Pubdate: Mon, 23 Dec 2013
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2013 The Calgary Sun
Author: Dave Breakenridge


The House of Commons or the common bawdy house?

The political party you'd last associate with sex and drugs is 
looking at a couple of years with sex and drugs on the political agenda.

And you thought politics were boring.

While the Conservatives have been content to focus on economic issues 
over the last couple of years, they've had two big social issues 
foisted on them - one by the Supreme Court, and one by their political foes.

The Supreme Court last week declared wide swaths of our prostitution 
laws unconstitutional, and popular Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has 
moved marijuana legalization into the spotlight.

At the heart, they both deal with something dear to many a 
conservative's heart - namely, the freedom from the government 
dictating some pretty personal choices.

But they are issues that spur the "Crime is bad, mmmmkay?" response 
from the government.

While there are many in the conservative movement who see nothing 
wrong with small government including lax laws around drugs and 
prostitution, the problem for the Conservative Party is that this 
rubs others in the big blue tent the wrong way.

Better to ignore touchy subjects and keep the peace than legislate 
your way through a tricky political minefield.

Whether they like it or not, that's all set to change.

The courts have forced the prostitution issue onto the government's 
plate, giving the feds a year to come up with new legislation that 
respects the rights of sex workers.

And there are now hints the government is softening its stance on 
low-level pot possession, considering fines for the crime.

Not my ideal solution, mind you, and we're a long way from 
decriminalization, but I'm willing to accept baby steps.

Regardless of what the government does, there are two truths in this world:

People are still going to exchange money for drugs.

People are still going to exchange money for sex.

And just because those notions don't jive with the moral codes of 
some in this country doesn't mean those activities should be criminalized.

I get that there are some ugly realities in both these worlds, and 
that they often intersect.

There has to be a way for the government to legislate in these 
sometimes unseemly truths so that the vulnerable are protected, and 
that predators are dealt with.

But the road that many Tories want to go down, the "Nordic" approach 
of criminalizing the purchase of sex, hasn't proven to be any more 
successful at protecting women working in the sex trade.

Studies there have shown no decrease in clients, or workers.

Debating these issues isn't a bad thing, for the Conservative Party 
or for the country.

Public opinion polls, even in the Tory heartland of Alberta, show 
growing support for supposed liberal issues, like drug legalization.

A recent study from Lethbridge College, specifically targeting 
Albertans, found support for medical marijuana is nearly 80%, and 
support for the decriminalization of marijuana has jumped from 36% in 
2009 to slightly over 50% in 2013.

Meanwhile, polls have shown as many as two-thirds of Canadians 
support the notion of legalized brothels.

Not that polls alone make for sound policy, but it's not such a 
far-fetched idea.

All that said, there should still be a focus on human trafficking and 
forced prostitution, while also helping people who want off the 
street and helping people addled by addiction.

There are no easy answers here. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't 
try to find them.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom