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Newsstand: June 2, 2014

It's a beautiful Monday morning (if that's possible), and here is some news to go with your coffee: John Tory has an idea for transit, the provincial minimum wage increased for the first time in four years, Justin Bieber told a racist joke, and a majority of Canadians seem to approve of the "Nordic model" of dealing with prostitution.

matt newsstand wateringlawn

John Tory has a plan for transit and a snappy title to go with it: SmartTrack. The plan would see two existing GO train lines electrified and 22 stops added, and would extend westward all the way to the airport. It would be a short-term (well, shortish-term) solution to Toronto’s desperate need for a second east-west subway line, since Tory projects the line could be operational within seven years. Reviews have been mixed: a civil engineering professor at the University of Toronto is enthusiastic about the plan, while Richard Soberman, past chair of U of T’s civil engineering department, is skeptical. Tory’s rival candidates have latched onto his perceived flip-flopping, as Tory was believed to be in favour of a prioritized downtown relief subway line.

Yesterday, Ontario’s minimum wage was bumped up for the first time in four years, from $10.25 to $11. While that’s good news, it’s not good enough. Working full-time at $11 per hour will still leave someone 16 per cent below the provincial poverty line of about $23,000 before taxes for a single person. Groups like the Workers’ Action Centre and others are pushing for a $14 minimum wage with future increases tied to inflation, but the closest any provincial party comes to that goal is the NDP, who pledge to increase the minimum wage to $12 over the next two years. All three major parties plan to index future minimum wage increases to inflation. The minimum wage for liquor servers went up as well, from $8.90 to $9.55.

Video footage of Justin Bieber telling a racist joke surfaced over the weekend, prompting an apology from the 20-year-old pop star. The video, taken five years ago, shows Bieber telling the joke over someone telling him not to do it; the punchline of the joke is a racial slur.

A majority of Canadians support the “Nordic model” of dealing with sex work, according to a Department of Justice survey. The model, widely used in Nordic countries (hence the name), makes selling sexual services legal but the purchase thereof illegal; the intention is to lift the stigma from the person providing sexual services and place it on the person purchasing them instead, although in practice this model tends to perpetuate the stigmatization of sex workers. The Nordic model has its critics, many of whom say countries use other laws to continue to penalize sex workers. It also seems that criminalizing the purchasing of sex makes citizens more likely to want the sale of sex criminalized as well. Right now, most Canadians don’t want that to happen. The federal government is fast approaching the December deadline for a new law dealing with prostitution, a deadline imposed by the Supreme Court after it struck down three prior laws dealing with sex work.


  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    What’s the point of legalizing sex work if you’re going to catch-22 it that way?

    • rich1299

      Prostitution has always been legal in Canada, its just most everything else involved in completing the transaction was illegal.

      I don’t see why we need to criminalize any aspect of sex work, doing so won’t make any difference anyways, its continued to exist despite the strictest and harshest of laws. Sex is a human need and some people will always seek out sex workers to get that need met.

  • Milquestoast Q. Borington

    Notwithstanding the fact that an online survey isn’t a terribly reliable poll, and it seems that one question is about de-criminalizing and the other about illegal, a majority of Canadians don’t support the Nordic model.

    66 percent say selling sex should be legal, so 34 percent say it should be illegal.
    56 percent say purchasing sex should be illegal, so 44 percent say it should be legal.
    Assuming 0 support for “selling illegal, buying legal”, that breaks down to: 34 percent totally illegal, 44 percent totally legal, and 32 percent for the Nordic model; not a majority. (Please point out errors in the math if it’s wrong.)

  • Milquestoast Q. Borington

    22 percent Nordic, not 32, actually.

  • OgtheDim

    The Nordic model is supported by the Tories, and as such the Dept. of Justice survey has been skewed to get that result.

    Is there any indication that a Nordic model, without the generous Nordic safety net, is doable?


    But, hey, it makes the social conservatives feel better….

  • ExcessOfConstraint

    So, if selling sex is legal, but purchasing it is illegal, can it be sold for $0 as long as the client agrees to tip really well?

    • HotDang

      So the sex worker gets just the tip?

    • tomwest

      Doesn’t the minimum wage apply here?

  • rich1299

    I do think we need to have many more programs in place to help
    sex workers leave the industry if they wish to do so. Its not exactly
    easy finding new work when you have a long period with no official job
    on record and may have a criminal record. Some people are forced into
    sex work through poverty and addiction, there used to be and perhaps still
    is a stroll in the New Toronto neighbourhood that featured mostly women
    who looked like struggling single mothers. Increasing financial
    assistance rates would go a long way to keeping women and men out of the
    sex work industry. Of course Cons are ideologically opposed to helping people through social programs of any sort but are more than willing to spend far more locking them up after the fact. In some cases only after people have been victimized, imprisoning the person responsible won’t change a thing for the victims even if it makes Cons feel like they’re doing something useful.

    Those who wish to be sex workers should be left
    alone to make a living the same as any other small business person.