People's Party candidate in B.C. byelection risks shifting public debate, observers say

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Photo: Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson/Facebook

Maxime Bernier's People’s Party of Canada announced this week its nomination of anti-LGBTQ activist Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson as its candidate in the Burnaby South byelection.

According to reports, Thompson said Bernier had "bravely declared the death of political correctness," and praised her party's leader for being "willing to take the heat to do politics a different way."

Thompson claimed she had originally wanted to run for Andrew Scheer's Conservatives, but said she was rejected on the grounds her views on transgender rights would "ruffle feathers" in the Tory leadership.

When the CBC's Vassy Kapelos quizzed Bernier about Thompson's hardline views on transgender rights, the PPC leader said he thought his party's candidate "has a point," but added he didn’t "want to go in deep in that debate."

Thompson will face NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, the Liberal party's Karen Wang and the Conservative party's Jay Shin in the byelection on February 25.

British Columbia NDP vice-president and LGBTQ community organizer Morgane Oger said she believes Thompson's nomination for the PPC is a "positive outcome" for the left.

"I think that bigotry, discrimination and hatred wither in direct sunlight. I think the more these candidates have to speak to what they actually believe, the less likely they are to get elected," she explained.

"It will make xenophobia louder, but the truth is, the louder xenophobia is, the more self-destructive it is," she added.

However, while the PPC's candidate is likely to take some votes away from Scheer's Conservatives, David Laycock, a political scientist at Simon Fraser University, thinks the left has reasons to be concerned about the PPC's broader ideological influence.

"The NDP has reasons to hope that Bernier does reasonably well, but that’s a short- to medium-term calculation," he said.

"Outside of the NDP, the left won't be happy, to the extent that Bernier's party stirs up a lot of latent opposition to multiculturalism in Canada," he added.

Thompson is a former televangelist and staunch anti-LGBTQ advocate who has steadily gained notoriety in B.C. politics over the last couple of years by leading the charge against SOGI 123 -- an initiative designed to protect LGBTQ youth from homophobic and transphobic bullying.

Teaming up with Culture Guard -- a fringe Christian-right organization that promotes, among other things, pamphlets decrying the "Health Hazards of Homosexuality" -- Thompson has claimed B.C.'s anti-bullying initiative is a secret ploy by "puberty blockers" to indoctrinate children with "gender ideology."

She has also condemned a petition calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy (which is still legal in British Columbia and most of Canada) and campaigned on behalf of Chilliwack school-trustee Barry Neufeld, who called B.C.'s initiative against anti-LGBTQ bullying a "form of child abuse" and has suggested SOGI is a program engineered by elites who want to "destroy gay kids" by "culling them from the gene pool." Neufeld’s comments about SOGI have triggered a lawsuit by the B.C. Teachers' Federation.

Thompson's ally has also been caught sharing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (he shared an article claiming Jews are responsible for instigating conflicts in Russia) and quack science (he claimed male semen can be used as an anti-depressant for women) on social media.

Thompson tested the political viability of her views with Burnaby voters in last year's local elections, running for school trustee in the city's school district on an openly anti-SOGI platform.

She finished third from last place; a less than impressive performance, especially given the media hullabaloo that surrounded her campaign and platform. As Burnaby Now editor Chris Campbell remarked: "I don't see how someone who lost running for school trustee will be able to win a federal riding."

However, despite Thompson being unlikely to win the Burnaby byelection, her presence on the federal political stage might indicate the PPC's willingness to give more ultra-conservative voices a national platform come the general election this fall.

Glen Hansman, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation and an advocate for SOGI, said: "Mr. Bernier frames himself as a kind of libertarian, and somebody who speaks for Canadian values, and yet he's choosing to lead with someone who has a detailed track record making some pretty heinous comments about trans people specifically."

"If this is the first impression that the public is going to get, it could be that (The PPC) will be looking for more of the same across Canada: people who under the banner of free speech will make hateful statements about any number of groups," he added.

In addition to campaigning for a progressive victory in the Burnaby byelection, the left must be alert to the longer term implications of people like Thompson being given a national platform.

Alex Cosh is a journalist and PhD student based in Powell River, B.C. His work has appeared on PressProgressLeft Foot Forward and in several local B.C. publications.

Photo: Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson/Facebook

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.