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Svend Robinson acclaimed by NDP
Last Updated: Dec 5 2005 10:16 AM PST - CBC British Columbia
It's now official. Former MP Svend Robinson is the NDP candidate in Vancouver Centre after being acclaimed at a nomination meeting on Sunday.
He's running against incumbent Liberal MP Hedy Fry – in an effort to return to the House of Commons where he sat as the MP for Burnaby-Douglas for 25 years.
INDEPTH: Svend Robinson profile
The veteran politician – Canada's first openly gay MP – had been a member of Parliament since 1979 until he resigned in disgrace last year after admitting he had stolen an expensive ring from an auction house.
Saying he had been battling severe stress, he pleaded guilty in court to charge of theft over $5,000 and was given a conditional discharge, which means he has no criminal record.
He then went to work for the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.
FROM OCT. 20, 2005: Svend Robinson ready to launch comeback
In October, he announced he was planning his political comeback, and that he planned to seek the NDP nomination to challenge Fry who has won four consecutive elections dating back to 1993.
Robinson has said the stolen ring incident wouldn't have happened if he didn't have bipolar disorder – and that there is still too much stigma attached to mental illness.
He says his own illness wouldn't prevent him from being a competent MP, and says he plans to fight for the rights of the mentally ill if elected.
FROM OCT. 26, 2005: Svend Robinson speaks about illness
Robinson comeback adds spice to B.C. race
Riding expected to be tight contest
Same-sex marriage just one issue
Dec. 5, 2005. 01:00 AM
WESTERN CANADA BUREAU - Toronto Star
VANCOUVER—Sommelier Andrew Melville knows what he likes in the world of wine.
But when it comes to the choices he's faced with in next month's election, the 25-year-old resident of Vancouver's West End is finding the selections much less palatable.
"It's not so much that I like the Liberals," Melville said of the party likely to get his vote again this time. "I just think that they're probably the best of three bad options."
Hardly a ringing endorsement. But in Vancouver Centre, one of the most hotly contested ridings in this cold-weather election, every vote will be important to the candidates.
Liberal incumbent Hedy Fry, who has held the seat since ousting Progressive Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell in 1993, is facing former long-time NDP MP Svend Robinson, attempting a comeback after his guilty plea for theft of a pricey ring last year.
Lawyer and geologist Tony Fogarassy is running for the Conservatives, who are looking to win back a seat held by the Tories from 1980 until 1993.
In a riding with one of the largest percentages of gay residents in Canada, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's commitment, made just hours into the campaign, to reopen the same-sex marriage debate and put it to another vote in Parliament could be expected to have quashed Fogarassy's chances. And, without question, the pledge has angered many in this riding, reaffirming to them Harper is the scary, intolerant guy his critics claim.
But many others argue that different issues — health care, crime, taxes, government corruption and homelessness — will have much more of an impact on how they vote. Besides, they say, it's not as though Harper's position on same-sex marriage is a surprise.
"It's a non-issue for me," said Melville, who supports the Liberals' legislation but added he'll vote for the party because of their handling of the economy, not the same-sex law.
Diana, 55, a provincial government employee who refused to give her last name, agreed the issue has no resonance with her. Punishing the Liberals for their scandals is much more of a key, she said.
"It's time to get them out for somebody new," said Diana, labelling herself undecided but noting Harper's plan to cut the GST to 5 per cent "will help out for a lot of people."
Jim Deva, a long-time gay activist and West End resident, said he thinks Harper's raising of the same-sex issue at the outset of the campaign was a smart tactical move geared to core Conservative voters.
"There's a concern about turnout, especially among seniors, in a winter campaign," said Deva, an NDP supporter. "Harper started out that way so that we in the liberal centre will kind of forget about it by the time the election comes, but those he counts on will have circled their calendar to make sure that they get out there to save the world."
Deva said he expects a close, three-way race in Vancouver Centre. Unlike the last election, when Fry won by 4,200 votes over the NDP candidate, he doesn't expect the Liberals "to be able to scare people into voting for them" by making Harper look evil.
Fogarassy, 45, a married father of two, said the desire for a change in government, the need to finally address the shortfalls in health care and getting tough on crime will prove much more important to voters here than Harper's reopening of the same-sex debate.
"Let me be clear. I support same-sex marriage and I would think that the majority of Vancouver Centre residents do as well," he said.
His opponents agree it shouldn't be an issue but make it clear Harper has made it one.
Fry, 64, who a few years ago was criticized for falsely claiming crosses were burning on lawns in Prince George, B.C., said she's relying on her "solid record" for the riding and the Liberal government's successes on the economy and social programs. She also took a shot at Harper's plans to reopen the same-sex debate, calling it "a ridiculous thing to be your number one policy announcement" of the election campaign.
Robinson, 53, who was Canada's first openly gay MP, said it's clear Harper "is out of touch with the values of Canadians" on the issue because they have put it behind them.
Website of Svend Robinson