By Eric Elliott, Black Press
Newly appointed NDP candidate and Invermere mayor Gerry Taft has revealed that he claimed minority status as a bisexual during the NDP nomination process to The Columbia Valley Pioneer in an exclusive interview.
He was successful in his bid to become the NDP candidate for the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding on Saturday, October 15th.
The news that he had declared minority status but was wanting to keep the reason why private hit provincial headlines late yesterday. The BC NDP’s gender equity policy requires that an NDP MLA who is stepping down must be replaced by an equity-seeking individual i.e. a woman or a person of minority status. As the newly appointed NDP candidate for the riding, Taft is seeking to replace long-term NDP MLA Norm Macdonald.
“The group that I identify with is bisexual,” Taft said. “This is something that I wanted to keep private. I’m in a heterosexual relationship (and have) a young child and the party, in their Equity Mandate, they allow people to make confidential disclosures.”
Taft said the process of having to disclose his sexual orientation has been frustrating, starting with the Vancouver Sun article Monday morning that revealed Taft had claimed a minority status as part of his candidacy for the riding’s nomination.
“Because of the media attention and the pressure not to keep things private, despite my first intention of keeping this private, I’m going to disclose it because I don’t want the story around this election to be about what I’m disclosing or not disclosing,” he said. “The story around this election should be about this region and it should be about how the BC Liberals are managing this province.”
Following his interview with The Pioneer, Taft released the following statement to media:
INVERMERE – “There have been questions raised about my equity status in reference to my position as a candidate for the BC NDP.
As part of the candidate vetting process, I disclosed to the party the reason that I qualify for equity status. 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.
The party approved me as a candidate and the local constituency members chose me as their candidate with a strong majority, without requiring a public declaration of the nature of my equity status.
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 live with my partner Nozomi and my young son, but I identify as bi-sexual. This has always been a private matter; as a result, I have never made a public declaration about my sexuality. I’ve never felt that I had to.
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. We can focus on the BC Liberal cuts to public education, centralization of rural healthcare, and the mismanagement of our natural resources.
Being born and raised in the Kootenays, having 14 years of local government experience, and the perspective of running several successful small businesses, I have the experience and the skills to be an effective voice for this region in Victoria.”