STEVENSON HELPED FUND B.C. HIV PROGRAM
Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson will be in the spotlight on Wednesday (May 23) when the City of Vancouver raises flags at Vancouver City Hall to designate this as the Year of the Queer. (For more information, see page 9.) As the first openly gay church minister and cabinet minister (provincial or federal) in Canada, Stevenson has been a pioneer in advancing the interests of the LGBT community.
But sometimes this has taken place behind the scenes. An example occurred after he was nominated as the NDP provincial candidate in Vancouver-burrard in 1996. Stevenson told the Straight by phone that the party leader and premier, Glen Clark, phoned him up to say he would like to meet him for breakfast. Stevenson had never met Clark before.
“He said ‘What do we need to get the gay vote? What would really help us against [Gordon] Campbell? It’s going to be very close,’ ” Stevenson recalled.
He replied that gay men were spending $10,000 per year on an antiretroviral treatment called AZT because it wasn’t covered by Pharmacare. Stevenson said he told Clark that this would be “huge”.
“He looked at me and said: ‘It’s that simple?’ I said that’s a very big deal in our community,” Stevenson continued. “He said, ‘Okay, if we win, we will put that on Pharmacare.’ ”
Clark followed up by holding a news conference with Stevenson at St. Paul’s Hospital with the parents of Dr. Peter Jepson-young, who had died of AIDS in 1992. Clark won the election and since then the B.C. government has been funding antiretroviral drugs and investing massive amounts of money into research, which has led to HIV being converted into a chronic disease.
“That’s where I really learned a huge political lesson for myself,” Stevenson said. “You make deals that firm things up. So I’ve operated like that, trying to work behind the scenes in order to make things happen.”
At the 25th-anniversary dinner for Positive Living B.C. in 2011, famed HIV doctor and researcher Julio Montaner gave credit to the city and the province for their support.
“Without them stepping in and saying, ‘Yes, we’re going to commit to this fight,’ there would have been no
St. Paul’s [B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS],” Montaner said. “There would have been no AIDS program. We would have been just like VGH or the UBC hospital at the time. ‘You are on your own and God save you.’ Thanks to them, we stepped up to the plate.”
B.C. was the first province in Canada that virtually eliminated the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children. B.C. drove down Hiv-transmission rates through the B.C. centre’s innovative treatmentas-prevention approach, which was later adopted by the governments of China, France, the United States, and Brazil. Countless lives have been saved as a result.
Stevenson said he never went running around making a big issue about how he managed to get antiretroviral drugs funded by the provincial government—and what flowed from that initial announcement. “People don’t know about these things,” he said.
> CHARLIE SMITH
BOARD MEMBERS, COUNCIL HOPEFULS BOLT NPA
Desertions have struck the board of Vancouver’s oldest municipal party.
The resignations followed the controversial May 7 decision of the Nonpartisan Association’s board denying NPA city councillor Hector Bremner the chance to stand for nomination as the party’s candidate for mayor.
NPA president Gregory Baker confirmed that Sarah Weddell, Natasha Westover, and Krissy Van Loon have left the board.
Baker didn’t seem too concerned about the departures.
“It’s disappointing, I have to say, but at the same time, our board is 15 people right now, so it’s a big board,” Baker told the Straight in a phone interview. “We have…a lot of people that bring…valuable skills to the organization. So…i’m confident we still have good people here.”
Meanwhile, two individuals who previously expressed interest in seeking NPA city-council nominations have withdrawn their applications.
One is Adrian Crook, video-game consultant and author of the 5 Kids 1 Condo parenting blog. Crook, who is a Bremner supporter, announced through social media that he will still pursue running for council but not with the NPA.
Scott de Lange Boom, a housing advocate, also declared through social media that he is no longer interested in an NPA nomination and will look at options.
The NPA board has approved the applications of park-board commissioner John Coupar, businessman Ken Sim, and financial analyst Glen Chernen to seek the party’s nomination for mayoral candidate on May 29.
Bremner previously indicated to the Straight that he is not ruling out the possibility of forming his own slate that may run outside the NPA in the October 20, 2018, civic election.
Bremner claimed that he had signed up more than 2,000 people for his now failed bid for the nomination. He said that they represent more than half of the NPA’S membership.
Baker refused to say whether or not he wants Bremner and his supporters to stay with the NPA.
> CARLITO PABLO
Much of Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson’s work advancing the interests of the LGBT community has taken place behind the scenes. Craig Takeuchi photo.