Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sandra Pupatello for Ontario Liberal Leader & Premier

After much thought and watching the candidates in action over the last few weeks, I'm going to follow my head and my heart and endorse Sandra Pupatello for Ontario Liberal Leader and Premier.

I've liked Sandra for years. She's got great personality, spunk, energy, communication skills and amazing drive. She's handled some of the most difficult portfolios well in government including Education and Economic Development. She also played a key role as a fighter during her years in opposition, helping to transform a shattered Ontario Liberal Party into a governing force as Deputy Leader.

I find her the most compelling personality in this race. She's always struck me as gay-positive. I know for a fact she was a good friend of the late Dominic Agostino (who was elected in 1995 along with she). In recent weeks, I have been considering the strengths of Gerard Kennedy and Kathleen Wynne as well as Pupatello. The rest in the race have thus far failed to impress me much at all (although I do see great promise in Eric Hoskins, I just don't see it happening for him this time.)

Kennedy has been running for Liberal leader at either the provincial or federal levels for 16 years. I supported him in 1996 for the Ontario leadership. In 2006, his oft monotone delivery and vague promises of renewal failed to impress and drove me into the arms of Stephane Dion (in hindsight, my inability to get over Bob Rae's shallow credentials as a Liberal proved to be a big error.) Today, Kennedy's sudden return to provincial politics has many scratching their heads. His message in this campaign has been somewhat effective with him positioning himself as the rebel candidate who has been the most removed from the McGuinty government's recent failings. Still, Kennedy's Toronto roots would be a tricky sell outside of the GTA. His left-of-centre politics may also not be quite what the province needs at this point. We shouldn't forget that the Tories still form the greatest threat to Liberal rule, not the NDP. While I'm sure Kennedy might be able to win back some teachers' hearts and possibly push support for the NDP back down a bit, I'm not sure how well he'd do against the Tories. I still get frustrated by his dry delivery during debates or in interviews, although he is better than in 2006. I could be completely happy with Kennedy as leader and I'm sure he'd make a strong go of it were he to win the leadership. I've been waiting to be impressed by him in this race and it hasn't quite happened yet. I'm starting to believe it's simply not going to happen. Part of me also loves the idea of electing a woman as premier and I can't help but suspect I'd be somewhat disappointed if Kennedy were to prevail over his two amazing female opponents in this race.

Kathleen Wynne would be my third choice for leader. She's got so much respect from her colleagues and she's also clearly an amazing person. I like the idea of Ontario's first openly gay leader and premier, as I do love the idea of Ontario's first woman premier. But I do think that Wynne being a left-of-centre lesbian from Toronto would be an even harder sell outside of the downtown core than Kennedy. This is quite unfair, I know. She's got amazing talent. I was waiting to see if, unleashed from the constraints of cabinet, Wynne would start to show a strength of personality so compelling that she would simply cancel out all of the obvious negatives. I haven't seen that yet. Furthermore, as a member of the cabinet until recently, she'll wear all of the recent scandals and spending mishaps that have plagued the government the last year. She's a good candidate, but I fear a Wynne-led Liberal Party would probably fail to win a mandate in the next election and usher in a very unfortunate Tory government under the regressive Tim Hudak.

Which brings me back to Sandra Pupatello. From Windsor, Ontario, she hails from a part of the province where Liberal support fell the most in the 2011 election. If she wins, she'll run in Windsor again. That can only help in rebuilding the party in that region. Ontarians seem to prefer their premiers to come from outside the Toronto area. Valid or not, there is a sense outside the GTA that Torontonians are inward-looking and don't know or care enough about life outside the big city. Any leader from the city of Toronto or even from Mississauga is going to suffer from this kind of mistrust. It's why all the parties in Ontario seem to prefer non-Toronto leaders.

If she wins, Pupatello's primary focus on "jobs" and "economic growth" will be music to the ears of Ontarians who are deeply worried about the economy and our province's massive deficit. I think she's going to strongly connect with not only the Liberal base in and around the Greater Toronto Area, she's also going to impress many Ontarians outside this region as well. Not only would Pupatello be the province's first woman premier, she'd also be the province's first Italian-Canadian premier. We would finally break the anglo-male mold for leadership in Ontario. As a former Education Minister, she's as well-positioned to re-build relationships with teachers as either Kennedy or Wynne.

Once Ontarians get a good look at Premier Sandra, they'll find they like what she has to offer and I think be inclined to give her a shot at turning the Ontario economy around with a renewed electoral mandate. More than any other candidate in this provincial leadership race, Pupatello is the one with the winning combination of likeability, credentials and communication abilities that we need at this time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Martha Hall-Findlay is looking better and better every day...

Justin Trudeau seems to be imploding lately with the revelation of old and very unfortunate 2010 quotes about Alberta and now an incoherent position on the gun registry. Suddenly, the quick fix coronation many Liberals expected seems like a very bad idea. Certainly, it needs major revisiting.

It's been said that Justin has been campaigning with an eye to the 2015 election with his right-leaning positions on the Nexen takeover and, clumsily, on the long gun registry. If true, he's taking a victory from Liberal members and supporters for granted. Doing so may be a fatal mistake for his leadership bid.

Liberals went for the quick fix with Ignatieff, a man judged by the public as wholly inadequate for federal leadership, and the results speak for themselves. Liberals ought not to be seduced by the superficial polling which shows Trudeau leading them back from the dead in an instant. We have to accept the fact that Justin may simply not be the right person for the job.

But who else can the Liberals turn to federally? I do agree that Marc Garneau is a great man. I will definitely be listening to what he has to say in this leadership race and will consider voting for him. I have my doubts about his political instincts though as well as his age. The Liberals need an energetic fighter who's going to have to devote at least 10 years to the unglamorous work of revitalizing a moribund party. Liberals need to re-define what being a Liberal means and what philosophy and positions we have to offer to Canadians. Flip flopping and pandering on important issues won't cut it. Will Canadians really buy Justin Trudeau as the new champion of the middle class considering his background? Does he come to his positions based on core, set principles? Or is he an empty vessel willing to say whatever he thinks we want to hear?

For me, I'm seriously considering Martha Hall-Findlay for the first time, not only because of this article, but also because she's someone who has earned through hard work her position in the party and the country. She's worked and lived as a member of the middle class. She's bright. She has never stuck her foot in it, to the best of my knowledge.

No more quick fixes, Liberals. It's a very long time until the April vote. I was leaning toward Justin, but now that has changed. I'll be watching very closely. The last thing that Justin should do is take a win from Liberals in this 2013 race for granted.

UPDATE: A reader has reminded me about Hall-Findlay's stated support for the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal as well as the Keystone pipeline. As I oppose the Northern Gateway, I will have to reconsider any support for Hall-Findlay for sure. Suddenly, Justin's stance on that issue seems much more nuanced. This race remains extremely interesting. A tough battle where Justin takes some knocks and is forced to defend his positions will make all the candidates stronger and ensure the eventual winner is battle-ready despite past unfortunate statements. No candidate is perfect, least of all Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Time for Toronto conservatives to find a new champion and ditch Buffoon Ford!

Many of Rob Ford's opponents are celebrating today's surprising court decision to remove him from office for breaking the law.

Apparently, Rob Ford intends to appeal the decision in court and try to stay in office. If a byelection is held to fill the vacancy caused by today's ruling, it seems that Rob Ford may try to run again on some kind of demented "I'm a victim of left wing conspiracies" platform. Surely the idiots who make up the base of Ford Nation will be happy to vote for the buffoon again. But surely not the fiscal conservatives in Toronto who merely wanted some relief in 2010 after years of David Miller and couldn't stomach George Smitherman's immense baggage. Haven't they seen enough of this gong show yet?

If there is a byelection, I hope Torontonians who want fiscal responsibility in the Toronto mayor's office will take this ruling as the last straw that it is and ditch this buffoon Ford and find someone else who is qualified to lead a world-class city and who doesn't regularly disregard the law for his private purposes. Surely there are better conservatives in Toronto than Rob Ford!

Sadly, Ford's thoughtless fans in the right-wing media are already at it. Apparently, when one of their own breaks the law and is forced to face the consequences, it's an insult to the voters. When ordinary people break the law, we don't get cheerleaders at Sun Media demanding we be forgiven without consequences. They throw the book at us. The hypocrisy is disgusting.

Enough of the gong show! It's time this regrettable chapter in Toronto's history come to a close. If this decision is upheld and we have a byelection in Toronto to fill the mayor's office, I hope we get better candidates than the sorry lot we got in 2010.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

GridTO article: Splitting the Village

This week, I was happy to be interviewed for this Grid Toronto piece about the possible splitting of Toronto's Gay Village into two federal/provincial ridings. Here's an excerpt and link to the reporter Luc Rinaldi's great article:

The changes, proposed in August by Valin and the other two members of Ontario’s electoral-boundaries commission, would split the Village into two ridings along Wellesley Street. The southern half would remain within the existing Toronto Centre; the northern portion would join the newly created Mount Pleasant riding. Provincial ridings and municipal wards are expected to adopt these new boundaries as well.

