Last week, the Liberal Party finally unveiled its full platform, and like its 2021 budget, it was dedicated to a vision of inclusive growth. For queer and trans communities, the Liberals are offering $40 million over four years as part of creating that growth—the only party to have specific dollars and programs in mind, rather than some vague, feel good or obsolete pledges.
But that support was overshadowed by what wasn’t in the platform. Much of the attention from the “Supporting LGBTQ2 People” section was devoted to the fact that the pledge to end the deferral period for blood donations by men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans women was no longer there. NDP and Conservative candidates were quick to decry that omission, noting that their respective parties had committed to ending the ban in their own platforms. The problem is that it’s a moot point: Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has already announced that it will be applying to Health Canada to review its updated screening criteria to effectively end the current deferral period by the end of the year.
Surprisingly, given how much the Liberal platform is devoted to patting themselves on the back for what they’ve accomplished to date, the party chose not to do so on this file. Don’t get me wrong—I’m sure that they absolutely will once CBS’ policy change is formalized. But the Liberals not taking credit (in that they funded the research that CBS used to make the policy change) is something I had not expected.
In terms of specific promises, the Liberals say they will re-introduce the legislation to ban conversion therapy within their first 100 days in a new Parliament (for what it’s worth, Bill C-6 was also introduced very early in the previous Parliament). The promise also makes pointed digs at the Conservatives, as more than half of their caucus voted against Bill C-6.
More significantly, the Liberals plan to support the implementation of the federal LGBTQ2 Action Plan. The promise is to complete the Action Plan within those first 100 days—in line with the current timelines Bardish Chagger promised when I spoke to the minister of diversity, inclusion and youth earlier this year. This Action Plan looks to identify challenges LGBTQ2S+ communities face, and take a whole-of-government approach to addressing them with the co-ordinating efforts of the LGBTQ2 Secretariat.
As part of this promise, the Liberals are pledging $40 million over four years, starting in the current fiscal year—meaning it would be part of a fall economic update and its associated budget implementation bill. This money would be earmarked for capacity funding to Canadian LGBTQ2S+ service organizations. This is on top of the previously announced $15 million capacity fund that was divided among 76 organizations, as well as the $15 million over three years in Budget 2021 that were directed to the department of Women and Gender Equality to create a new LGBTQ2 Project Fund. That fund is intended to support “community-informed initiatives” aimed at overcoming issues facing queer communities, such as mental health services or employment support. The previously announced $15 million funds were largely decried as insufficient by community groups, so this goes some way toward addressing that criticism. Neither the NDP nor the Conservatives made any funding promises to this extent.
The platform also has a section on pathways to parenthood, citing the challenges of adoption or surrogacy for queer and trans people. To that end, the Liberals promise to ensure that the cost of in vitro fertilization (IVF) becomes an eligible health expenditure under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, and to expand the Medical Expense Tax Credit to include reimbursement of IVF expenses for surrogate mothers. This seems to be a response to an issue raised earlier this year with a gay father who was deemed ineligible for those tax credits. They also pledge to move forward on providing adoptive parents with an additional 15 weeks of leave to ensure they get the same level of support to care for children as other parents get. By contrast, the Conservative platform pledges to create a National Adoption Strategy focused on an unspecified number of weeks’ leave and a tax credit, while the NDP only mentions a more broadly worded assurance of a range of contraceptive and reproductive care options as part of their pharmacare pledge.
Something else unique to the Liberal platform, which echoes what was in the budget, is that they have a Gender and Diversity Impact Statement at the end of each chapter of their platform. In the statement at the end of the chapter that includes the “Supporting LGBTQ2 People” section, they indicate that in 2018, youth between 15 and 24 represented 30 percent of the LGBTQ2S+ population. In 2016, the statement continues, one-third of all same-sex couples in Canada were married while the other two-thirds were living common-law, and about 12 percent of same-sex couples in the same time period had children living with them. “We expect that the measures announced will therefore mostly benefit young LGBTQ2 Canadians living mainly in Canada’s largest metropolitan areas,” the statement reads.
The Liberals have been going beyond the usual platitudes in their election platform, which is good to see. What remains to be seen is whether they have sufficiently earned the trust of the queer and trans communities, given that they bear some of the culpability for the demise of Bill C-6, and that in both 2015 and 2019, they made a promise they couldn’t keep with regards to the blood deferral period. Nevertheless, this platform not only shows that they see us and where our struggles are, but that they have an actual plan with dollars attached to help meet our needs—and that counts for something.