A splash in Ontario makes waves in Alberta

The Ontario Superior Court’s Charter finding against prostitution-related provisions of the Criminal Code has unexpectedly cast light on the new Alberta politics. The hard-charging Wildrose Alliance talks a good game when it comes to defending provincial rights; the logical corollary, one might suppose, would be for it to observe a dignified silence about matters reserved to the federal government. This is never how things work, of course, and the Alliance couldn’t move fast enough to issue a joint statement in the names of its two turncoat MLAs, Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson.

Just as the mind of Newton was instantly discernible by contemporaries from his anonymous solution to the brachistochrone problem, so the corresponding organ inside Heather Forsyth is recognizable from the language of the press release. Forsyth never heard an idea for “protecting children” she didn’t like, and certainly never, as an Alberta cabinet minister, implemented one she would recognize as a failure.

“No little girl,” reads the statement, “ever dreams of growing up and becoming a prostitute, and no parent wants to see their child become a sex worker.” As an argument in favour of the existing prostitution laws, this immediately raises the question whether the parents of Robert Pickton’s victims dreamed fondly of their fate, complete with a soundtrack of swine gnawing bone. No little girl does foresee becoming a sex worker, any more than little boys imagine becoming garbagemen or sheet-metal cutters. (Hands up, all those of you who do have the job of their dreams! I’ll admit I’m relatively blessed in that regard, but then again I am not writing this note from the deck of the space shuttle.)

It is precisely the unpleasantness of such professions that demands we attend carefully to their occupational safety. That is the ground, for better or worse, on which Justice Susan Himel acted. The Wildrose statement does not object that Himel’s decision will fail to make prostitution safer; it concedes the point, and specifically rejects the idea that prostitution should be made safer for women. Why, one wonders, is Robert Pickton in prison at all? By the Forsyth standard, surely he should be freed, perhaps even subsidized as a public benefactor.

The fact is, Alberta already has a governing party that was happy to implement Forsythian ideas of justice and child welfare, dozens of them, before Forsyth became the victim of a geographic squeeze and left the PCs in a snit. The party’s statement thus leaves one wondering whether a vote for the Wildrose is a vote for ideological change, or just the same old formula with a different gang of ministers. It suggests tentatively that Danielle Smith’s “big tent” is going to fly the Oriflamme of social conservatism rather than the Gadsden flag of libertarianism.

A splash in Ontario makes waves in Alberta

  1. A splash in Ontario makes waves in Alberta

    And here I thought the blog was about Ontario born Avatar director James Cameron's press conference yesterday with Aboriginal and First Nations representatives:

    He [Cameron] lamented the state of the Athabasca River, which lies in the oil sands and has elevated levels of pollution. Many locals won't swim in the river – something that struck a chord with Mr. Cameron.

    “I can't imagine being told by my mom I can't swim in the river. The idea of that is appalling to me,” Mr. Cameron said.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prai

    • I have a Cameron-pegged piece, which tries to say as little about Cameron per se as humanly possible, hitting the newsstands in the print edition today. But that Globe piece is crap. Cameron called specifically for a moratorium on new surface mining, not all tarsands development.

      • Having read it just now, I agree that the Globe piece is crap. Kevin Libin recounts that Cameron toured an in-situ site and "seems intrigued by the minimal impacts of sag-d". It's the surface mining that Cameron is opposed to.

        • What specifically is crap?

          • Josh Wingrove updated and corrected his own article within the last hour. He also just filed this interview with Cameron, which includes the following question:

            Globe: On Wednesday, you told a press conference you'd like to see a moratorium on tailings ponds; issued a press release saying you'd like to “put the brakes” on all development; while Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said you didn't mention any moratorium at all. Which is it?

            Cameron: “Putting the brakes on” was a well-considered phrase. It doesn't mean you're stopping. Put the brakes on, you're slowing down. It's what you do when you see a hazard ahead. You slow down, you don't charge into it.
            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/jame

          • Wow. That's it, the quote I myself provided?

            I think you once again demonstrate your willingness to jump on the CC bandwagon without due consideration. Anyway, O/T.

          • We posted within minutes of each other. I hadn't read your quote when I posted mine.

            Wingrove changed the part of his article that I was referring to. It originally read: "Cameron called for a moratorium on oilsands development" before he changed it.

          • I have a hard copy of Thursday's G&M , probably printed 12 hrs ago, and I don't see the quote you're referring to. Can you explain? Maybe you want to withdraw the comment?

          • Damn, now you've forced me to check the hard copy myself.

            OK, I was referring to this line, which I see is still there: "Mr. Cameron said open-pit mines are an “appalling” and “horrible” sight, industry-funded research is just a “prop,” and he called for a moratorium on further development."

            My bad. It wasn't changed, just further up the page. Anyway, the phrasing is ambiguous.