Goyeau and a handful of others at the hearing are determined to keep the Village in a single riding. He contends that the split, which would give the area two different political representatives instead of just one, would make it harder for the neighbourhood to find a devoted champion for its causes. But making that change isn’t as easy as simply moving the boundary north.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” Goyeau says of the redistribution process. “When you push in one particular place, there’s a bulge in another.” Under the proposed boundaries, each of the newly defined ridings would have a population of about 100,000, just shy of the province’s ideal average of 106,000. Removing the territory north of Wellesley from Mount Pleasant and leaving it within Toronto Centre would upset the population balance, likely necessitating another boundary adjustment elsewhere.

Matthew Guerin, a screenwriter and producer who’s lived both in and around the Village, is also opposed to dividing the community between two ridings.

“It’s easy to think that little sliver [between Wellesley and Bloor] would be pretty much drowned out by the voting habits of those north of Bloor,” says Guerin, who believes that northern Mount Pleasant residents typically vote more conservatively. Guerin says that the area in question has more in common with Toronto Centre and that, symbolically, the split is “odd.”

But not everyone is convinced that the proposed change is a negative one, including the riding’s former MPP and 2010 mayoral candidate George Smitherman. “I had the same first reaction—I was quite emotional about it,” says Smitherman, who still considers the Village—where he once lived and operated a business—his home neighbourhood. Upon further consideration, he realized the new boundaries could offer the area greater attention and representation.

“The neighbourhood association would suddenly have two different representatives, possibly from two different political parties, that could advocate and lobby on issues that matter to them.”

Smitherman says the Wellesley Street split wouldn’t necessarily be as divisive as some fear because Toronto’s LGBT population is less concentrated in the Village than it once was.

“The gay community can find itself without a street corner,” he says.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tories way down and Liberals way up, yet some in the MSM say this is good for Stephen Harper?

This article is one of a couple currently using a new Ipsos Reid poll to argue that Justin Trudeau is Stephen Harper's newest friend.

The last Ipsos poll earlier this year put NDP support at 38% with the Tories at 35%, and the Liberals at 18%. Today, apparently the Liberals are up to 26%, with the NDP down to 30% and the Tories are down to 34%.

Hmmmm....On the superficial surface, this would appear to be bad news for the NDP. However, one must admit the 38% number in June, if true at all, was simply due to the ongoing honeymoon for new leader Tom Mulcair and the ongoing absence of a viable Liberal option. No other polls put NDP support that high around that time, of course. I recall seeing mostly low 30s for the NDP then.

Secondly, I prefer to look at the actual voting results in 2011 and draw comparisons from that instead of polls. When we do this, we notice clearly that Tory support has fallen significantly from 40% down to 34%. NDP support is fairly steady, going from 31% to 30%. And Liberal support has gone up substantially from 19% to 26%.

So in truth, the Tories have lost the most support and the Liberals have been the beneficiaries. This poll would suggest that the reinvigorated Liberals are gaining mostly at the expense of the Tories. In truth, a rejuvenated Liberal Party is a direct threat to Tory support.

Let's not forget that it was the collapse of the Liberal vote in 2011 that benefited the Tories directly, especially in Ontario. Those votes didn't switch to the NDP and magically elect Tories. They moved directly from the Liberals to the Tories and gave Harper his majority. As we know, there are huge swaths of the electorate, especially in Ontario, who will freely switch between the Conservatives and the Liberals, but have shown little interest in considering the NDP. If the Liberals remain unviable, those votes will stay Conservative. But if the Liberals become viable again, after nine years of Tory rule, many will be tempted to switch back.

Now this poll indicates many of those votes lost in 2011 have returned to the Liberal fold. If that continues, Justin Trudeau will be anything but Stephen Harper's best friend. A drop of six points for the Tories with the NDP holding steady would likely produce a weak Tory minority government, with NDP making modest seat gains, and the Liberals gaining significantly as well (but still in third place.)

The most interesting aspect of the poll is that despite a rejuvenating Liberal Party, NDP support is holding steady at roughly what the party won last year. It does appear that continued NDP strength is not going away anytime soon, despite the spin.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Americans vote for same sex marriage in 4 states & re-elect a pro-equal marriage President!

Let me just quickly celebrate the great re-election of Barack Obama on Tuesday night.  He's the first President of the United States to publicly support same sex marriage. 

I do think Obama's leadership on this issue this year played a part in the results in four states where referenda on same sex marriage was also being voted on.   Maine reversed its previous vote against same sex marriage by finally endorsing it on Tuesday night by a 53% margin.  Maryland followed suit on Tuesday with a 52% victory.  Minnesota seems to have voted down an attempt to ban equal marriage in its law by a 52% margin.  Out west, Washington state also voted for same sex marriage by a 52% margin.  Coupled with that state's endorsement of recreational marijuana by a 55%, Washington becomes my new favourite place!  I need to plan a nice summer trip out that way along with Vancouver soon! 

Americans have shown they are progressing away from their conservative past into a more inclusive future.  All progressives have great reason to celebrate this week. 

Canadians continue to suffer under Stephen Harper's psychotic, paranoid, secretive rule.  But at least the wingnuts in Canada's conservative party are being held at bay by the Prime Minister in favour of a moderate conservative agenda.   The Republican Party in the U.S. would do well to learn from Canada's Conservatives on how to behave and win. 

I'm at least glad to say that Canada's progressive parties are finally getting their acts together.  The federal NDP continues to be a formidable force as the official opposition under Tom Mulcair and remain the greatest threat to the Conservatives.   The Liberals are also fixing their leadership problems and look certain now to elect Justin Trudeau as leader, who I think will appeal to the hearts and minds of Canadians who don't like the bizarre tendencies of our current prime minister, particularly in areas which gave Harper his majority in 2011.  Trudeau may end up being Canada's answer to Barack Obama like his father was Canada's answer to John Kennedy. 

Interesting times indeed.  For an interesting read on this topic, try this out:

Den Tandt: Americans were really voting to become more Canadian

Monday, November 5, 2012

Republican minority voting suppression tactics will hopefully end after 2012...

Further to recent revelations about forcing voters to show government issued photo ID in certain Republican-controlled U.S. states this election, let's look at another Republican tactic in this campaign: cancelling or cutting down on early voting, taking away opportunities to vote ahead of election day.

In Florida, where the race is currently neck and neck and every vote counts, in the last election, voters had 14 days to cast ballots before voting day. Not so this year. The Republican governor and legislature has seen fit to reduce those voting days to 8. See more below:

"With complaints streaming in from angry voters, the Florida Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters asked Gov. Rick Scott and state election officials on Thursday to extend early voting. They argued that some voters were leaving without voting because they did not have all day to wait in line. The Monroe County election supervisor, Harry Sawyer, also asked Mr. Scott to use his emergency powers to extend early voting. But the governor and state elections officials turned down the request, saying that the process was running smoothly and that the move was unnecessary. Last year, Mr. Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature pushed through a measure to cut early voting from 14 days to 8 days and to cancel voting on the final Sunday before Election Day."

It had been an electoral tradition in Florida for blacks in various Florida churches to conduct "Souls to the Polls" trips to the early voting booths on the Sunday before elections as a way to promote voter turnout. This year, that tradition is cancelled by the Republicans.

How is this making voting accessible or encouraging people to vote? By cancelling opportunities they've always had to vote early? The agenda by the Republicans here is pretty clear.

I read some commentary recently that 2012 will be the last Republican year in which they attempt to suppress or crush the votes of Latinos, blacks and other minorities. Instead of doing what the Canadian Conservatives have done by reaching out to ethnic communities and tap into and grow support for the party, the largely white Republican party under the control of the racist Tea Party movement this election has taken a different tact: try to suppress minority votes, take away opportunities for them to vote and hope that the white vote will carry the day for Mitt Romney.

By 2016, the Latino vote will have grown so large in the U.S. that any party that ignores it will simply never win. The Republicans will be reaching out to them, not trying to shut down their voting stations. These tactics by the Republicans this year are so odious and are reason alone for me to hope for a just defeat for their presidential candidate. I don't believe for a second that Romney will do anything much different than Obama on the debt except irresponsibly lower taxes on the richest of Americans and create even more debt for that country. Obama will tackle the debt by bringing in tax reform that asks the richest to pay a bit more, while working hard for the middle class which is the engine of any economic recovery. Obama will govern to get 100% of America moving again, Romney was pretty clear he's only concerned about what he called the "53%".

I'll be hoping and praying that despite Republican attempts to suppress their opponents, all Americans who want to vote will still make their way to the polls and the democratic voice of America will reject these despicable voter suppression tactics.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ontario Liberal leadership race continues to take shape...

