POLITICS CHATTER: Taking the Toronto Star to task for playing sexual politics
People & Places

POLITICS CHATTER: Taking the Toronto Star to task for playing sexual politics

It took a minute to sink in. I had to check again to see if I was reading it right. Maybe it was a hoax. Maybe I was reading the Sun by mistake.

“The knock against (Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Kathleen) Wynne is that she is not ‘electable’ — code, as she puts it herself, for being ‘a lesbian from Toronto.’”

This remarkable sentence was in a Toronto Star editorial endorsing the grating and unpleasant Sandra Pupatello for leader of the Ontario Liberals and, automatically, and probably temporarily, the next premier of Ontario.

I think I know Ontario pretty well. I’ve lived in every part of the province, half my life in small towns, half in cities. And I think that statement says a lot about the Toronto Star and very little about the voters of Ontario.

Because I don’t believe most Ontarians who would consider voting Liberal give a damn about Kathleen Wynne’s sexuality. Even most social conservatives are well past that kind of discrimination. Canada has several successful gay and lesbian high-profile politicians — Scott Brison, elected in rural Nova Scotia;  John Baird, who wins handily in Nepean-Carleton; Glen Murray, former mayor of Winnipeg, now a provincial cabinet minister and a solid contender for the Ontario Liberal leadership down the road; and, of course, Wynne herself, who’s held three big portfolios.

I don’t care who wins this weekend’s leadership vote. It probably doesn’t matter all that much. But for the Toronto Star to suggest Wynne is somehow politically crippled because she’s a lesbian is both striking and bizarre.

I think the Star’s editorial board lives in the downtown Toronto universe where everyone is hip and cool and gay-friendly, and the rest of the province is seemingly populated by mouth-breathing yokels who, after the scrape the manure off their boots and enter the polling station, would never cast their vote for a lesbian.

As I said, I think the Star’s bizarre commentary says more about how they see Ontarians outside the downtown Toronto bubble than about Ontarians themselves.

It doesn’t matter that Wynne sits virtually tied with Pupatello with about a quarter of the elected delegates, or that she has strong support from Liberals in all parts of the province. Nor, it seems, does the Star notice that Wynne’s sexuality has not been raised at all-candidates’ meetings in the boonies or by small-town newspapers.

It’s that kind of disconnect that has caused considerable withering of the readership of the Star and the Globe and Mail. Its writers have become far too smug, insular, and ignorant people who simply have no grasp of the province outside a few square kilometres in the Toronto core.

When, as the Star did, you say that people outside Toronto won’t vote for a lesbian, you’ve completely misread the people of the province. And you are skating dangerously close to saying gays and lesbians should know their place and stay out of sight because they harm the electoral fortunes of their own party.

It’s an astounding attitude in 2013. Hopefully, Wynne and the people of this province will get the chance to prove the Star wrong.