A Canadian pioneer

A Canadian pioneer

An obscure Albertan politician made national news in Canada this week after getting entangled in what is possibly the country’s most lurid sex scandal of all time.

Albertan oil is very popular in the United States right now, what with continental “energy independence” being such a trendy cause and all. The province’s politicians seem to be spending more and more time south of the border as a result, schmoozing and cajoling to strengthen this suddenly most fashionable American trade relationship.

Michael T. Allen, a Conservative member of the Alberta legislature from the oil-rich northern riding of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo was on one such junket to Minnesota last week. Among other things, he was helping press the state government to approve an expansion of so-called Clipper pipeline connecting the two regions, and by all accounts things went well.

But lobbying is hard work, and on Monday night Representative Allen figured he’d relax in the arms of a nice woman. Or two. So he went online and found a couple ladies who seemed interested in hanging out. For the right price, mind you.

Alas, a short limo ride to a motel later and Allen was shocked to find not the friendly prostitutes he was expecting, but rather undercover Minnesota cops, who proceeded to arrest the foreign lawmaker — along with a dozen other johns — as part of a sting operation organized by the St. Paul police department.

Allen flew back to Alberta post-haste, and resigned from the Conservative Party in shame. He’s received quite the lashing in the local press, and from his former boss, the premier, but has said his larger political future remains up in the air. But “it happened,” he glumly admitted during an airport interview. Charges were formally laid last night, and he’ll be heading to a St. Paul courtroom in November.

Historically, there haven’t been a lot of good political sex scandals in Canada. This Maclean’s list of the “8 best” is mostly mild and dated, with four of the top eight occurring before 1980.

A Depression-era provincial premier was forced to resign after being “sued for seduction” by an innocent young waif. One of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers got his mistress an abortion  back in the days when such things were still illegal. A couple provincial legislators here and there have admitted to soliciting hookers. Even the most scurrilous incident, the so-called “Munsinger Affair” of 1966 — in which it was revealed that East German prostitute/KGB agent had slept with Canada’s former defence minister as a way of obtaining state secrets — is largely forgotten today.

Allen’s affair, in contrast, being the most sexually decadent and occurring in the obsessive spotlight of the social media age, might linger in the national memory a bit longer. But it’s equally possible (as is so often the case) that the Canadians are coming way too late to a passing fad.

Consider that former New York governor Elliot Spitzer is currently leading the polls to become the next comptroller of New York City, despite his famed 2008 resignation in the aftermath of revelations that he was a chronic client of some of the Big Apple’s most upscale escorts. Or how about fellow New Yorker Anthony “twitpic” Wiener, whose equally infamous resignation, following some unsolicited social media crotch-shots, haven’t prevented him from emerging as the favoured candidate to succeed Mayor Bloomberg in Gracie Mansion? Or “Appellation Trail” veteran Mark Sandford, recently re-elected in South Carolina? Or wife-swapin’ Newt Gingrich, winner of that same so-con stronghold’s Republican primary sweepstakes? Or, or…

Since Canadians are supposed to be less uptight about sexual impropriety than Americans — and certainly less bothered by the dirt in their politicians’ personal lives — it’s hard to argue there’s any compelling reason for Mr. Allen to leave the Alberta parliament when even the supposedly puritanical US would probably consider his indiscretions to be no biggie. Booted from the Tory caucus, fine — that’s his party leader’s prerogative — but out of the legislature altogether? Such an act would imply a complete absence of public legitimacy, and that’s one conclusion jump too far. Particularly for a man who represents Fort McMurray of all places, an isolated city where lonely oil sands workers have hardly made hookers an unknown vice.

I personally think prostitution is a cruel and exploitive crime, and would have a hard time supporting even the most competent politician whose past included an affinity for it. But that judgey perspective seems to be increasingly passé these days as society becomes more socially libertarian, with live-and-let-live-who-am-I-to-judge-if-everyone-consents-there’s-no-problem mantras the dominant mentality of our age. I’ve heard it said this change of attitude is not entirely selfless, of course — as more and more of us expose more and more of our own disturbing habits and fetishes online, one’s ability to condemn the misdeeds of others without committing massive acts of hypocrisy becomes a ever-more awkward challenge.

In that sense, the most reasonable thing for Mike Allen to do would be to follow the Spitzer-Weiner-Sanford precedent: quit, but then immediately run for re-election. Let the voters decide which sins are truly unforgivable. Chances are high it won’t be this one.

Governor Spitzer was on the Stephen Colbert show the other day, and was asked a fairly powerful questioned that succinctly summarized the uncomfortable realities of this new political normal.

“Do you think,” said Colbert, referring to Spitzer’s high poll numbers, “that voters are more forgiving than they used to be? Do you think that signals progress for our country or the slow decay of our moral values?”