I was on this mailing list from George Smitherman (see email below), glad to say. I think George has made the right decision to stay out of the Ontario Liberal leadership race. He's damaged goods, associated with the major scandals of the McGuinty government (E-health, Ornge, etc.) His baggage cost him the 2010 mayoralty race and elected Rob Ford. I've supported George in the past but no longer think he should be seeking elected office. It's time to move on.

I've got to say I'm excited by the prospect of Sandra Pupatello leading the Liberals and becoming Premier. If she wins, I think she'll be quite popular with the public as a personality. The first female premier of Ontario would be historic. And the first Italian-Canadian as premier would appeal greatly to the Liberal base in and around the GTA - plus perhaps signal recovery in southwestern Ontario where Pupatello has her home base (Windsor). Her absence the last year or so has allowed her to be detached from the scandals surrounding Ornge and the cancelled Mississauga gas power station. I think with Sandra as leader the Ontario Liberals will be quite competitive again.

I'm anxious to hear the main messages she puts forth to define her leadership. An emphasis on economic growth and prosperity and building on the McGuinty government's successes in education and health care would be nice to hear too, I quite agree...

I met Deb Matthews when I worked at Queen's Park. She struck me as an entirely partisan, empty individual. I'll take Sandra over Deb any day.

Kathleen Wynne, as the Toronto lesbian candidate, will put forth a decent message of change and she'll probably launch the strongest competition to Pupatello. But the Ontario Liberals have an aversion to picking Toronto leaders, and you don't get any more Toronto than Wynne. Wynne will inspire a lot of people, I'll probably be highly tempted to vote for her. But the party will ultimately take the slightly younger firebrand from Windsor. We'll see...

----- Forwarded Message ----- From: George Smitherman Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 4:02:11 PM Subject: Smitherman Bows out of Liberal Leadership Race

Hi, just a reminder that you're receiving this email because you have expressed an interest in hearing from George Smitherman.

Smitherman Bows out of Liberal Leadership Race

Former Ontario Deputy Premier George Smitherman has bowed out of the race to succeed Dalton McGuinty as the Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and as Premier of Ontario.

"On many levels the challenge excites and energizes me, but a return to active politics at this time isn't compatible with my personal objectives", Smitherman said. "With two kids under age four and 3 new businesses it wouldn't be fair to anyone for me to pursue my love of politics at this time" he added.

Smitherman thanked friends, family and loyal supporters for the encouragement they offered over the past two weeks, "Politics is a tough road and it's hardest on the people who love you the most. Christopher remains unwavering and unselfish in his willingness to support me in active politics which means everything to me" added Smitherman.

The greatest motivation for a run at this time would have been the chance to bring ideas forward. "Over the past two weeks I have thought long and hard about the challenges and about the boldness of the solutions that are needed for Ontario" Smitherman said.

"I am excited that new projects such as a collaboration to create an Interactive Talk TV format will provide an outlet for ideas and a vehicle for an animated conversation about topical issue" he added. The first such Forum will focus on Gaming in Toronto and will take place in late November.

In exiting the race Smitherman took the opportunity to offer one piece of advice to candidates vying to replace McGuinty. "To date, every prospective candidate is playing to the opposition's narrative about the McGuinty Government. It's time to show some pride for the accomplishments as a foundation for new ideas and opportunities".

Contact:

George Smitherman 416 816 7118 gsmitherman@rogers.com georgesmitherman.com George Smitherman 120 Front Street East, Suite 208 Toronto, Ontario M5A 4L9

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Screenplay for 'THE GOLDEN PIN' by Matt Guerin & Cuong Ngo

This was the shooting script for the 2009 short film, 'The Golden Pin', which I co-wrote with director Cuong Ngo. I also worked as Associate Producer on this production. The script was 11 pages long and the final cut of the film including credits is 16 minutes. The film played at over 40 international film festivals, including Toronto's Inside Out Film Festival 2009 where it won 'Best Canadian Short.'

Here's the trailer to the short film
, which will soon be licensed in 2012 in North America to OUTTV - I'll provide screening details when they become available.

We are currently working on a feature film version of this short film.


THE GOLDEN PIN

FADE IN:

INT. ATHLETIC CENTRE - SWIMMING POOL - DAY

Eight YOUNG ATHLETIC MALE SWIMMERS, all wearing black speedos and caps, dive into an eight lane pool and do the breaststroke. LONG, 25, a handsome, Asian, clean-cut man, in one lane, RYAN, 24, a handsome, Caucasian man is beside him . Their bodies have great form, their legs and arms whip in circles. The lap is finished and the swimmers hoist themselves out of the water except for Long who still has a half lap to go.

THE IMAGE OF LONG'S FATHER, PHONG, IS SUPERIMPOSED.

PHONG
(in Vietnamese)
Your mother and I could only have one child. We both wanted more. All of my brothers were killed during the Vietnam war...

BACK TO LONG SWIMMING

PHONG (V.O.) (CONT'D)
... You're the only hope to continue our family line. Only after you marry and have children, will we be happy.

Long reaches the end. Ryan is waiting for him. Ryan smiles at him and helps him out of the pool.

RYAN
It's just a dual meet. We'll win anyway.

LONG
I was thinking.

RYAN
About?...

Long looks at Ryan with concern.

FADE TO BLACK.

Phong (V.O.)
(in Vietnamese)
Never forget, we love you, Long. More than anything.

INT. LONG'S FAMILY HOME - LIVING ROOM - NIGHT

A lovely CHRISTMAS TREE is in the center of the room. We find Long's nephew TYCO, 22, is playing a Christmas song on his VIOLIN.

Long's mother LINH and father PHONG, his UNCLE and AUNT and two teenage male COUSINS, stand nearby watching. Phong leaves to go into the nearby kitchen. Near the tree, Long, VANESSA, 23, a gorgeous Vietnamese woman with long black hair, and Ryan stand together. While talking with relatives and friends, Linh sometimes observes Long, Ryan and Vanessa as if she's thinking something - a puzzle.

The SONG is finished and the adults applaud. Vanessa smiles at Long and then at Ryan.

RYAN
How'd you end up with a name like Vanessa anyway? You don't have blue eyes and blonde hair.

Vanessa about to say, but Long...

LONG
Her real name is Hien, but guess what? Vanessa Williams is her hero.

VANESSA
It's true.

Ryan and Long giggle with Vanessa.

VANESSA (CONT'D)
So Ryan, how long you been swimming with Long?

RYAN
Since last September when I joined the team.

VANESSA
He's cute, Long. I can see why Long hid you.

Vanessa laughs. Ryan giggles too.

RYAN
Eat your heart out baby!

While Linh is chatting with the guests. Phong prepares a tray of champagne flutes.

PHONG
Linh.

Phong signals to her to come over. Linh goes to him and stands next to him. The guests are mingles around. A SOUND OF A CHAMPAGNE CORK POPPED UP. People turn and see Phong pours the champagne to the champagne flutes. Linh gives a champagne flute to Vanessa. Phong holds the tray of champagne flutes and the guests take them.

Phong raises his glass to everyone: Linh, his wife, Long's uncles, aunts and cousins, along with Long, Vanessa and Ryan.

PHONG (CONT'D)
(in Vietnamese)
We've gone through a lot together, the ups and downs of life, the victories and defeats. We always look forward with optimism in the future of young people.

Ryan sees Vanessa's hand finds Long's hand.

INT. FLASH BACK - ALLAN GARDENS - VICTORIAN GREEN HOUSE - DAY

Montage of Long with Vanessa in the garden.

PHONG (V.O.)
(in Vietnamese)
... They will continue to contribute to the work of constructing a better world for the community and our family. Happiness or sadness, let the past rest in peace...

BACK TO CHRISTMAS SCENE, LONG'S FAMILY'S HOME - LIVING ROOM

LINH
(in Vietnamese)
...Today, we're here to cheer the reunion of the family and good friends...As in our tradition, to every man: a family is foundation and the source of happiness and success... "a grown up boy has to get married. A grown up girl has to get married." --- it is a beautiful cycle of life.

Long sees Vanessa softly interprets to Ryan.

LONG
Mom, Dad, if you two continue to speak in Vietnamese, I'm not sure Ryan can understand.

LINH
(in English)
Oh sorry my dear.

PHONG
(in English)
My wife and I are very please to announce to you all that my son Long will become man and wife with Vanessa.

Note: Phong's speech will be intercut with the scene Long & Vanessa in Allan Gardens.

INSERT:

In Allan Gardens, Long kneels down and opens the ring box - it's the beautiful engagement ring.

MATCH CUT TO:

INT. LONG'S FAMILY HOME - LIVING ROOM - NIGHT

Vanessa raises the ring nervously.

PHONG
To our new daughter Vanessa.

