Transcript of a speech given to LGBTory on August 15, 2017 in Toronto by Alex Simakov, who is seeking the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PCPO) nomination in the riding of Toronto Centre:
My name is Alex Simakov, and I’m running to be the next PC candidate in the riding of Toronto Centre. I’m running for the same reason that you’re here today – because I believe in a brighter future for our community, our city, and our province.
That’s what my campaign is all about. It’s the belief that we might come from different places, with different values and customs, but we’re united by our pursuit of a better life, the building of that brighter future.
There’s a lot we can talk about today. About rising gas prices driving small businesses into bankruptcy; a housing shortage that’s left tens of thousands of graduates living in their parents’ basements; or about the largest subnational debt in the world that no one has any plans of paying off.
But I want us to have a conversation about something that too often gets forgotten when we talk about conservativism, and that’s freedom to make choices. The freedom to choose how to live our lives without the interference of an intrusive government. The freedom to worship, the freedom to speak your mind, and perhaps most of all, the freedom to choose who you want to spend your life with.
These are Conservative values, small-c and big-C, and we need to champion those values proudly.
Here in Canada, we should be proud of all the work the Conservative movement has done in defending LGBT rights around the world. Under the leadership of Stephen Harper and the tireless work of Jason Kenney and John Baird, we’ve made the protection of sexual minority rights a key plank of our foreign policy agenda. We’ve welcomed in thousands upon thousands of LGBT refugees from all around the world, especially Iran and Turkey, many of whom have settled down right here in Toronto Centre.
When other countries shied away from these values, apologizing for the oppression of sexual minorities under the auspices of cooperation, Canada has stood firm. When Vladimir Putin criminalized gay expression in Russia, Canada spoke up. When Uganda attacked the lives of its gay citizens, Canada spoke up.
Unfortunately, things have taken a step back under the federal liberal government. In order to accommodate his campaign promise of settling 25 000 Syrian refugees, Trudeau has suspended the LGBT refugee program, leaving hundreds of applicants at risk of torture and imprisonment for their sexual orientation. Their rhetoric has changed too; we can see that in their recent changes to the Canadian Citizenship Guide. Whereas under the Conservatives, respecting the human rights of others was considered a mandatory obligation of citizenship, the Liberals have demoted that to a voluntary responsibility. Filling out a census however – now that’s what they consider a mandatory responsibility.
We as Conservatives have to stand united in recognizing that LGBTQ2 rights are as fundamentally Canadian as the right to religion, the right to expression, or the right to assembly. They’re absolute, they’re not up for negotiation, and they must be respected by every Canadian, and by everyone who wants to become a Canadian.
But that requires something on our part as well. We made great headway at last year’s policy convention in Vancouver, dropping our opposition to same-sex marriage from the federal party’s Policy Declaration, but we have to do more. I, for one, will work to see that both our provincial and federal parties explicitly support the right to same-sex marriage. We’re going to need to work together to shed lasting anti-gay stereotypes about – and within – our parties. One way to do that is to make sure our elected officials are active and present at Pride Parades, and I would like to commend LGBTory for spearheading that effort for so many years.
I want to talk about what we, as the provincial government, can do for Ontario’s, and Toronto’s, LGBTQ2 community. The biggest concern I hear canvassing in the neighbourhood is that the small businesses of the Church-Wellesley Village are struggling to stay open. There are a lot of reasons behind these difficulties, but the least we can do is to lower taxes and get rid of excessive bureaucracy to make sure that they can thrive and grow again.
And I believe that part of our responsibility is that we have to have a frank and constructive conversation about the unique healthcare challenges facing the LGBTQ2 community, such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. For many years, these healthcare issues were the basis of unjustifiable and discriminatory policies against the community. But more recently, we’ve been facing the opposite situation where too many politicians and civic leaders are so afraid of causing offence that we’ve swept that conversation under the rug.
Now is the time we can face these issues pragmatically. We need to invest in the medical resources to meet these challenges head on – the focus can’t be fearmongering, it can’t be on protecting people’s feelings. The focus needs to be on achieving the best healthcare outcomes possible. First and foremost, we have to better manage the budget to make sure we can reverse the $2.8 billion cuts to healthcare that the Liberals plan to impose.
We need to talk about the safety of the LGBTQ2 community, which continues to face disproportionate and unacceptable levels of violence. Earlier this month, I attended a town hall for Murdered and Missing Gay Men. When the host asked the crowd how many people in the room had been the victims of violence, over half raised their hand. That means continuing to build a positive partnership with law enforcement services. It’s no secret that historically, that’s been a very contentious relationship, especially with visible minorities and trans folk.
Fortunately, the Toronto Police Services and the OPP are making efforts to recognize and atone for their mistakes. Others are fighting to ruin that relationship. I think it’s important for us as LGBTories and allies to continue making our voices heard, and working together to make sure men and women in uniform are welcomed as members of this community. In forming government, the PCPO will work hard to facilitate this relationship.
Homophobic and transphobic bigotry, whether it’s homegrown or imported, has no place in the Church-Wellesley Village, it has no place in Toronto, and it has no place in Canada. We need to ensure that the perpetrators of hate crimes are held accountable for their actions to the fullest extent of the law. If we cannot make the Rainbow Community feel safe on their own streets, then we will have failed as a government.
Ontario has a proud history of being on the forefront of LGBTQ2 rights, and being one of the first places in the world to recognize same-sex marriage. As the MPP for Toronto Centre, I want to continue that legacy. I want Canadians of all sexual and gender expressions to know that they have a home and a place here, and that we will stand united in protecting their rights. And just as importantly, I want this community to be a beacon to the global LGBTQ2 community, a place that inspires people all over the world to fight for sexual and gender equality, in the face of hatred, tyranny, and oppression.
Thank you for your attention. If you believe in my vision, I hope you can support my campaign. If you live in the riding of Toronto Centre, please visit www.simakov.ca to join the party, and encourage your friends to do the same. It’s only $10, and it gives you a voice in our party, and in the building of Ontario’s brighter future.
Video of this speech is available here.