WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, a Progressive Conservative long accused by his NDP opponents of being homophobic, said Tuesday he is considering a request to have a gender-neutral public washroom in the legislature.
Pallister said he received the request while attending Winnipeg’s annual Pride rally outside the historic building earlier this month. He is only the second Manitoba premier to have attended the event.
“There’s lots of space in this beautiful legislature, and if that’s an important issue, then it should be addressed,” Pallister said.
“If we can do a better job of accommodating individual needs within the construct of what we have here, we should take a look at it.”
While the number of gender-neutral public washrooms is growing at universities and other public buildings, many legislatures across the country have not adopted them, including those in Ontario and Quebec.
The New Democrats said Tuesday they were looking for Pallister to follow through on this and other statements he has made since being elected April 19.
“One’s words should be substantiated by actions,” interim NDP leader Flor Marcelino said.
Pallister has faced accusations of being opposed to gay and lesbian rights since he took over the Tory leadership in 2012, focusing mainly on his time as a member of Parliament for the Canadian Alliance and the Conservatives.
In a 2005 House of Commons debate on same-sex marriage, Pallister called the idea a social experiment that would abolish the “societal norm” of children being loved by a mother and father. He also said it was good that gays and lesbians were coming out of the closet — a term for going public — because Christians would need the closets.
During this year’s election campaign, then NDP leader Greg Selinger accused Pallister of being “homophobic.” Another New Democrat accused Pallister in 2014 of having an “anti-women, anti-gay” agenda, partly because the Conservatives had nominated a candidate who had been a director of a lobby group opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Pallister has said his position on same-sex marriage evolved over the years. On Tuesday, he said while he is a fiscal conservative, he is not ideological on most matters.
“The beauty of politics is over the years you get more in touch with what your values are because you have to deal with a myriad number of issues,” he said.
“Ideologies don’t really work for me. I tend to be an outcomes person.”
The New Democrats introduced a petition in the legislature calling for at least one gender-neutral bathroom in all government buildings. Pallister said that idea would need more study, given the variety of buildings the government operates.