Everybody raises their glasses and cheers. Vanessa goes to Long and throws her arms around him and kisses him. Linh begins to cry. Phong holds Linh close and tears come to his eyes as well. Ryan stares disbelieving.

INT. UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC CENTRE - SWIMMING POOL - DAY

After swim practice, Ryan and Long linger in their respective pool lanes. Long sees that Ryan is upset about something.

LONG
You alright?

RYAN
Why wouldn't I be?...How come you didn't tell me, Long?

Long looks away to see if anyone's listening. The last team mates disappear into the men's change room.

RYAN (CONT'D)
High drama. Christmas. Well done.
You gonna marry her?

LONG
Yes.

RYAN
What's going on, Long?

LONG
What do you mean?

RYAN
I mean what's going on?

LONG
We're friends. We can only be friends.

RYAN
We're not just friends, Long.

LONG
Ryan, I'm the last of my family line. I have to have children - boy children.

Ryan leans over to Long, touches his shoulder.

RYAN
We could have a good life together if you want.

Ryan touches Long's cheek. They look at one another lovingly. Ryan kisses Long.
Long gently pushes Ryan away.

RYAN (CONT'D)
I'm sorry.

LONG
No I'm sorry.

Long takes Ryan's hand tenderly and holds it for a moment.

LONG (CONT'D)
Vanessa's probably waiting for me.

Long pulls away, looks at Ryan as he backs away, turns and walks to the men's change room.

INT. ATHLETIC CENTRE - MEN'S SHOWER ROOM - DAY (LATER)

Long walks past some of his swim team mates under the shower. He finds an empty stall and begins to shower. The team mates turn off their showers and walk out of the shower room.

Ryan enters and sees Long under the shower. He takes off his speedo and tossing it to one side and walks over to Long and gets under the empty shower beside him. Ryan puts his head under the water.

INT. ATHLETIC CENTRE - HALLWAY - DAY (LATER)

Long leaves the men's locker room into the student filled hallway. He sees Vanessa waiting by the front door. She smiles and waves when she sees him. Long walks over to Vanessa. He gives her a kiss.

LONG
Let's go. I'm starving.

Ryan darts out of the men's locker room and spots Long.

RYAN
Long!

Ryan holds up Long's wet towel.

LONG
Thanks, bro.

Long walks over and grabs his towel, but Ryan doesn't let go of it. He stares at Long.

LONG (CONT'D)
I'll see you tomorrow?

Ryan shrugs.

LONG (CONT'D)
Later.

Ryan heads back to the men's locker room.

VANESSA
See ya handsome.

Ryan waves his hand but doesn't look at them and goes inside the locker room.
Vanessa takes Long by the hand and they start to walk down the hallway. Long looks upset.

VANESSA (CONT'D)
What is it? What's wrong?

She rubs his back. Long tries to give her a smile.

INT. LONG'S FAMILY HOME - ALTAR ROOM - NIGHT

In a darkened room, Linh lights a YELLOW CANDLE on the Buddha altar. She lights incense and puts it in a joss-stick pot. Close on an ANCIENT BOX on the altar. Linh takes it and opens it --- there is a GOLDEN HAIRPIN in it. She holds it up.

Flash back - INT. AN APARTMENT - SAIGON - 1978 - NIGHT

SUPER: "SAIGON 1978"

A picture of Saigon in 1978 in a frame, the camera pulls out and find: a darkened room, only a lit candle sits on a wooden table. A male hand is writing a letter with a fountain pen.

On the letter reads: (in Vietnamese)
Linh,
I'm sad to leave you without saying goodbye, but I have no choice. This hairpin belonged to my mother. It has passed down from generation to generation. I want you to have it as a gift for your wedding to Phong. Forget about me. Wherever I go you're always in my heart.
Anh Trung"

We hear a whistle. The man rushes to the window. Through the moonlight, a young man, 23, wears a dark shirt. This is TRUNG, Linh's boyfriend. He seems worried. He looks out of the window, down on the street...

Trung puts the hairpin into the ancient box and places it on top of the letter, grabs his clothes bag and rushes out of the room.

BACK TO PRESENT DAY

INT. LONG'S FAMILY HOME - ALTAR ROOM - NIGHT

Linh is deep in thought. She makes her hair up in hair bun and puts the hairpin on.

INT. LONG'S FAMILY HOME - LONG'S STUDIO - NIGHT (LATER)

In a low-lit room, a lonely bed is visible then the camera finds Long shirtless with pyjamas pants in the bathroom. He is getting the water from the faucet then splashes on his face. Long looks at himself as if he looks into infinity. The water rolls slowly down on his eye lashes; then it keeps rolling down on his face.

Long puts on his shirt and walks towards to the stereo. He grabs the remote control and hits the play button. Two pictures with black frame are next to the radio. Long holds up a picture. It's the picture of Long and Ryan are happily holding gold medals. He puts the picture face down next to the picture of him with Vanessa.

INT. LONG'S FAMILY HOME - STAIRCASE - NIGHT (LATER)

A hand holds a candle that is moving in a darken room. With the candle light, we see Linh. She ascends the staircase to Long's studio room upstairs.

INT. LONG'S FAMILY HOME - LONG'S STUDIO - NIGHT - CONTINUOUS

The clock strikes. In the darkened room, Long stands by the window looking out at the full moon. His silhouette shadows the floor.

Linh comes into the room. She holds the lit yellow candle.

LONG
The music woke you? I'm sorry.

LINH
(in Vietnamese)
I couldn't sleep either. You're worried about your wedding?

Long remains in silence and sighs. Linh feels the atmosphere of Long's world.

LINH (CONT'D)
(in Vietnamese)
You always keep your space so different from the rest of the house. I like it.

Linh puts the candle down by to the stereo. She sees a picture laid face down. She puts it up. She looks at the picture of Long and Ryan for a few seconds.

LINH (CONT'D)
(in Vietnamese)
The day I was the bride, I chose a yellow dress although all the people on your dad's side went against it. Your dad knew my ex loved yellow roses but Phong considered that he shouldn't be jealous of someone already dead. I never told you this before. Just before the wedding day, my ex showed up in the camp. I was torn between love and obligation.

LONG
But you chose dad.

She comes close and hugs Long.

LINH
(in Vietnamese)
The night before the wedding, I wrote a farewell letter to your dad. So I could go back to my love. But my lover never gave me that chance. He vanished without a trace one more time. He left this golden hairpin as a wedding gift.

Long looks at Linh. His eyes follow as Linh takes a GOLDEN HAIRPIN out of her hair.

INSERT - FLASHBACK - INT. THEATRE - NIGHT

LINH (V.O.)
(in Vietnamese)
I remember we went to see a classic Vietnamese opera. The princess refused the King's order to end her relationship with the warrior who loved her and marry the foreign King she didn't love. So the King sent her: poison, rope and a sword. She refused all and chose her death like this...

An ACTRESS is on the stage. She dresses as a princess in a classic Vietnamese traditional opera. After finishing the last part of the song, she suddenly pulls out her hairpin and raises the hairpin and about stabs her own throat...

MATCH CUT TO:
Back to present

INT. LONG'S FAMILY HOME - LONG'S STUDIO - NIGHT

Linh raises the hairpin and pretends to stab her own throat. Her body shakes as if she is dying. But she looks at Long and smiles sadly. She gives him the hairpin.

LINH
(in Vietnamese)
But I didn't do that... People all have tragedies. But we need to let them go and move on. It's fate.

Linh gently strokes Long's face and hugs him tenderly.

LINH(CONT'D)
(in Vietnamese)
I want you to be happy and I want you to stand up for what you believe.

Linh snuffs out the candle and leaves the room.

Long remains deep in thought as the door closes. The full moon shines the sadness on Long's face as the room goes dark.

INT. ATHLETIC CENTRE - LOCKER - DAY

Ryan sits on a bench and he is in deep thought in an empty locker room. The men's change room doors open and Long enters. Ryan and Long look at each other tentatively.

INT. UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC CENTRE - SWIMMING POOL - DAY (LATER)

Ryan & Long stand on the deck stretching, along with the six other swim team members.
Long and Ryan stand in front of the two middle lanes, the other team members along side them.

The swimmers take their positions, ready to dive forward into the water. Ryan looks over at Long and smiles.

A WHISTLE blows. Long, Ryan and the other swimmers dive in.

Under water their forms are perfect, arms churning, bubbles frothing.

FADE TO BLACK.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Electoral riding commission threatens to split Toronto's LGBT Village in Two....

The Commission looking into redistributing 338 ridings for the federal House of Commons for the next election (up from the current 308) has released its proposals.

