Here are the real reasons why Gregor Robertson and Christy Clark won't march in the Pride parade
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has decided to jet off to London on a "trade mission" in advance of the annual Vancouver Pride parade.
Premier Christy Clark, the MLA for Vancouver–Point Grey, won't walk in the parade for the second consecutive year, even though she was quite happy to make the time as a CKNW broadcaster.
When Toronto mayor Rob Ford takes a pass on the parade, he's regularly roasted by the media in his town.
But when B.C. political leaders do the same, they mostly get off scot-free.
According to a Statistics Canada report, B.C. had the third-highest rate of police-reported hate crimes in the country in 2010. The highest rate by a significant margin occurred in Ford's province of Ontario, followed by Manitoba and then B.C., at four crimes per 100,000 people.
Among Canadian cities, Vancouver was in the middle of the pack at nearly five crimes per 100,000 people.
Hate crimes are most commonly rooted in race and ethnicity, but those involving sexual orientation are the most violent.
"This trend was also seen in 2010, as almost two-thirds (65%) of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation were violent," Statistics Canada reported. "In comparison, 34% of racially motivated hate crimes and 17% of religiously motivated hate crimes were violent."
In the face of this, why wouldn't the mayor of Vancouver show solidarity with those facing this issue by marching in the annual Pride parade?
I would suggest there are three explanations:
• Robertson wants to go to London to take in the Olympics and be photographed with Canadian athletes.
• He sees no need to attend the Pride parade because he's already locked up most of the LGBT vote, and the next election won't occur until 2014.
• The mayor is unfamiliar with research conducted by UBC Sauder School of Business professors John Reis and Keith Head, who demonstrated there's no evidence that high-profile trade trips led by politicians generate any financial returns.
Robertson's trip will cost taxpayers $100,000. A month ago, he was in Singapore at taxpayers' expense rather than hanging around town for Canada Day.
Someone should tell the mayor that he's not some big-city U.S. mayor with real authority.
Robertson has one vote on council in a country with a constitution that grants most powers to the provincial government, some powers to the federal government, and no powers to municipalities.
Canadian cities are mere creations of provincial legislation to deal with land use, parks, engineering, and fire services, as well as serving as funding sources for police boards that are mostly appointed by the province.
Why this mayor feels he should be heading trade missions all over the world eludes me. If he was paying more attention to his back yard, Vancouver-based businesses would be less vulnerable to being lured to Burnaby, Richmond, and Coquitlam by mayors who appear to be a lot more knowledgeable about the division of powers in this country than Vancouver's top elected official.
But enough of Robertson. At least he has attended the Pride parade every year he's been mayor (and he also attended the launch of Vancouver's Pride Week at city hall on July 30). The same can't be said of Clark, who has a responsibility to send a message to people across the province that she supports equal rights regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
I think I know why Clark won't walk in the parade. The official excuse will be some rubbish about her family. I suspect the reality is she doesn't want to get booed by some in the crowd.
If Clark had real guts as a political leader, she would march down Robson and Denman streets and Beach Avenue in the parade with her son Hamish to send a message to every redneck and homophobe in the province that she's on the right side of history. And she would amend the B.C. Human Rights Code to offer some protection for transgender people and order every school district in the province to create an antihomophobia policy.
But it won't happen. So instead, the hundreds of thousands who line the streets on Sunday (August 5) to show their support for the LGBT community will witness a large contingent from the B.C. NDP headed by their leader, Adrian Dix.
And after he wins the 2013 provincial election, LGBT kids will finally have a premier who's willing to show them at next year's Pride march what real political leadership looks like.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.