          • Yeah, what I previously provided. Anyway, I'm sure Josh Wingrove, if he reads this, will accept your forced apology.

          • I'm sure Josh Wingrove is super concerned with the musings of anonymous blog commenters on a different website and a completely unrelated blog post. I'd say the odds that he reads this are even more of a long shot than the odds that the Oilers will win the Stanley Cup.

          • Libel has deep tentacles.

          • "The Oilers are 4-0 in the preseason," he retorted weakly.

        • Interview with G&M :

          Q: On Wednesday, you told a press conference you'd like to see a moratorium on tailings ponds; issued a press release saying you'd like to “put the brakes” on all development; while Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said you didn't mention any moratorium at all. Which is it?

          A: “Putting the brakes on” was a well-considered phrase. It doesn't mean you're stopping. Put the brakes on, you're slowing down. It's what you do when you see a hazard ahead. You slow down, you don't charge into it…
          http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/jame

          • James Cameron's comments sounds a lot like what Peter Lougheed recommended after learning Ralph K. had no plan to manage tar sands development and gave the industry a sweetheart deal on royalties. Slow it down and do it right (or as right as possible).

          • And Stelmach, once elected to replace Klein specifically said he wouldn't "put on the brakes". Cameron's words and criticism were carefully chosen.

  2. While I agree with your analysis of the Wildrose position, I have to say I think use of lines like this goes to far: "By the Forsyth standard, surely he should be freed, perhaps even subsidized as a public benefactor."

    • Remember that old adage about the prostitute with a heart of gold? Heather? Not.

    • Well, that was a slightly dramatic rhetorical flourish, but the Wildrose statement specifically says it should not be made "easier and safer" for the selling of sex. (Not your head John, but) heads, meet sand.

      • Yes, that is a particularly stupid thing to say.

        • It would be interesting to see a government bill designed to further this policy of making sex-trade work as unsafe as possible, in order to deter young people from entering into it. What are they going to do, ban condoms? Make it legal for pimps to beat up prostitutes?

    • I fear some responsibility. From a comment thread a week or so ago:

      "I suspect it has more to do with his Macleans contract negotiations and, in particular, the "$0.XX/comment bonus" clause. Let's see, a couple weeks ago it was gay marriage, this week it's abortion. I look forward to Cosh's ruminations on Justin Bieber's goofy haircut and the miscarriage of justice that saw Paul Bernardo sent to prison in the coming weeks."

      I appreciate Bernardo ain't Picton, but there (thankfully) there aren't many sex-crazed serial killers in Canada to pick for analogous posits. For the sake of all that's right and decent, Cosh, resist the urge and leave the Bieb alone!

    • Yes, surely there's some distance between what was said and suggesting Pickton be freed. But this is Cosh, after all. I think he says these things on purpose.

  3. "Just as the mind of Newton was instantly discernible by contemporaries from his anonymous solution to the brachistochrone problem, so the corresponding organ inside Heather Forsyth is recognizable from the language of the press release."

    Bless this abstruse prose!

  4. So now I suppose Parliament is going to debate prostitution…again.

    Next up: allowable speeds for chariots in the coliseum

    • Frankly, I think they'd like to avoid doing that.

      Perhaps they will just talk trash about MacLeans again.

      • I hope they don't, but they likely will…..and we'll go backwards yet again.

      • I think Mike T. is right — the government is hoping for the appeal courts to bail them out of this one. Personally, I hope the appeal courts don't oblige them and they uphold the trial decision.

  5. "No little girl does foresee becoming a sex worker, any more than little boys imagine becoming garbagemen or sheet-metal cutters."
    …or sex workers. Sex work is not solely done by women in Canada.

  6. I for one am a Wildrose Alliance member who supports abolishing antiquated prostitution laws and I really don't care much for Heather Forsyth.

  7. Reality check, big oil companies tend to donate to the Liberal party. Donor lists are available on line.

    • In Alberta. ALBERTA. Did you really just say that big oil companies IN ALBERTA tend to donate to the Liberal party in Alberta? If that's the truth, which I doubt, maybe they ought to take some of that money that they're currently wasting so especially well on the Alberta Liberals and reallocate it towards cleaning up a tailings pond or two.

      Or maybe you might want to check that reality of yours again.

        • In the 2008 election campaign, Husky donated solely to the Libs. Otherwise, from what I could find, they either donated solely to the PCs, or made matching contributions to at least two parties. Hmmm. Reality is hard sometimes, isn't it?

  8. She wasn't the one who mentioned sheet-metal cutters. That was me, and I wasn't insulting them.

    • Okay Colby, I stand corrected, however its actually the type of thing Forsyth would probably say.

      • "However its actually the type of thing Forsyth would probably say."