They include adding 15 seats to Ontario's current count of 106. Most of the new ridings will be in the 905 around Toronto to take into account the growing populations in those areas. The City of Toronto gets 2 extra seats, including a new seat around Rosedale called 'Mount Pleasant,' which has a southerly border that runs right down Wellesley Street, slashing Toronto's downtown LGBT village in half. If adopted, voters in the village north of Wellesley but south of Bloor would be voting with Rosedale all the way up to Eglinton. Those south of Wellesley would vote in a smaller version of 'Toronto Centre.'


I think it's wrong to cut Toronto's gay village in two like this. Please see an email I sent below to the Commission today and the preliminary response:


From: Matt Guerin
Sent: August-28-12 4:56 PM
To: Commission office - ONTARIO -
ontario@rfed-rcf.ca
Subject: concerns about new riding map for Toronto Centre/Mount Pleasant ridings

Dear Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario,

I am writing to express my concerns as a resident of the current riding of Toronto Centre and a member of the LGBT community.

As you may know, the current Toronto Centre riding contains the largest concentration of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) citizens than any other riding in Canada. The centre of this community is the Church & Wellesley neighbourhood in the heart of the current riding. What's become popularly known as 'The Village' stretches from Church & Wellesley north up to approximately Bloor Street, and extends south to approximately Carlton Street. Heading west, one could say Bay Street or University Avenue is the unofficial westerly border of the 'Village', while Sherbourne is likely the unofficial easterly border of the community.

Of course, many LGBT people live in Toronto outside of these boundaries, including myself. I'm an owner of a condo on Shuter Street near Church Street.

But without a doubt, the heart and centre of Toronto's LGBT is the Church & Wellesley intersection. I think if you did any sort of research into this issue, you'd find most Torontonians would agree with this.

That's why I was dismayed to see your new riding boundary proposals for Ontario, which include creating the new riding of Mount Pleasant, carved out of mostly the northern half of the current riding of Toronto Centre. The new riding of Toronto Centre instead runs south of Bloor, east of Sherbourne, and south of Wellesley Street to Queen's Park. Mount Pleasant runs mostly north of this same new line.

In putting part of the southerly border between these two new ridings right down Wellesley Street, you have in fact proposed to cut Toronto's LGBT community, aka 'The Village' right in half. By any reasonable standard, this line seems arbitrary. It would unnecessarily divide up Toronto's LGBT village into two, diluting the voting power of the community into two ridings. I fail to see what the renters in apartment buildings or coops or condo owners who live near Church and Dundonald or Gloucester or Isabella or Jarvis have in common with the millionaires who live in mansions in Rosedale or other rich neighbourhoods north of St. Clair East.
In fact, with this new configuration, voters in the small sliver bordered by Wellesley/Sherbourne/Bloor East/Queen's Park Crescent will be forever overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of wealthier, heterosexual voters who will make up the vast majority of this new riding of Mount Pleasant.

Furthermore, the voting power of the LGBT community now contained within the new riding of Toronto Centre will also be diluted by the majority to the south. However, I would at least agree that the income and other demographics of the new Toronto Centre riding are more in sync. In fact, I would argue that the small sliver of the gay village you are now proposing to include in Mount Pleasant has much more in common with the new proposed Toronto Centre riding.

I believe it is a mistake to put the border of these two new ridings down Wellesley Street and effectively divide one of Toronto's most vibrant and important communities in half. I would suggest that a better dividing line would be right down Bloor Street, leaving those communities of similar income and interest together in the new Toronto Centre riding to the south.

I worry the proposed border down Wellesley Street looks like a deliberate attempt to water down Toronto's downtown gay vote. I strongly urge your Commission to reconsider this border and place it north instead to run directly down Bloor Street between the two new ridings.

Sincerely,
Matt Guerin

****************************

From: Commission office - ONTARIO ontario@rfed-rcf.ca
To: Matt Guerin
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 5:11:52 PM
Subject: RE: concerns about new riding map for Toronto Centre/Mount Pleasant ridings

Good afternoon.

Thank you for your email of today's date. I will bring it to the attention of the members of the Commission.

Beverly Hayter
Commission Secretary.

Toll free: 1-855-747-7224
Fax: 1-855-747-7225

Monday, July 2, 2012

Silver fox Anderson Cooper finally makes it official: "I'm gay"


Belated Happy Pride Day and Happy Canada Day wishes for all!

This news from CNN star Anderson Cooper was a nice post-Pride gift this morning.
The silver fox have finally made it official and come out of the closet.

In an email to blogger Andrew Sullivan, Anderson writes: "I've also wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons. Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I've often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist."

I completely agree, particularly about the potential dangers an out and famous gay person might face simply for being honest in most parts of the world. But let's face it. His longtime reluctance to make his gayness official sent out the wrong message and that seems to have finally tipped the balance in his decision to come out publicly today:

"Recently, however, I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something - something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true...The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."

We need to send the message that being gay is not a big deal, it's a natural part of the human experience and nothing to be ashamed about. Anderson Cooper reinforced that truth today. Good on him!

You can read the full story here on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Beast page.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pride short-film showcase - 'It makes for a nice escape if people get a little Prided out' says Guerin



Pride short-film showcase ON SCREEN / 'It makes for a nice escape if people get a little Prided out' - Chris Dupuis / Toronto / Monday, June 25, 2012

If you love celebrating your gayness but can stand huge crowds and 30-plus temperatures for only so long, fear not! An island of cooling serenity awaits you, courtesy of the Canadian Media Guild. The organization’s first ever Pride Week LGBT Short Film Showcase features a collection of works screening daily over Pride week. The films play on a continuous loop, so viewers can drop by whenever it suits them, to get their dose of celluloid in air-conditioned comfort.

“Playing films for only one night can really limit audiences, especially during Pride Week because there is so much going on,” says programmer Matt Guerin. “Getting exposure for the works was as important as providing entertainment, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to come by. It’s situated outside the Village, so it makes for a nice escape if people get a little Prided out.”

Guerin is a filmmaker who also works as a media librarian at CBC. He has brought together a diverse selection of films, including documentaries, animations, comedies and a few tearjerkers. Mostly Canadian, with a handful of international works, the event has something to suit every taste.

Rising star Jordan Tannahill’s Swim (which took home Inside Out’s Emerging Canadian Artist Award last year) will be featured. Based on the artist’s experience of losing a boyhood friend in a dare gone wrong, the piece attempts to relive the original tragedy, 20 years later.

“It’s only three minutes long, but it packs an emotional punch you rarely see in mainstream filmmaking,” Guerin says. “It’s an experimental work but still very accessible and quite beautiful to watch.”

Also on the bill is Mark Pariselli’s After, a dialogue-free exploration of three young gay guys’ fascination with a football-playing jock. Sexy without being explicit, dreamy without being pretentious, this unconventional exploration of teenaged lust has screened at more than 40 international festivals since its debut two years ago.

The program also features plenty of lighter works, including Betsy Kalin’s hilarious Chained! (a documentary chronicling the lesbian community’s fascination with wallet chains) and Christine Chew’s Slow Burn (a Western-infused comedy in which duelling tattoo artists battle for the chance to ink a mysterious girl for her first time).

Bunny is a film about an older gay couple struggling with Alzheimer's. Fresh off this year’s Inside Out program is local boy Seth Poulin’s heart-wrenching Bunny, about an older gay couple struggling with Alzheimer’s.

“I’ve never seen this kind of story told before anywhere,” Guerin says. “Most films aimed at gay audiences depend on young, good-looking guys as part of their selling point. For a filmmaker to tackle this kind of relationship is really daring.”

While short films rarely get exposure outside of festivals, Guerin insists they’re de rigueur viewing for anyone claiming cinephile status.

“Most filmmakers start out making shorts as they develop their abilities and get their name out there,” he says. “There’s an incredible array of talent on display here that you wouldn’t usually be able to see anywhere else. It’s a chance to see the future stars of cinema in the early stages of their career.”

The Deets:
2012 Pride Week LGBT Short Film Showcase Mon, June 25 to Fri, June 29, from 9am to 7pm all week Graham Spry Theatre
CBC Broadcasting Centre 250 Front St W Free 416-591-5333

More info at the event’s Facebook page

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fourth Horseman decides to postpone the Liberal Apocalypse...


Yes, Bob Rae made the right decision yesterday when he announced he won't be a candidate for the permanent leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. It was right for him and right for the party.

In my humble opinion, had Rae taken the reins of the federal Grits, after promising he wouldn't seek the job, his tenure would have resembled that of Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion and Paul Martin. It would've led to disappointment and further collapse of the federal Grits, continuing a pattern started under Martin, accelerated under Dion and driven into overdrive by Ignatieff.

Between Harper seeking another mandate in 2015 and Tom Mulcair leading a more moderate and savvy NDP, I believe a Rae-led Liberal Party would've seen its vote share shrink even further from the pathetic 19% it got in 2011. Ontario swing voters would've had little difficulty abandoning the Grits led by a largely ineffective former NDP premier. Such a result would be disastrous in the one province where the federal Grits still have considerable growth potential. It would've cemented the permanent decline of the party and turned Canada into a largely two-party system polarized between conservatives and social democrats like in Great Britain and most of the Western world.