Is there an answer other than “yes?”

 




^ 33 Comments...

  1. Jake_Ackers

    Yes Allen should resign because he broke the law. And if the voters truly forgive him he will win again. The situations with Sanford, Spitzer and Weiner are all because they are running in a one party area and have name recognition and a warchest. I wonder if Sanford or Spitzer would win for Governor again. Maybe but I doubt it if they were in a state where their party is a minority. And Weiner has been planning this for a while, and his main opposition is a councilwoman from NYC. I think she pretty much knocked out any other candidate from within NYC and Weiner has appeal and recognition outside NYC. Which lets face it, it is an alpha city so connections outside help.

    On prostitution as a crime. Yes it bad especially for those who get roped in for one reason or another. In addition to the innocent spouses who catch STDs from their partners. However, a lot of the exploitation and sex slavery is because it is illegal. Legal prostitution would be regulated. No street walkers. No pimps. Brothels would be taxed, regulated and raided for underage workers. And of course tested for STDs. More crime due to sex trafficking than the use. More STDs from it being illegal than if it was legal.

    And for Colbert's questions. I would ask back, are Americans having more affairs/going to more prostitutes or they simply being caught more? Are men cheating more or are women tolerating less? Especially with women being more financially independent and having their own careers.

    Moreover, before it was society's dirty little open secret, a la JFK, which one ever talked about. Now because women simply don't tolerate it, it is talked more. Before it was like, "How dare you put your wife through this public humiliation. She HAS to get a divorce and suffer financially." Now it's, "Oh he is just a pig. I don't need him. I'll take him for all he is worth in the divorce."

  2. Psudo

    Is there any evidence besides speculation that proves that "a lot of the exploitation and sex slavery is because it is illegal." as you claim?

  3. @Cristiona

    I guess one could look the Nevada (outside Las Vegas) to check for exploitation. Sex slavery's a rather different and deeper problem, though.

  4. Jake_Ackers

    Supply and demand. Brothels provide a safer work environment and are monitored. Who is going to go sleep with someone in a illegal brothel or a street walker when there are safer and cleaner and legal places. A lot of the women roped into sex slavery are promised a good education in America and I am sure in Canada. When they get here they disappear. There would be a lot less demand for those kind of prostitutes. Would there still be illegal prostitution? Yes. However, definitely a lot less considering most clients just want sex and don't want to risk jail in the process. At least their would be some oversight. All the ones in the brothels, you know would be legal and overage. While everyone else can be stopped because since they aren't working in a regulated and documented place there is an increased risk of sex slavery. Brothel workers have to be accounted for with documentation and the sort.

    It's just like prohibition. More crime due to trafficking of alcohol than the use. Same goes for drugs. At the very least STD will go down. American Journal of Public Health (I wikied it) said: A study conducted in 1995 in two brothels found that condom use in the brothels was consistent and sexually transmitted diseases were accordingly absent. Note this in Nevada.

  5. spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

    Evidence of your assertion that a lot of the exploitation and sex slavery is because it is illegal is extremely sketchy. Here's a really good overview of the evidence both for/against.
    http://prostitution.procon.org/view.answers.php?q

    In many cases, sex trafficking and harm has increased after the legalization of prostitution. One of the more notable examples is Victoria, Australia, where many of the problems with prostitution have worsened since legalization (http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/society-and-culture/its-time-to-get-serious-about-sex-trafficking-in-australia-20111012-1lkzi.html).

  6. Jake_Ackers

    The problem there is a lack of oversight. If street prostitution is illegal and the only prostitution that is legal is in brothels, then all the legal workers are not trafficked in. If there is proper oversight. Easier said then done I know, especially since most gov'ts cant deal with regulation immigration.

    The only ones left are the underground ones. And those you can assume are all illegal and all or mostly trafficked. Which is just a matter of getting agents to focus on that. So one will then assume that any non regulated prostitution ring is illegal. A lot less people would be willing to the illegal ones. At the very least it lowers STDs with the legalization.

    The sex trafficking that happens after the legalization of prostitution is because of the restrictions placed. For example Nevada has prostitution only legal in some parts. Those parts have little to no sex trafficking. Las Vegas where it is illegal, has a lot. Why? Because people come to Nevada for the sex but can't find it legally. So the supply is filled through trafficking. Very few women will willing work in a illegal brothel.

    Leaving the situation as is doesn't do anything. If not legalization then at least regulated what you can. Then start jailing clients of the trafficked workers. Scare the general population to stop using sex slaves and be more concerned about who they pay for sex with. Prostitution will happen but something has to be done to help the victims and stop the spread of STDs.

