Apparently spurred on by a typically ludicrous article penned by Barbara Kay in The National Post, departing Ward 39 Scarborough City Councillor Mike Del Grande raised the “issue” this past Friday of whether or not white males might be being discouraged from seeking employment with the city due to its attempts to redress historic injustices via equity policies in hiring. This prompted Councillor Janet Davis to move, as Now Magazine put it, “a sarcastic motion asking for a report on “an affirmative action plan for white, straight, able-bodied males, to address the historic under representation of this group in the City of Toronto workforce.”” 

While Del Grande’s inane inquiries into this have quickly and deservedly entered the trash bin of Toronto civic political history, they do serve to highlight the reality that the city and its government play a significant and important role in issues around inclusion in this tremendously diverse metropolis. The right wing on council is always looking for ways and excuses to gut the programs and funding initiatives that are in place.

One need only recall the efforts to cut funding to Pride that revolved around the intention of a group opposed to what they see as Israeli Apartheid  to march in the annual parade. Councillors with a long history of opposition to LGBT equality rights, such as Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, seized on this as a wedge to use in their broader fight to turn back the clock on social inclusion.

As Mike Del Grande prepares to retire, he may well be replaced by a politician who will prove a staunch ally to those forces on the right, former Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis.

Karygiannis, who has represented Scarborough-Agincourt federally since 1988, is a very strong contender to take the Ward, especially given that even in the 2011 election, with Liberal fortunes taking a dramatic downturn, Karygiannis still won re-election by a margin of over 4,500 votes.

Karygiannis is a strident opponent of women’s reproductive rights and has been a staunch ally of those in parliament who have sought to stop marriage equality and other rights for the LGBT community. His appalling 25 year long voting record on these issues has been conveniently compiled by the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) and includes voting against adding sexual orientation to both hate crimes laws and the Human Rights Act.

Unsurprisingly, the CLC regards Karygiannis very highly giving him their “green light” as supportable and stating that “Jim is a solid pro-lifer and has a pretty solid voting record.” Life Site News wrote a veritable lament at the “loss” of Karygiannis in Ottawa with Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for the CLC saying, among other things, “He will be missed”. 

But, of course, while a loss to the forces of social reaction federally, his potential election to City Council would be of great benefit to these forces municipally where a great deal of damage can be done. Given that he is a former Liberal MP and that LGBT issues may not be raised in his Ward during the municipal election, Karygiannis could slip in under the radar.

He has also kicked off his campaign by coming out in favour of the disastrous Scarborough subway plan.

It is of critical importance for progressives and for the LGBT community and its allies to realize that Karygiannis, if elected, will take his place firmly on the side of those Councillors like Mammolitti who would like nothing more than to push back against the gains that have been made. He needs to be confronted and opposed on these views before he has the power to vote on issues like the funding of Pride and other programs and initiatives essential to social inclusion in Toronto.