But instead Rae showed wisdom and decided to spare himself and the Liberal Party such a terrible fate. He surely didn't fancy a political swan song like that of Joe Clark's doomed 2000 election debacle.

I'm also glad the Liberal Party will now be able to move beyond the terrible legacy of the 2006 leadership race. That race was thrust on Liberals after the resignation of the first Horseman of the Liberal Apocalypse, Paul Martin, who forced out a popular PM and replaced him with dithering and unimpressive leadership. Martin's reign as PM was built largely on Canadian mistrust of alleged Conservative extremism. When Stephen Harper convinced Canadians he really wasn't all that scary, they turfed Martin the first chance they got.

In the ensuing leadership race in 2006, Liberals were almost forced to choose between two deeply flawed frontrunners, both with the shallowest of shallow roots in the country and/or the party: Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. Iggy had spent his entire adult life outside the country and had been a supporter of the Iraq war, while Rae was a NDP turncoat who had never broken a sweat (at that point) on behalf of Liberals anywhere. (As we know, Rae's since gone on to much admirable work on behalf of his new party.) But in 2006, the party elite decided to hoist these two gentlemen on the party's members, thinking we'd lay down and play dead.

But I, like most party members, were not going to be forced to choose between Iggy and Rae. Instead, we decided to seek an alternative. Sadly, that alternative was Stephane Dion. I argued, at the time, that Dion had been such an effective cabinet minister that surely he'd have the ability to grow into a great leader. But no. Dion's pathetic communication skills, and his political tone deafness sealed his fate long before his disastrous 2008 election run. As such, Dion became the Second Horseman of the Liberal Apocalypse. The Liberals slid to their worst showing ever in the popular vote with just 26%.

Next, the party elites against whom the party members had so successfully revolted two years earlier argued that democracy had wronged the party and now was the time to simply appoint the best candidate for the leadership. Ignatieff moved in for the kill by insisting on seizing the interim leadership in late 2008 in a caucus coup, pushing aside both Rae and Dominic Leblanc. Party elites probably felt they had corrected the great error of 2006. But the joke was on them, as we saw so clearly in 2011 when their chosen Saviour led the Liberals to their worst showing ever with just 19% of the vote and 34 seats. Yes, Iggy was the Third Horseman of the Liberal Apocalypse.

Soon thereafter, it seemed that Bob Rae had decided to take a page from Iggy's book and seize the leadership himself. Granted, Rae is the most qualified person in that tiny caucus to lead the party in the interim. But for the last year, it seemed that Rae had done so merely to, once again, push aside other contenders for the Liberal leadership and finally win the prize he so coveted. Had it come to pass, Rae would've been the Fourth Horseman of the Liberal Apocalypse and led the party in 2015 to its destruction (or at least so low in the vote and in seat totals it would simply never be able to recover as a potent force in federal politics again, kind of like Britain's Liberals.)

I can write now that I am very pleasantly surprised and relieved that Rae chose to step back from the cliff. Now instead of waiting for the Liberal Apocalypse in 2015, we can begin the process of renewal, contemplating what young, bright, energetic fighter will now step forward over the next several months now that the field is open. Yes, the federal Liberals may just live to fight another day and that is good news for Canadian democracy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hate speech made easier in Canada, thanks to the Harper Conservatives

Third reading passage of a Conservative private member's bill, Bill C304, this past week got little media attention. The bill, by Alberta Tory MP Brian Storseth, repeals sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act banning hate speech over the telephone or internet. The Harperites voted 153 to 136 to back the bill. Only one Liberal MP, Scott Simms, voted for it as well.

Storseth and others who have never truly been victimized by hate propaganda have argued that existing Criminal Code provisions should be adequate for addressing hate propaganda in this country.

But Storseth's own backgrounder on his bill admits that one of the concerns raised by supporters of the existing Human Rights Act provisions dealing with hate speech is that the Criminal Code requires consent of an Attorney General before charges can be laid against hatemongers. In reality, this provision has led many police forces across Canada to hesitate to investigate such crimes, concerned prosecutions will be greatly hindered if not impossible to get processed. Thus, few police forces have dedicated many resources to fighting hate speech. Why would they if charges are so difficult to get?

But of course, true to Tory form, Storseth's bill completely ignores the fact that the Criminal Code has been largely ineffective in combating hate speech.

Even more troubling, Storseth's bill strips victims of any recourse in fighting back against criminals. Seems strange for Tories to take the side of criminals against victims, until you remember that Tories only tend to worry about victims who look, love and live just like them. No, they're more concerned about standing up for the rights of religious bigots who feel hurt or censored by laws that protect victims from their hate.

If this bill gets royal assent and passes into law, victims of hate propaganda will be stripped of one major venue for taking action against criminals. Now we will have to hope that police investigators not only recognize hate speech, but feel confident in criminal convictions following consent for charges by Attorneys General.

Thus, hate speech could get much much easier to get away with in Canada, thanks to Harper's Conservatives.

Warren Kinsella makes an excellent point in his article that he favours 'citizen-based advocacy, with no human rights commissions or Criminal Code provisions being necessary at all.'

Kinsella advocates that instead of repealing parts of the Human Rights Act or keeping cumbersome Criminal Code provisions that never seem to amount to anything, we should, "Make it easier for identifiable groups to sue for defamation; that is the best way for a society to express itself. When that was done in Oregon in the 1990s with the White Aryan Resistance, it put them out of business. They have never recovered. That is always the way to go: Citizen-based advocacy."

I couldn't agree more with Kinsella.

Today, if a religious bigot wants to spread pamphlets that read, "Matt Guerin is a pedophile," I can currently sue that bigot for defamation and I would win considerable damages in court.

But if a religious bigot spreads pamphlets (as they often do) that read, "All homosexuals are pedophiles," neither I nor any other gay man can take any action against them, except to complain to a human rights commission. But if Storseth gets his way, we will lose that option and will have to hope that police investigate such crimes and manage to win the attention of Attorneys General, who may or may not find the time in their busy schedules to authorize prosecutions. Meaning, vulnerable groups could get all the more vulnerable.

If the hate speech provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act are to be repealed, those changes must also allow police to charge criminals without getting permission from Attorneys General. But clearly the Tories don't really care about fighting this kind of crime.

Regardless, we should change our defamation laws to allow members of groups attacked by hatemongers to launch class action libel lawsuits for damages. I shouldn't have to live in a society where my reputation is attacked by bigots who are unaccountable for their libel.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The ignorant words of Rev. John Yake and other Catholic leaders

I have been following the ongoing debate in Ontario over the McGuinty government's attempts to address rampant bullying in Ontario's public schools.

I support the recent amendment to Bill 13 which gives high school students the right to use the name, 'Gay-Straight Alliance,' in school club titles should they choose to form such a group.

I went to a Catholic high school in the late 1980s. I wish I had had the chance to form or be a part of such a group. It would've made my high school experience safer. Just having the group in a school would make that school a safer place for LGBT youth, most if not all of whom are experiencing massive stress and isolation due to their sexual orientation (on top of the regular stress of being a teenager). Everyone who made it through adolescence should be able to understand that.

I am particularly disgusted with those who are using this issue to once again bash the LGBT community and denigrate our needs as irrelevant and worthy of neglect. Michael Coren once again buries his head in the sand on this issue, claiming that powerful church leaders (the type who in years past saw no problem protecting child rapists from the law) are now being bullied by the big, bad gay lobby and that gay kids aren't really victims of much bullying.

Coren writes in this column: "First, the dishonesty of the premise that gay children are bullied. Some are, of course, but there is no objective study concluding gays are targeted. Body image is the major reason for bullying and figures that indicate otherwise tend to come from gay organizations."

Of course, being gay organizations, Coren assumes that they can't be telling the truth? Coren is such an asshole and a bigot. You want objective proof of homophobia in schools? Just walk down any high school hallway and listen. When teachers aren't around, I guarantee you will hear some bully use the term 'fag' or 'faggot' in a hateful way within a few minutes. Sure body image is another major reason for bullying in schools. What is the insult of choice against fat kids? 'Fat faggot,' probably. Coren would focus on the attack against the kid's body image, but ignore the second part as irrelevant.

In truth, the vast majority of kids who are attacked using homophobic language in schools are in fact straight. Hence, the reasoning behind the establishment of Gay-Straight Alliances in the first place.

Privileged, inward-looking, ignorant, powerful people in the Catholic school boards and elsewhere like Coren are leading the charge against any recognition of gay abuse in our schools. They don't care about gay kids. They shrug as gay kids continue to contemplate suicide to escape the hell these boards have created for them. And they fight tooth and nail to keep the hatred in our schools unchallenged.

Shame.