  7. spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

    I'm willing to consider your arguments, but you haven't backed a single one up with empirical data or a credible source.

    "A lot less people would be willing to the illegal ones." Would they? I'm guessing you didn't read that second link I posted. Why, if this is the case, has the illegal brothel industry been growing well despite legal brothels in Victoria, Australia?

    "Because people come to Nevada for the sex but can't find it legally. So the supply is filled through trafficking. Very few women will willing work in a illegal brothel. " It seems very few women are willing to work in legal brothels either, which is why so many women are there unwillingly. Here's an interesting quote from a sociologist from the University of Ottawa (from that first link):

    "The legalization of prostitution in some parts of Australia has thus resulted in a net growth of the industry. One of the results has been the trafficking in women and children to 'supply' legal and illegal brothels. The 'sex entrepreneurs' have difficulty recruiting women locally to supply an expanding industry, and women from trafficking are more vulnerable and more profitable."

    You can find the guy's study online, and it has full references for data.

    You can theorize all you like, but in many cases the data doesn't seem so clear cut.

  8. Jake_Ackers

    Okay valid point you bring up. I guess then gov't should try my final point. Go after the demand instead of the supply. I know Sweden has done this. Sweden has decriminalized prostitution so that the workers aren't afraid to come up and report abuse or trafficking. Moreover, it reduces STDs. However, Sweden also has went after those looking to pay for sex. Going after the demand has reduced it greatly. Now this Europe and you can just drive into Finland or somewhere for sex. While in the US you would have to go across an entire continent (depending where you are). And it could of just pushed it underground. But I guess going after the demand might be the best approach then.

  9. Psudo

    The part where you say Spitzer "was asked a fairly powerful questioned" should say "question" instead.

  10. JonasB

    On the scale of sex scandals, attempted use of prostitutes is somewhat low on the rating scale.

  11. J.J. McCullough

    TWO prostitutes while on an official government business trip. And again, this is Canada.

  12. @Cristiona

    But did he use his own money or his expense account?

  13. Paul Seeiig

    But the whole premise is incorrect. We've had a lot hotter scandals than Allen and at higher levels. Gerda Munsinger slept with a good portion of Diefenbaker's cabinet while spying for East Germany. It's about equal to Robert Coates going to a strip joint in 1985 in Hamburg. and on the same level as Wibert Keon, and Maxine Bernier. All in chronological order.
    So it's by no means the first, but rather just the latest and not even the worst.

  14. J.J. McCullough

    Munsinger was an after-the-fact scandal, it occurred after everyone involved was already out of power, and had a whole national-security angle that made it a bigger issue than just sex. Maybe this is too narrow a definition, but to me, a sex scandal is when the majority of the outrage centres around some exposed aspect of the politician's sex life.

    But obviously I'm exaggerating a bit here to make a joke.

  15. zaitcev

    I do not quite see how Sanford and Gingrich ended on the list. Neither were engaged into a "sex scandal", although in Sanford's case there was a mistress. His problem was a dereliction of duty when he slinked away from the job. Gingrich, if anything, was the opposite of a typical adulturous politician while he searched for the life partner, which is why he racked up the wife count until he met the one.

    I have to conclude that J.J. was just groping around for a "conservative" side of the sex scandal and didn't want to include Craig because that one was a gay sex scandal.

  16. J.J. McCullough

    I just forgot about that one. There was also that senator from Louisiana. The ones I cited were just the most recent.

  17. Louis

    Maybe it didn't make national new but the interim mayor of Laval, Alexandre Duplessis, resigned because he of prostitution thing just a few weeks ago.

    He order an escort at his cabin, played out a wierd sexual fantasy whe he dressed as a women, and in the end refused to pay the escort. She called the police and he claimed she was trying to blackmail him.

  18. oarboar

    Man, I was hoping for a mention of Stephen Fletcher: "I am Conservative. I am a traditionalist. I wish I had left Cabinet in the traditional way— with a sex scandal."

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  21. Ryan Sepran

    Maybe it did not make national new however the interim mayor of Laval, Alexandre Duplessis, resigned while he of prostitution factor only a couple of days ago.

    He order an escort at his cabin, performed out a wierd sexual fantasy whe he outfitted like a women, and ultimately declined to pay for the escort. She known as law enforcement and that he stated she was attempting to blackmail him. Crema pastelera

  22. Carlos

    I actually do less than observe how Sanford and Gingrich ended out there. Neither were engaged right into a "sex scandal", although in Sanford's situation there is a mistress. His problem would be a dereliction of duty as he slinked from the job. Gingrich, contrary, was the alternative of the adulturous politician as they looked for that wife, and that's why he tallied up the wife count until he met the main one. Tarot realizado por Dali

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