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Rae calls it a day

Rae calls it a day

After more than 18 years, Toronto city councillor Kyle Rae announced on Dec 11 that he will not run in next November’s civic elections.

Rae announced the move in an email to supporters that enumerated his achievements as he sees them and criticized some of the aberrations of Canadian politics that leave so many of us rolling our eyes in frustration.

“Downloading provincial programs and services onto the municipal taxpayer has wreaked havoc on our parks, recreation centres, libraries, community services and culture,” wrote Rae. “The federal and provincial aversion for responsible tax policy and appropriate tax increases has resulted in more than 15 years of cowardly downloading onto the City.”

Rae is right. It’s been a tough and unfair time for Toronto’s civic politicians.

But Rae nevertheless did some great things during his tenure, many more than I have space to enumerate here, and for them gay and lesbian people should be grateful.

He focused on private economic development. It may have been a necessary approach for him, considering the cards he was dealt. The strategy increased the tax base, contributed to an improvement in the city’s architecture and finagled contributions from builders for heritage preservation and welcome public assets.

As an openly gay man who got his start in politics at the 519 Church St Community Centre, Rae understands some of the unique and unjust challenges faced by gay and lesbian people. Ultimately, that understanding influenced many of his decisions and, as Toronto’s first openly gay city councillor, it may be his greatest legacy.

He put his career on the line to publicly chastise Toronto police after the 2000 Pussy Palace raid. He played a role in securing a permanent home for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, and, earlier this year, he quietly helped to put the kibosh on the persecution of sex workers on the Homewood-Maitland stroll.

But he sometimes failed to use his bully pulpit when it was needed. He stood silently, as a mere concerned citizen, after gay man Chris Skinner was murdered in October. The day after Skinner’s funeral, Rae was in the news – not with a declaration that homophobic violence would not be tolerated on his patch, or to counter the bizarre speculation that Skinner was somehow architect of his own demise – but as a participant in the public wedding of two women from Russia.

When gay man James Hearst, another of Rae’s constituents, died after a lengthy wait for emergency medical treatment earlier this year, Rae was similarly silent.

Political manoeuvrings between the city and its workers union were obviously a factor in the delay in assisting Hearst, but Rae’s only statement in the aftermath was that it would likely be too expensive for the city to demand that the full capacities of Toronto Emergency Medical Services are available all the time.

He could have discharged his political capital by screaming his lungs out in each of these cases.

But Rae still has almost a year before he leaves his council seat for good. With no election to lose, with fewer consequences to consider, it’s my hope he will be more frank and more accessible, that he will use this chance to say the things he always wanted to.

As we move forward, gay and lesbian people must turn their attentions to finding a new city councillor for Ward 27.

That candidate should be a gay or lesbian person, one who is smart and accomplished. We need someone who is responsive and accessible, and we need someone who responds to dissent by addressing it head-on. We need someone who is fresh, who will take political risks when they most need to be taken, but who is skilled enough to juggle the disparate interests of Rosedale, Church-Wellesley and St James Town.

The search is on.



Matt Mills is editorial director of Pink Triangle Press.
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Comments

Next councillor?
I look forward to a new councillor. This role is particularly difficult in that satisfying everyone in the ward is virtually impossible. I have been a fan of some of Rae's work, other times I have been bitterly disappointed. But my vote this time will be based on the candidate alone, not sexual orientation. I don't believe that a candidate need be gay to positively impact our queer neighbourhood. That is what we all thought years ago, and that got Rae a lot of his votes - just for the fact that he was gay. I believe the gay voter has long since come to terms with the fact that being gay simply just doesn't cut it. This time I'm seeking a councillor with determination, strength and confidence. I have, sadly, seen these qualities fade in Rae. Sexual orientation will play not part in my decision of where to cast my vote.
Municipal Election: Ward 27
First, I congratulate Ward 27 Toronto City Councillor Kyle Rae for his more than 20 years of public service to constituents and the City of Toronto.

Secondly, as a candidate in Ward 27 in 2006 and again in 2010, I pledge to continue work hard for residents to continue to earn your support and to make a positive contribution in our communities. I remain dedicated to issues of Affordable Housing, Reducing Homelessness, Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Trans Issues, Post-Secondary Education, and Accessible Public Transit. I look forward learning more about the important issues in our Ward and working with you to locate community based solutions to community based problems.