When reading some letters to the editor on this subject in the National Post,
I came across this ignorant letter from Reverend John Yake of Toronto which clearly points out the ignorance of those who are fighting Bill 13. As we know, gay kids are generally in the closet in high school. They don't feel safe coming out or even raising the issue of being gay for fear of attack, ridicule and further social isolation. Considering this truth, give Rev. Yake's words a look:

"There has been lots of hype over Ontario’s Bill 13, a measure to address bullying based on sexual orientation, but is this really a problem? I recently retired from a 33-year career in teaching where my role as chaplain involved listening to and counselling students. A support group program emerged where issues could be discussed if they were experienced by a number of students. Topics discussed ranged from bereavement, chronic illness, drug and alcohol abuse, families of divorced/separated parents and stress. In my 33 years, the issue of bullying based on sexual orientation never was raised. So what’s this really about? Might the real issue behind Bill 13 be the advancement of an anti-Catholic agenda, a strategy to undermine Christian values under the guise of protecting children? This suggestion sickens me not only because it unfairly uses people’s perceived pain to advance an ideology of hate but also because it is singularly unCanadian especially when exercised by a legitimately elected government that is obliged to guard rights of freedom of religion.
Rev. John Yake, Toronto."


For a former educator in the Catholic system, Rev. Yake displays a horrifying amount of ignorance on the subject he chooses to write and publish. Had I been a kid stuck in Rev. Yake's classroom or support group, I wouldn't have raised my issues of isolation and pain over my sexual orientation with him either. It's this disgusting Catholic ignorance which remains a thorn in the side of all of us who have survived this religion and this school system.

I want to commend Joanne Chianello for this great piece in the Ottawa Citizen this week on this subject. Her thoughts reflect many of my own as a lapsed Catholic.

If one good thing has come out of this debate (besides focusing the public on the issue of bullying in schools and, in particular, the massive vulnerability of LGBT youth in our schools), it has re-awoken the issue of public funding for Catholic schools in Ontario, reminding many of us how archaic Ontario truly is. We must end funding for Catholic schools now and unite the two systems into one, publicly funded, secular system. I wrote about one strategy for how the government could win a mandate to pursue this just path some months ago. I truly hope someone in the McGuinty government is listening and willing to end this historic injustice sooner rather than never.

UPDATE: Here's another lovely article from today's Globe by Tabatha Southey.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Yay Obama!

Today was a historic day.  It's the day President Barack Obama endorsed equal marriage in an emotional interview with ABC.

I think it's quite meaningful considering there is no consensus in the U.S. on this yet, the population is still divided on this issue. While Obama's dragged his feet on this, I wasn't expecting this kind of announcement until he was safely re-elected (assuming he will be against the Mormon richie from Massachusetts.) But he's a politician first and foremost, so he must think this stand will energize his base and not hurt his chances with independents. Here's a clip from CNN.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rob Ford: the big, fat homophobe strikes again!

The Wildrose Party in Alberta has nothing on Toronto (in the bigotry department) as long as Rob Ford, aka Mayor Fraud stays in office.

If there were any fiscal conservatives or red Tories who still believed Ford's refusal to participate in Pride events was anything other than a disgusting and arrogant display of bigotry, perhaps this announcement, two months ahead of time, without even checking his schedule, will finally prove it. Pride starts on June 22nd with a flag raising at Toronto City Hall. Somehow I don't think even fat Ford's well-publicized diet will inspire him to take the stairs up one flight in order to participate in that. His family cottage getaway that doesn't start until June 30th will no doubt prevent him. He's scared of gays, you see, and he's happy to send the message to the public that it's okay to disrespect us. He attends other big annual festivals, including the Caribbean festival in August. But when it comes to our 10-day festival, his family trip on the last day of the festival means he can't make any of it. Only idiot homophobes and Ford Nation buy that.

The mayor of Toronto has an obligation to respect and acknowledge all communities in his city and Pride is the LGBT community's biggest annual festival. He is insulting us by snubbing us in 2012, as he did in 2011, as he did prior to becoming mayor when he said AIDS prevention programs deserve zero funding because the only people who get AIDS are gays and drug dealers.

George Smitherman, the man most responsible for Ford's election, I hope you're happy. Ugh.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Alberta set to elect Wildrose government filled with religious bigots...


Consider this metaphor: Wildrose leader Danielle Smith seems to resemble a lovely flower in her party surrounded by dying weeds. She's promising that the weeds won't overtake her if she leads her party to victory in the April 23rd Alberta election and that she'll never legislate on contentious social issues like equal marriage or abortion.

Yet many running on her party's ticket hold some pretty disgusting views about life, death and LGBT people in particular. Case in point, Allan Hunsperger (pictured), a pastor and founder of private religious schools who is running for Wildrose in an Edmonton riding, who blogged just last June against Lady Gaga's famous 'Born This Way' hit.


Blogged Hunsperger: “You see, you can live the way you were born, and if you die the way you were born then you will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering...Accepting people the way they are is cruel and not loving!”

But Hunsperger has since retreated, deleting his blog post and issuing this wimpering retraction:

“Recently, a blog posting I had written in the past has been widely circulated and has caused some controversy regarding my personal religious views. The views I expressed in this blog posting are my own personal religious views and were given in the capacity as a church pastor. I fully support equality for all people, and condemn any intolerance based on sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic. I also entirely support Danielle Smith in her commitment that a Wildrose government will not legislate on contentious social issues.”

For a party that prides itself on grassroots support and supporting individual members' freedom and input, this definitely sounds like a local candidate has been whipped into the party line.

Since then, leader Smith has tweeted: “Once again... a [Wildrose government] will not legislate on controversial social issues – [especially] those that have already been settled by the Supreme Court...I will represent all [Albertans] regardless of their race, religion, gender, politics or sexual orientation. Rights are rights are rights.”

With victory in their grasp, Wildrose is hiding its social conservative face. If Danielle Smith is truly a modern libertarian in the best sense, that's fine. But I can't help but fear electing a Wildrose government in Alberta will turn back the tide of equality for LGBT people. Folks like Hunsperger make up the bulk of Smith's candidates and if they elect a huge caucus in next week's election, what's to stop an individual MLA from putting forth a private member's bill calling for any mention of 'homosexuality' to be removed from the public school curriculum? Or to ban all 'gay-straight alliances' in the province? Or introduce 'conscience rights' into law, which would allow publicly-paid marriage commissioners to discriminate against same sex couples who want to marry?

Many conservatives have been complaining lately that the recent attacks against the Wildrose's alleged 'hidden agenda' simply mimic those that were leveled for years against Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Look, they say, there has been no right-wing agenda implemented to dismantle long-fought-for rights for LGBT people and others in Harper's Ottawa, even with a majority.

But let's be clear: the Harper government quickly dismantled the Court Challenges program upon assuming office, which helped marginalized groups fight for their human rights under the Charter (including LGBT people.) The Harper government routinely ignores the LGBT community in all its dealings, and recently cut back all funding for LGBT festivals from a tourism promotion fund.

Despite Smith's reassurances, progressive Albertans should still be alarmed with Wildrose's sudden ascendancy. It's the privilege of heterosexual Albertans whose human rights have never been questioned to flirt with the change that Wildrose might bring. But for those who do understand what it's like to face discrimination, especially in a province like Alberta, it's scary.

On the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
, a document which directly allowed for full equality rights for LGBT Albertans, an anniversary that is now being ignored by the Harper Conservatives in Ottawa, we have to remember just how tenuous LGBT rights are in the hands of these people.

Consider the fact that useless, freak-a-zoid Conservative MP Rob Anders is backing Wildrose all the way, claiming that the bulk of federal Conservative MPs share his love of the Wildrose. Anders must've canvassed his federal colleagues between his naps in the House of Commons, or when he wasn't threatening Canadian veterans in parliamentary committees. If the Wildrose did away with people like Anders and Hunsperger in their midst, I suspect they wouldn't have much of a party membership anymore.

It's one thing for a Harper majority in Ottawa governing over a country as diverse and progressive as Canada to hold the line on a social conservative agenda. But if conservative Alberta elects a Wildrose government with 70 or so members in next Monday's election, can Danielle Smith really guarantee that she alone will be able to stop all those emboldened, right-wing backbenchers from aggressively pushing an anti-equality agenda?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Harper Conservative majority aiding Quebec separatists, Quebec Tories say

All those dolts who wanted a Conservative majority in Ottawa because they were tired of exercising their democratic rights every two years and they wanted some kind of "stability", well guess what?   A Conservative majority with almost no support in Quebec is a recipe for undermining national unity and has put wind in the sails of the Parti Quebecois.  

Expect a PQ government in Quebec after the next provincial election with only Stephen Harper in government in Ottawa to counter it (at least until Canadians elect Tom Mulcair's NDP to save the country from the Conservative idiots.)

