I had honestly forgotten about these until now (which I suppose is the idea), but I apparently made some predictions around this time in 2013 about what I expected to be some of the defining Canadian political events of the year 2014.
Let’s see how well I did.
Parliament will not fulfill its court-ordered obligation of writing a workable, compassionate prostitution law
I was wrong about this — parliament did, in fact, wind up passing a new prostitution bill this fall, the so-called “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.” It embraces what the kids are calling the “Scandinavian model” of sexual commerce — criminalizing the purchase of sex while tightly regulating the sale of it.
As I noted at the time, this was exactly what the Tories’ socially-conservative base wanted, but I was skeptical such an approach would be pursued because, “as the CBC notes, it’s likely the courts would find such a law just as constitutionally dubious as the ban on selling.”
The Conservatives took a gamble, which was frankly somewhat out of character for a generally risk-adverse government. Premier Wynne of Ontario says she’s interested in mounting a constitutional challenge to the new law, so we shall see if it pays off. The CBC is now saying they consider a credible legal challenge unlikely, however, in part because they don’t expect the Act to be widely enforced.
The Senate will not be reformed
This one sounds painfully obvious today, but it’s worth remembering that at the end of 2013, a year of unprecedented Senate scandals, there was some optimism that the popular desire for change might have finally reached critical mass.
But I was skeptical. Noting that the Harper government had asked the judiciary to define the constitutional terms for Senate reform, I remarked that it was “hard to imagine the Supreme Court — this Supreme Court, at least — concluding that the federal government has as much unilateral power to change the Senate as it’s desperately hoping.”
The Supremes more than lived up to my expectations, and in April ruled that it was unlawful to hold Senate elections, or impose term limits on senators, without first amending the Constitution of Canada. Prime Minister Harper responded by declaring the dream of Senate reform officially dead.
Neither pipeline will be approved
By “neither” I was referring to the Alberta-to-Texas “Keystone XL” pipeline and its west coast counterpart, the Alberta-to-BC “Northern Gateway.”
President Obama has still not approved the former, and has continued to belittle its purported benefits. It likewise failed to gain a symbolic vote of approval in the United States Senate a few weeks ago, which though meaningless from a functional point of view (it’s not Congress’ decision to make), still garnered a lot of media attention and helped re-enforce a narrative that the thing is doomed.
There’s probably still a slim chance Obama could approve Keystone as part of some horse-trading deal with a now Republican-controlled Congress who have made approval of the pipeline one of their top priorities, but with the President now firmly in his lame-duck “Bullworth” phase, where he seems increasingly comfortable with rule-by-decree, it’s hard to know why he’d bother.
Northern Gateway was notable in 2014 mostly because people largely stopped talking about it. The BC government has not changed their tune — “our position remains no” said the provincial environment minister in June — and while the Harper administration has now formally given the thing the A-OK to go forward, their endorsement was exceedingly qualified (indeed, it was actually phrased as merely accepting a “recommendation to impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway Proposal”).
Several of those 209 conditions, in turn, involve getting some sort of assent from affected aboriginal bands, something that looked impossible in 2013, and has only gotten moreso in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2014 Tsilhqot’in ruling, which greatly expanded the scope of aboriginal sovereignty.
While the Gateway people began to push that boulder up the hill, attention in British Columbia shifted to a third proposed pipeline, the Kinder Morgan “Transmountain,” whose opponents gathered a huge crowd of protestors on Burnaby Mountain last month.
Polls show, as they did in 2013, that British Columbians are quite solidly against pipelines, even if the precise reasons why are a bit muddled.
I noted that the Prime Minister may eventually face political consequences for being perceived as too blindly supportive of the oil industry (in watching the anti-Transmountain protests, it was striking how often the PM’s name was cursed in the same breath as Kinder Morgan’s), and with British Columbia shaping up to be one of the key battlegrounds of the 2015 federal election, the consequences could prove significant indeed.
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