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Van Centre LGBT debate hot with hissing and F-bombs

The most exciting riding in Vancouver, if not Canada, did not disappoint yesterday as F-bombs, hisses and tough questions flew during last night’s queer community town hall in Vancouver Centre.

“I think I’m going back to East Vancouver. It’s too hot for me here,” joked incumbent Libby Davies who was the only representative of Vancouver East to participate in what was supposed to be a debate among the major-party candidates from the city’s two ridings with the most LGBT constituents.

In contrast, all four high-profile Vancouver Centre candidates – Liberal MP Hedy Fry, NDP Michael Byers, Conservative Lorne Mayencourt and Green Adriane Carr – showed up.

Even with the absence of three quarters of their Vancouver East counterparts, the sheer number of audience questions meant the candidates had only one minute each to discuss big issues like First Nations poverty, the legalization of prostitution, and the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

Based on the reactions of a boisterous audience, some fared better than others.

Mayencourt, who arrived an hour late after introducing Stephen Harper at a rally in Stanley Park, had the roughest ride. He remained courteous to the other candidates but struggled with a mixture of jokes and anger in the face of audience hostility.

“Give it to me, girl, give it to me,” he responded to hisses following his praise of the prime minister.

And while ostensibly answering a question about strategic voting, he angrily accused prominent activist Jim Deva and the event’s sponsor, Xtra West Newspaper, of telling lies and said there was something homophobic and sick about those in Vancouver’s queer community who suggest he is “not gay enough.” His outburst was met with cries of “Shame!” and “Fuck you, Lorne.”

Another awkward moment came when Mayencourt seemed caught off-guard by a question about the SPP, referring to the proposed tri-national treaty as a “bill” he had not read.

Byers used his first and last statements to praise his opponents and wax sentimental about improving the tone of politics but much of what came in between consisted of partisan attacks and tedious self-promotion. The audience chastised him on several occasions, reminding him to focus on answering the questions. His colleague from Vancouver East seemed much more popular on this night.

Fry evidently had fans in the room but the volume was high and the audience seemed annoyed at times by the constant sniping between her and Byers, especially on the question of Bill C-10.

Carr came off the best of the Vancouver Centre candidates, regularly scoring points with calls for electoral reform and avoiding the scorn of those in attendance.

Whether she can do as well on Oct. 14 remains to be seen.

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