Harper backlash aiding PQ in Quebec, MP says

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mulcair does better the morning after....

Okay, while Thomas Mulcair disappointed me with his uninspiring victory speech last night at the NDP convention in Toronto, his subsequent interviews with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge and with Craig Oliver this morning on CTV's Question Period restored confidence.

In politics as we know, giving a 10-minute barn burner of a speech is less important than overall ability to communicate in interviews, on panels, in question period in the House of Commons and elsewhere. Most Canadians won't ever watch a 10-minute speech; if they did, Michael Ignatieff would've done much better in 2011 after his series of great speeches on the campaign trail. Over time, Canadians will make up their minds about Mulcair's performance based mostly on short clips and moments they witness.

Mulcair thus far in interviews has been very well-spoken, mild-mannered, straight-forward, intelligent, and impressive. His skills as a communicator will work their wonders, I'm sure, over time.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Federal Tories take just 5% in Toronto-Danforth byelection that elects newest openly gay MP!

The Conservatives are a fringe party in downtown Toronto. Even at their lowest popularity, the federal Liberals always did much, much better in opposition riding by-elections than tonight's pathetic 5% Tory result in Toronto-Danforth.

Yep. They fought with the Greens for third place. The Tory vote has shrunk from 14% to 5% in that riding in less than a year. Hmmm...It's true they didn't even try. But neglecting to campaign or even show up for debates as the Tories did again in this by-election shows Stephen Harper's continued disdain for public engagement. This kind of treatment of voters has been standard practice for the Conservative Party for every election since Harper took over, even in Tory strongholds, with candidates frequently hidden from the media and most of the public.

The final results in Toronto-Danforth:

NDP Craig Scott wins 19,210 votes or 59.4%
Liberal Grant Gordon earns 9,215 or 28.5%
Conservative Andrew Keyes gets a paltry 1,736 or 5.4%
and Green Party rep Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu gets 1,517 or 4.7%
Total number of valid votes: 32,318

Congrats to the NDP! Nice to see another openly gay MP in the House of Commons with Craig Scott. The Grits did much better too with a decent candidate and strong effort by Grant Gordon, but it was not to be.

Interim leader Bob Rae campaigned heavily in the riding, and the Grit vote went up from just 18% to a more respectable 29%. But the Liberal gain needed to be more impressive for this to truly bolster Rae's campaign for the permanent leadership. Ho hum. I'm still not believing Rae is the saviour he thinks he is.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Canadian Christopher Plummer wins Oscar


The proudest moment for me during last night's great Oscars telecast: Canadian Christopher Plummer winning Best Supporting Actor for his terrific performance in 'Beginners.'

Richly deserved, the 82-year-old Toronto native who now makes his home in Connecticut becomes the oldest person to win an acting Oscar ever. And to win for such a beautiful film and character, it's icing on the cake. Plummer played a 75-year-old father who comes out of the closet as a gay man following the death of his wife of 44 years.

"You're only two years older than me, darling," Plummer said during his acceptance speech last night, holding up the famous golden statue that resembles a well-formed male, perhaps a humorous reference his character's homosexuality. "Where have you been all my life?"

It's wonderful we are living in a time when a conservative organization like the Academy feels comfortable awarding an actor for playing such a role. [Not that all the Academy's choices are beyond criticism, but still it's nice when they get it oh so right.] The lessons re-affirmed by his character's life - it's never too late to be true to yourself - are most welcome.

Bravo to a great Canadian actor! Congrats, Mr. Plummer!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thumbs up for XTRA editorial: 'Drummond's glaring omission'

I heartily agree with Xtra's Andrea Houston about Don Drummond's glaring omission in his report last week, which could be nicknamed 'How to cut inefficiencies and duplications in the Ontario government except those inefficiencies and duplications that might require a constitutional amendment and a little fortitude to take on historic inequities.'

It's offensive that Drummond could argue that class sizes should be increased, education workers be fired, and other major cutbacks be endured by all systems rather than address this obvious inequity of funding one religion's public schools, but not others.

I'm sure there were some issues that Drummond was ordered not to even touch (ie. private health care delivery perhaps?) I truly hope he didn't get his marching orders from the McGuinty Liberals to steer clear from taking on the duplication of public school systems in Ontario.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A political strategy for re-visiting the Catholic school system in Ontario...

Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government has a minority of seats. Re-visiting the Catholic school system isn't something that will likely be contemplated right now with the government's fate hanging in the balance.

But nevertheless this issue screams for action!

This is perhaps Dalton McGuinty's last term as our 'Education Premier' (unless his government falls in the near future and an unexpected election is called.) Who but a Roman Catholic premier could have credibility re-visiting the whole separate school issue? No one could accuse McGuinty of attacking Catholicism or Christianity because he himself is Roman Catholic and his own wife has earned a living teaching in the Catholic system.

But I think something needs to give. It's got to happen eventually. We can't go on publicly funding one religion's schools and not others. Either we spend the additional monies to finance more separate, religious school systems (like John Tory proposed to great disaster in 2007), or we shut down the Catholic and integrate all into one public school system.

Of course, the government can't admit that the status quo (of one public system and one Catholic system) is unacceptable. Catholic school rights were guaranteed at Confederation in 1867. Other provinces have decided to update their outdated laws with regard to religious school systems (Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador). It's time Ontario joined that club.

The province of Ontario has three legit options: 1) keep the current system of one public, secular system and one separate Catholic system to the exclusion of all others, 2) one public system, one Catholic system and other religious school boards in areas where numbers warrant, or 3) one publicly funded secular school system for all students, with no religious schools of any kind.

Which system to move to? How to decide?

I propose a non-binding plebiscite be held on this matter in the near future. Perhaps a provincial plebiscite corresponding with the 2014 municipal vote would be appropriate? Voters should be given a lot of time to think about the issues and there should be publicly-funded campaigns supporting all three sides equally. I would add if the two sides fighting for religious options (#1 or #2) wanted to work together in one campaign, they could together share 50% of the public funds available, while the side supporting one public system for all could receive the other 50% of public funds. No other monies could be spent by third parties in advance of the vote, only these three or two campaigns would have the power to organize and spend money on the plebiscite campaign. Any vote would have to seem fair in order for the result to be seen as legitimate, and splitting funding in this way would be.

How do you vote on a question with three possible answers and achieve a majority result? Do you hold a run-off at a later date between the top two options, or do you hold an instant run-off so voters only have to head to the polls once.

I would create a ballot in which voters would rank their preferred school system options in order from one to three, with one being their top choice, followed by their second choice and then their third choice.

Say for example, you wanted one publicly funded, non-religious school system for all Ontario students, and no public funding for religious schools of any kind, you'd vote with a '1' next to that option. If you couldn't fathom to support religious schools of any kind and didn't want to assign a '2' or '3' on your ballot, you could omit doing so and your '1' vote would count in favour of your preferred option.

If one system didn't receive majority support from voters, the option with the least votes would be dropped, and its voters' second preferences factored in. If for example the first vote was the following:

- 47% in favour of one public system,
- 32% in favour of religious schools for all in addition to the public system,
- 21% for the status quo.

The counters would take the 21% ballots and count their second choices. If you're in favour of keeping just the Catholic board, then you'd likely vote with your second choice for religious schools for all, considering that would allow Catholic schools to remain running. That could lead to a 47% vote for one public board, and 53% in favour of one public board plus religious schools for all, not just Catholic.

Who knows what the result would be? Personally I suspect a big majority would favour one system for all, but Ontarians have surprised me before.

Ontario citizens have never had a chance to express their opinions on the make-up of the publicly funded school system. We inherited our status quo system of one public board and one Catholic board, we never chose it. It's time for Ontarians to be given the chance to express an opinion on this, especially at a time of government restructuring a la Don Drummond.

A preferential, instant runoff ballot would allow for a majority result that is clear.

Why make it unbinding?

Because a binding referendum on the issue would, in truth, be putting minority religious rights up for a vote. So it would keep passions tempered a bit to keep it non-binding. The vote would merely express public will on the make-up of our publicly funded education system.

And as the ballot is designed to get voters to select first, second and third options, they're not really voting rights up or down, they're just ranking preferences.

If a majority of voters picked one system for all, it would give the government a political mandate to re-visit the status quo it currently doesn't have. The McGuinty-ites did not campaign on re-opening the separate school issue in the last election campaign. If this issue is even to be contemplated, the government would need some kind of a mandate to do so. The plebiscite could provide that.

If it's non-binding, and a majority vote to extend public funding to all religions, but current finances show that's impossible with our current deficits, we can hold off. But it can be a long-term goal as Ontarians have clearly voiced a preference.

I propose this because I believe if Ontarians are given the choice, they'll vote for one public system for all, and not to divide our kids up according to religion. I see it as a way to take the issue out of the politicians' hands and put it in the hands of the people.