reach LaPointe today for a comment on his 1999 signed editorial. I still haven't heard back from him.
I also wanted to ask him if he'll be marching in the Pride parade on Sunday (August 3).
Related article: After this commentary appeared, LaPointe called the Georgia Straight. Read his comments in "NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe claims he's being smeared by haters over a 1999 photo".