Sullivan defends candidate

NPA mayoral candidate Sam Sullivan says he won't cave under pressure from a former NPA councillor to bounce one of his new party's council candidates off the ticket. Former councillor Alan Herbert, who is gay, has criticized the nomination of Chinese-language-radio talk-show host Ronald Leung as a candidate for city council.

On his Fairchild Radio program, Leung has previously publicly opposed the federal government's redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Sullivan told the Georgia Straight that he knows Leung very well, and will not remove him from the NPA slate for his position on this issue.

"He is respectful of human rights," Sullivan insisted. "He has friends who are gay."

The NPA mayoral candidate added that Leung, who has a PhD in chemistry from SFU, is held in very high regard in the local Chinese community. "I haven't talked to him about the gay-marriage issue, but I know there are gay people who disagree with the gay-marriage position," Sullivan said. "I personally support it."

Leung told the Straight that he stood on the side of the majority of his audience on the issue of changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. "I don't think city council will ever discuss this issue at all," he said.

Herbert, who served as an NPA councillor from 1996 to 1999, told the Straight that the "only acceptable action" would be for the NPA to remove Leung from the slate and for Sullivan to issue a public apology. Herbert said he had a recent encounter with Leung, and was "a bit nonplussed when he quite summarily dismissed the deliberations of eight Canadian Supreme Courts".

"It was at that point I reminded him of the history of civil-rights issues that faced the Chinese community," Herbert claimed. "His response was to the effect that those were different sorts of civil rights."

Herbert added that he asked Leung if he had ever attended the Vancouver pride parade, and Leung responded that he had not. Herbert claimed that he asked Leung if he would ever attend or participate in a pride parade, and Leung again responded with a "no".

"I said, 'Fine; in that case, I've heard everything I need to know'," Herbert recalled. "I turned around and walked away."

Leung said that Herbert was "rude" during their meeting. "He accused me of [being] anti-gay," Leung claimed. "That's the first word that came out of his mouth when he saw me. He was quite intimidating and not very friendly."

Leung claimed that when Herbert asked if he would go to a gay-pride parade, Leung responded that he didn't want to go anywhere with Herbert. "It wasn't a very good conversation," Leung said.

He emphasized that he favours maintaining all city-hall cultural-funding programs, including funding for the pride parade. He also said that he believes in equality in the disposition of liquor licences and in the accessibility of public transportation. Last year, the city granted $11,267.82 to the Vancouver Pride Society, according to the city's financial statement.

Herbert said he recently wrote a letter to NPA council candidate Kathi Thompson and to NPA park-board candidate Korina Houghton because he felt that they wouldn't agree with Leung's position on the definition of marriage. Herbert claimed to be "distressed" that the NPA selection process denied the press and the public any opportunity to hear people seeking NPA nominations.

"This was truly an ultimate demonstration of contempt for the public by the NPA," Herbert wrote.

Houghton responded: "Your recent missive with regards to Ronald Leung does not capture the aggression with which I understand you approached him on this issue."

Leung said nobody apart from Herbert and the media has drawn attention to this situation. He claimed that his top priority as a candidate is addressing crime and safety. He added that when he knocks on people's doors, he notices that many residents have bars on their windows.

"I don't want to see people living in cages," Leung said.

He added that he wants the city to work with senior governments to introduce treatment-on-demand for addicts. He also said he favours adding 50 police officers next year.