The leader of the Ontario Liberals says he has no plans to remove one of its candidates from the party, following another round of calls from the NDP to do just that.
This party has removed three of its candidates since the start of the provincial election campaign. Two of individuals were ousted after it was revealed they used homophobic language in the past, while a third was removed for unknown reasons.
But on Friday, the Liberals said they are standing behind Etobicoke Center candidate and University of Windsor law professor Noel Semple after an op-ed he wrote back in 2004 resurfaced.
The op-ed took on renewed interest during Del Duca’s campaign stop in Scarborough on Friday, after the Toronto Star raised a question about it to the party leader.
Much like the Ontario Liberal leader’s comments on Thursday — when he was asked about homophobic comments posted by then-candidate Alec Mazurek — Del Duca said he would review what was written.
In the 2004 op-ed, Semple wrote against a subsidy for an LGBTQ group on the University of Toronto campus. He mentioned that unlike homeless people or those with mental health issues, the LGBTQ community is not a minority nor are they victimized.
Shortly after the question was raised, Semple issued an apology on his campaign website, calling his language in the op-ed “flippant.”
“Earlier today, I was disappointed and deeply embarrassed to be reminded of a 2004 opinion column in the U of T student paper that I wrote as a student. In this column, I opined on the university’s proposed LGBTOUT student fee hike, drawing offensive, short-sighted, and not at all comparable parallels to my own experience with bullying growing up,” Semple explained, adding he wrote the piece as a “young and naïve” student.
“2SLGBTQ+ people are without question an equity-deserving and underrepresented community in our society. 2SLGBTQ+ identity is rich and complex — not a ‘set of sexual behavior patterns,’” he continued.
Semple added, “It was ignorant of me to suggest otherwise, and in the 18 years between when I wrote this op-ed and now, I have better acquainted myself with the true nature of homophobia and anti-2SLGBTQ+ discrimination, and committed myself to fighting it.”
Later that day, the NDP issued a statement of their own, calling for Semple to be removed as an Ontario Liberal candidate.
“Semple said he thinks fears about homophobia on campus are ‘the old homophobia’ bugbear…Semple called the student levy a ‘cash grab’ and asked, ‘Why should LGBTOUT be allowed to skim money automatically from every student?”” the NDP statement reads.
“Being an ally requires walking the walk, not just talking the talk: will Steven Del Duca’s Liberals stand up to bigotry against 2SLGBTQIA+ people and drop this candidate?”
But in response to the NDP’s statement, Del Duca issued one of his own, expressing his support for Semple.
“Enough is enough. Eighteen years ago, Noel Semple wrote an article in a student paper opposing a new student levy. In the same article, he denounced homophobes as scumbags. He is not and was not a homophobe. He is a distinguished law professor and will be a great MPP,” said Del Duca.
“It’s telling that the NDP are attacking Mr Semple rather than Conservative Cabinet Minister Parm Gill who is quoted in 2015 as ‘getting into politics to stop gay marriage.’ Both Ms. Horwath and Mr. Ford have some soul searching to do,” Del Duca added.