Susan Gapka
Ward 27, Toronto, Ontario
Be fair, Xtra
I agree with Dubro. Assuming that Skinner's death was a homophobic hate crime is only a theory. There is still no evidence suggesting Skinner was killed because he was/looked gay. Skinner's father doesn't even think homophobia played a part, as he explained to media last week. Xtra is taking the position of "he looked gay, his killers were probably against gay people, therefore it's safe to assume Skinner's death was a hate crime." Being a queer newspaper, Xtra has the responsibility to question the crime, but to constantly suggest Skinner's death was a hate crime in articles and editorials, as Xtra has done, the newspaper is, as Dubro suggests, turning a theory into a reality. Not only is that inaccurate, it is also irresponsible. The police, in my opinion, are vigorously investigating Skinner's death. In fact, I'd also go as far as saying the police (as well as mainstream media) are approaching this case more seriously than most homicides. Leave Kyle Rae out of this. You're not being fair. At this point, with what evidence exists, all he can do, like us all, is remain a concerned citizen until real facts surface.
very queer logic
I think I know now the answer to my question above. I can see that what the editorial is assuming (And this is a BIG leap from the reality of what we know) is that Chris Skinner was definetely murdered as a result of "homophobic violence." The problem is we don't know that. Neither does Kyle Rae or the homicide dept. It may very well turn out to be the case or it may not. Time hopefully will tell. But how can Rae denounce "homophobic violence" in this case if that has not been determined as the motive for assault and murder? Xtra here is taking a theory of the crime and making it the reality. And then criticizing Rae for not operating under the same premise or theory that it has decided is fact. Very queer logic. And we all know that Rae does not and has never condoned "homophobic violence".
No real role for Rae in Skinner homicide case
I have re-read the editorial a number of times and I have no idea about what the editoiral wanted Kyle Rae to do in the Chris Skinner case and why he is criticized for not making public statements on it. Councillors don't interfere with ongoing homicide investigations and there was no responsible authority either blaming Chris Skinner for his murder or stating with any certitude that he was killed because he was gay. (That may be or may not be what happened. We shall see. If it wasn't, the case could be blown by mis-statements by police or Rae.). What the police did say was that it "was a very cowardly act" and that they are trying to get one of the men in the SUV who were witnesses to come forward. RAe may have talked to homicide investigators privately, but why does xtra want him to take a public stand against the police as they hopefully vigourously persue their invesigation???
I am confused on this point of the editorial. Meanwhile Rae has successfully spent a lot of his career (from the late 80's on) as I pointed out above bringing the LGBT community and the police to a civil dialogue and regular liaison. This included getting all charges dropped against defendants in the famous 1990's Bijou cases. This he accomplished with meetings with cops and those involved including bath house owners and the Bijou owner.
Ed' note
Hi Alex: Quite right, although Rae was involved and vocal on several issues that overlapped St James Town — including the Wellesley Community Centre, Fudger House and bike lanes on Sherbourne St — St James Town is not in Rae's ward. I meant simply that the next to occupy Rae's seat will be need to be able to juggle the different priorities of different nieghbourhoods, but I ought to have been more precise. Thanks for reading.
MAny good bright worthy ones out there for Rae's
There are many good, smart possible candidates for Rae's seat, some LGBT, some not: Here are just five possibilities--1) Miller's chief assistant Chris Phibbs (and longtime very capable Rae Assistant) 2) activist and bath owner Peter Bochove, 3) Green Chris Tindal (not gay but gay positive), 4)immigration lawyer El Farouk, last year's popularly kelected Gay Pride Marshall, 5) Susan Gapka (trans activist),--and there are many, many more bright and good people out there (some well known thoughful drag queens?) if they are willing to go through all the work to fight for the job.

Maybe some of your other long time readers might suggest some more good people and work to support their campaigns??
Correction
Just want to point out that St. Jamestown is not in Rae's ward. The divider south of Bloor is Sherbourne. So besides Rosedale/Moore Park/Summerhill, it takes in the Bay Corridor, Yorkville, Ryerson, Moss Park and Allan Gardens.
You cannot re-write history by ignoring seminal wo
The rest of my comments re Rae (not enough space). BTW I agree with Jon Pressick above that the next Councillor does not HAVE to be LGBT--but an effective LGBT positive person (eg. Green Chris Tindal). The majority in the area are not necessarily LGBT (except as visitors) and good representation could very well come for us LGBT community members from a progressive LGBT positive guy or gal. Though I think openly lesbian and longtime Rae assisatnt (and now Mayor Miller's chief assistant) Chris Phibbs might be an excellent Councillor

I ran out of space above. That is "especially in the 90's. While xtra lists many of Rae's shortcomings (and I am sure there are many more that will be added to the list) you cannot re-write history by simply ignoring what actually happened. That is what they did in Communist Cuba and the USSR. And the work that Kyle did on LGBT/cop relations is seminal and very important to mention (re.g the charges dropped in the Bijou cases by Kyle's diligent work with cops and gay business owners). No one has a right to life in office, and Rae wisely has finally moved on. Give him some more credit along with the criticism. (Not all history is just what is printed in xtra --especially before the last deacde).
Why Gay or Lesbian?
My question is actually double:
Why Gay or Lesbian? How about Bi? Queer? Trans? Your language needs to be less narrow.

Or, why should it be someone from the queer community at all? You mention Rosedale, you mention St. James Town. Church/Wellesley is just one part of the Ward and Xtra's obvious throw of support behind only a Gay or Lesbian candidate is misguided. Why not a responsive, supportive candidate, regardless of sexuality? Those in St. James Town will surely argue there are more pressing needs in their area than in C/W. As will those in Rosedale, the Islands, St. Lawrence, etc. If the idea candidate happens to be queer, well, then, sure, great. But I fully intend to back the best candidate, regardless of sexuality.

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