Transgender candidate making political history

Q&A | Morgane Oger, New Democratic Party candidate, Vancouver-False Creek

Morgane Oger, New Democratic Party candidate for Vancouver-False Creek | Chung Chow

One in a series of profiles of first-time Vancouver candidates in the May 9 provincial election.

Born in France and raised in France, Morocco, the United States and Vancouver, Morgane Oger studied mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia and worked in the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, France and Switzerland in technology before returning to Vancouver in 2009. A human rights activist, Oger is the first transgender woman to run for a major Canadian party. She has two children and is chairwoman of the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council.

Q: Why choose to run now?

A: There’s a sweet spot in the activist and advocacy work I’ve been doing and in the events that have given me enough visibility to compensate a little bit for being a transgendered person. Having just convinced Christy Clark to give equal human rights to the trans community, having done the same federally – but it’s a little slower so it won’t happen until next month – having done another number of wins for the Vancouver School Board, now is the time for me to run if I was going to run.

Q: What are the things that motivate you?

A: I would say that my motivation comes from a very, very strong dislike of hypocrisy and double-talk. My instinct to help and to advocate and to change the way things are done needs a bigger platform.

Q: How do you feel you’re suited for public service?

A: Public service seems to be more than one thing. On the one hand, it’s policy-making and understanding the big picture. I’ve got a very good track record in this: preventing 12 schools from being closed through advocacy, human rights advocacy, health advocacy. I enjoy being the champion in some ways, to listen to the issues people have and map them and translate them into a policy ask.

The third aspect of being a politician is thick skin and being able to withstand it.

Q: What are your apprehensions?

A: There’s a certain loss of privacy, having to watch your every step and every word, that I’ve seen. I would like my children to be able to live a life that’s not negatively impacted by me being in politics.

Q: What are your ambitions?

A: One is that I’ll be able to speak for people who may not have had enough of a voice, all of the people in British Columbia who have struggled to be heard.

Q: What is the issue you’re prepared to stand on principle and defend your ground on?

A: I will defend the rights of the vulnerable against the rights of the powerful.

Q: If we were sitting together in four years’ time with you as MLA, what would you hope would be your accomplishment?

A: I think my first-term accomplishment would be to find a way to manage the housing bubble – the cost of housing in British Columbia – without triggering all of the negative cases that could possibly happen if it’s done badly. We all know that the cost of real estate in Vancouver is vulnerable, and anything that is vulnerable to stimulus will react badly to the wrong stimulus. I will be very satisfied if in four years we have succeeded in bringing rental housing costs down under control – or wages up, I guess.