British Columbia

NDP candidate reveals bisexuality after questions over party's equity rule

Gerry Taft, the NDP's candidate in Columbia River-Revelstoke, originally wanted his equity status to be private.

Rule requires women or minorities to replace any departing NDP MLA

Gerry Taft, the NDP's candidate in Columbia River-Revelstoke and Mayor of Invermere (Twitter)

An NDP candidate in next year's provincial election has revealed he is bisexual, following complaints by the person he defeated for the party's nomination regarding a new rule intended to increase the NDP's diversity.

Gerry Taft, the mayor of Invermere, won the NDP's nomination for Columbia River-Revelstoke last Saturday by defeating Spring Hawes, who sits on Invermere council. 

The current MLA is the NDP's Norm MacDonald, who is retiring after three terms in office. The party has a policy requiring any departing MLA to be replaced by a woman or "equity-seeking candidate," including racial minorities, Indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ community. 

Hawes is a woman with a disability, and after losing the race, she questioned how Taft could be the candidate.

"The spirit of the policy is to increase representation. I am at a loss to understand how that could happen if you don't claim membership in whatever equity-seeking group that you are a member," said Hawes.

"Maybe there needs to be more clarity around that policy in that if you use that policy to qualify then you should probably be comfortable sharing what equity group you belong to."

On Monday, Taft, who is married with a one-year-old son, told The Vancouver Sun that he had been given approval by the NDP to run as a minority, but preferred to keep the reason private. 

But by Tuesday, he decided to come out publicly.

"Due to my family situation and my belief that an MLA should represent all people, I chose to keep my equity status private. I believed that my privacy would be respected and that I would be able to make my disclosure in my own time, and in my own way, if I chose to do so," he wrote in a statement.

"Over the last few days, it has become clear that there are those, including the person I defeated for the nomination, who will continue to insist that my equity status be publicly disclosed.… I am choosing to disclose now because it will allow us to turn our attention away from the equity mandate towards the issues that really matter to this region."

When nomination battles for the 2017 provincial election began in earnest last month, NDP President Craig Keating said there hadn't been any consideration of changing the policy.

"We have a policy in place that reflects the diversity of the province and promotes the diversity of the province," he said.

"We've got energetic contests everywhere you go. The notion that somehow this is a narrowing, this is a winnowing ... this in an invitation for the true diverse character of this province to get in the game."

With files from Bob Keating and Richard Zussman