        Except she didn't, and you did call her a snobby bitch, and instead of apologizing for it, that's the best you can do?

  9. And the true colours are revealed. Here I was hoping that we would finally have a true libertarian alternative to whatever the PC party is. Thanks for posting Colby.

    • "true libertarian"?

      A liberal who's afraid of being labeled as such?
      A conservative who's afraid of being labeled as such?
      A minarchist who revels in small government fantasies while driving down public highways?

      • I'm not sure what this whole 'libertarian' business is, lately….they've never been able to get elected. Just another crazy fringe party.

        • Yep crazy fringe. But its nice to see people like Marc Emery, and the rest of them, looking out for personal freedom, while not at the same time trying to make you pay through the nose for social programs.

          Its healthy for democracy.

          • You don't need a Libertarian party to change pot laws

            Libertarians want all the benefits of a civilized society….for free.

            Ayn Rand called libertarians 'rightwing hippies', which pretty much sums them up.

          • Libertarians want all the benefits of a civilized society….for free.

            Not really. Libertarianism is more about paying directly, rather than through the government. A lot of them simply see taxation as a form of coercion.

          • Except you can't run a country that way.

          • I agree, but that isn't the point that you made in your previous response, which is what I was replying to. Nor does it preclude having a libertarian style party who can advocate for smaller government without actually running the country into the ground.

            Here's a question, if you had the choice between a libertarian style party (advocating: personal freedom, privacy, fiscal restraint), or a conservative party (advocating: 'principled, personal freedom' – aka: WWJD – , privacy – so long as it didn't interfere with national security – , fiscal restraint – except for military and justice spending), which would you prefer?

          • I meant to address the pot laws thing. Marc Emery is, first and foremost, in favour of individual, personal freedom. His stance on pot, and his advocacy of which, is a result of this.

            I wasn't making the point that pot laws should be repealed (although I agree with the sentiment). I was making the point that there are individuals out there, like Mr. Emery, who believe in the principles of personal freedom (as in, a good portion of them are libertarians, or anti-authoritarians – which often amounts to the same thing), and are advocating as such.

            People like Mr. Emery might be on the 'crazy fringe', but they are making positive changes within our country.

          • I knew Marc Emery eons ago in London, and he tried everything he could think of to become famous.

            So far he's famous, hasn't changed a thing, and is in a US prison

          • Nothing? Come now, I don't think that you are being honest. Completely ignoring his marijuana advocacy, if nothing else it could be argued that Mr. Emery played a significant role in the repeal of Sunday shopping laws in Ontario. Which was a huge win for everyone who isn't a Christian moralist.

      • Most libertarians in Canada are not minarchists. More often than not they're just people who believe in fiscal conservativism and personal freedom. They're like Conservatives, but without the moralistic crusaders. If you have a better term for it, please feel free.

        I think its important to have a strong pro-freedom party. It tends to keep the rest of them honest.

        • A strong libertarian party wouldn't keep the other honest so much as make them all look saner.

          • I wouldn't say that. I think that they would have a similar kind of effect as the NDP, but in a different direction.

  10. I'm still not sure where I stand on legalized prostitution. I think legalizing it will make it safer for the women who practice it. But there are those who say that legalized prostitution leads to more human trafficking, which is a pretty crappy trade-off. I just wish we put more efforts into fighting human trafficking in general (not just in the sex trade).

    • Then we should attack the problem of human trafficking….slavery is definitely illegal.

      • Besides which, arguably, legalized prostitution would only lead to increased human trafficking if that legalized prostitution were not properly regulated. There are ways of running prostitution businesses which do not involve the hiring of people who have been subject to human trafficking.

        • Because this approach has worked so well for strip clubs…

          • I do not think it is the case that strip clubs are vigorously regulated the way I am talking about. I'm talking about every prostitute having a license to ply her trade, being subject to certain conditions (testing for STDs), as has been done in, e.g., Amsterdam and other regulated red-light districts around the world. There are ways of verifying that a sex-trade worker is not subject to human smuggling, and in any event, human smuggling is directly under the jurisdiction of immigration authorities.

          • Do you want in on a secret? The majority of human trafficking taking place in strip clubs involves women born in Canada. There is a sizable Eastern European sex trade involving strip clubs, but New York probably has more victims than all of Canada. At least in the west, the sex trade involves girls from Ontario.

  11. The Wildrose statement… specifically rejects the idea that prostitution should be made safer for women. Why, one wonders, is Robert Pickton in prison at all? By the Forsyth standard, surely he should be freed, perhaps even subsidized as a public benefactor.

    I say this as one who is no fan of the current anti-prostitution laws we have. Anyone who wishes to declare as illegal certain activity surrounding a legal activity is not, repeat NOT, celebrating the crimes committed against those who obeyed the law.

