Manitoba's first openly gay PC candidate hopes to inspire youth
Megan Hoskins joins slate of LGBTQ hopefuls that includes 6 NDP candidates and 5 Liberals
As the first Progressive Conservative candidate in Manitoba to be openly gay, Megan Hoskins doesn't see herself as a role model blazing a trail, but she knows her nomination will matter to people.
"I don't really consider my romantic preferences to be part of my political ideology, but if I can maybe inspire some younger LGBTQ members to take part in politics, I think, that's a really positive thing," said Hoskins, 24.
Twenty years after Manitobans elected their first openly gay MLA in Jim Rondeau, this election campaign is the first time in provincial history where the three major provincial parties are fielding openly LGBTQ candidates.
It's not a new feat for the New Democrats, who've had two of their LGBTQ candidates elected, nor the Liberals, who have picked numerous LGBTQ candidates, including the province's first transgender nominee in 2016, but it is a first for the Progressive Conservatives.
"I was shocked, but it was a pleasant shock," said Rondeau, a former NDP MLA from 1999 until 2016, after hearing the news.
"There was a big issue when I got elected. When Mr. [Glen] Murray got elected [as Winnipeg's first openly gay mayor], it was a big issue. Now, it's not a big issue."
Hoskins, who works as an environmental lab professional in Winnipeg, said she hopes her candidacy in St. Boniface for the Sept. 10 election as a Tory, who just happens to be a lesbian, will demonstrate that the Progressive Conservatives are welcoming to all, as she's experienced.
"I think it gives LGBTQ community members the opportunity to really pick their political party from their own perspective, and not just from social politics," said Hoskins, who will marry next year.
The Progressive Conservatives have made inroads with the LGBTQ community while in government. They've marched in Winnipeg's Pride parade, promoted the event on caucus social media channels, and several MLAs have participated in the annual Pride Run. Leader Brian Pallister is only the second Manitoba premier to have attended the Pride march.
Craig Larkins says his sexuality as a gay man hasn't come up when meeting Fort Garry voters as their Liberal candidate, and he doesn't expect it to either.
Sexuality doesn't define campaign
"I'm not running my campaign on the fact that I'm gay, but that doesn't make me less proud of who I am either," said Larkins, who is on leave as the Manitoba Liberals' communications director.
He said it's important to have LGBTQ representation on the campaign trail, regardless of party colours.
After being bullied for his sexuality as a youth, Larkins said he learned to harness those negative experiences and rise above it. He remembered that lesson when he spoke at community events as a TV weatherman.
"I knew somewhere in that crowd of kids, there was one or two that were just sitting there, going through exactly the same thing that I went through," he said.
"Why I'm here today is I'm continuing that.… It's a way bigger stage, and it gives me the opportunity to show anyone sitting at home, not just whether you're questioning your sexuality or whatever is going on in your life, that just keep going and don't let the bad stuff get in your way."
Lisa Naylor, the NDP's candidate in Wolseley, has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights. She fought for and won the right for her same-sex partner to be recognized by law as a legal parent of her child in the early 2000s.
She said it's great that all three major parties are fielding an LGBTQ candidate, but it's long overdue.
"It's 2019, so it's about time," said Naylor, a Winnipeg School Division trustee who works in community health.
Naylor said she worries whether LGBTQ people are fully accepted within the Progressive Conservative party, citing long-standing criticisms like the party voting against anti-bullying legislation, which included permission to open gay-straight alliances, while in opposition in 2013.
"I really sincerely hope the person feels included and feels like they can find a space in their party," she said of Hoskins.
The PCs declined to respond to Naylor's concerns.
Rondeau says the province has come a long way in acceptance since his election 20 years ago.
"I think parties have changed. I think attitudes have changed," he said. "I'm one of those people who forgives."
The NDP has six LGBTQ candidates vying for election next month, and the Liberals have five LGBTQ candidates so far.
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