    You're better than this, Colby.

    • Well, duh, yes, the Wildrose could have taken a position in favour of the existing law without specifically approving of its unsafe effects. But they didn't do that. What am I "better than", the plain truth? Simple logic?

      • It is illegal for me and my family to live in a barb-wired compound surrounded by armed sentries able to shoot-to-kill any person or animal that dared to set foot or hoof on my property. Zoning laws, you know, specifically rejecting that my family should be safer. Why, one wonders, is any home invader or B-&-E thief in prison at all? By the standards of my city council, the thug should be freed, perhaps even subsidized as a public benefactor.

        This charge against my municipal councillor and mayor is ridiculous. They are interfering with my right to protect my family, but they are not celebrating if, in obeying the law, I become prey to criminals.

        You are better than unfairly placing absurd motives behind a politician's position.

      • The FULL sentence in the statement that "specifically rejects the idea that prostitution should be made safer for women:
        Instead of making it easier and safer for young girls to sell their bodies, our government should be focused on stopping those who seek to victimize women, and ensure all our children receive the education they need to be successful in their lives.
        If you might point to where the alleged Picktonophilia may be found within there…?

        • It's right there in the "safer". Pretty much everybody else here got that.

          • Really? You see glorification of a monster in that word? Your imagination is trying too hard today, my friend.

            Only those who read the full statement, as opposed to your, ahem, abstract of it, would get the "stopping those who seek to victimize women" part. But it's a free country, so I suppose "pretty much everybody else here" is equally free to unfairly presume absurd motives behind a politician's position.

          • Who said anything about motives? I was talking about logic: have you heard of it? My objection is to the idea that the current law makes prostitution less safe AND THAT THIS IS A DESIRABLE FEATURE. You can make all the anonymous internet chew-toy noises you like, but that is the clear, not-at-all-avoidable-or-ambivalent upshot of the Wildrose statement, and there can be nothing "unfair" about saying so. You'll just have to go on being offended.

          • If you are putting the acquittal (and possible subsidy) of Pickton as a logical follow-through of the Wildrose statement, I must in sadness withdraw the final sentence of my first comment.

          • Well, it's still a logical (though EXTREME) continuation of the argument, isn't it? If making prostitution less safe for prostitutes is a desirable feature of our prostitution laws, wouldn't the logical end of such a policy be to make it legal to commit crimes against prostitutes, therefore doing the most possible to make their occupation less safe, as this is clearly a desirable feature of our prostitution laws?

            If someone's going to argue that making life less safe for prostitutes should be something that our laws should attempt to accomplish, I don't think it's unreasonable to rhetorically inquire as to just how far people are willing to go in that regard. If making it EASIER to kill prostitutes is good, then, logically, wouldn't making it LEGAL to kill prostitutes be even better? I don't think one should argue that making life less safe for a group of citizens is a DESIRABLE feature of one of our criminal laws without being forced to address just how far they're willing to take that principle.

          • our government should be focused on stopping those who seek to victimize women
            and
            surely [Pickton] should be freed, perhaps even subsidized as a public benefactor.

            …join together in a continuation of an argument? How?

  12. You know, I half-believed for a long time that Alberta didn't give two hoots about Ontario. My education would have me believe pretty much in a "screw you!"/"whatever" relationship between the two provinces.

    I'm glad to see I'm wrong.

  13. Wild Rose is NOT a populist party. it is so bought-and-paid-for by the oil industry that it makes the Tories look like a bunch of commies.

  14. Groan. I recommend a high colonic.

  15. I don't completely disagree with what John D says — this may sound a bit weird on the surface, but I think it's quite possible to have a populist party that nevertheless enjoys strong financial support from the oil industry. Wild Rose was essentially born in Calgary. Calgary is the HQ of the oil industry, absolutely packed with head offices. Wild Rose is popular among Calgary's executive and professional elite. In a situation like that, the line between "corporate" support and the support of downtown professional individuals is almost a meaningless distinction.

    Most of the same people supported the Reform Party, and it was certainly a populist party. I don't think a populist party is necessarily characterized by a lack of corporate support. I think it has far more to do with the message it's pitching.

  16. What an awesome debate among citizens! Charter-wielding robed pharisees…I love it!

  17. While I understand the logical process that holds that activities surrounding something shouldnt be illegal if the activity itself is legal, I am surprised that no one can see good reasons for the current reality.
    1. Men are generally pimps and women are usually sex trade workers. Meaning that sexual exploitation usually happens with a man profiting from the prostitution of women or men who are more vulnerable. The current laws work if we want to help the vulnerable ones get out while penalizing those who contribute to and profit from exploitation.
    2. If Terri Bedford was a man – there would be no way this case made it to the Supreme Court of Ontario.

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