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Age of consent legislation back on

Throne speech bodes ill for queers

Plans to raise the age of sexual consent to 16 from 14 are on again after the Conservative government announced a “Tackling Violent Crime” omnibus bill in its Oct 16 Throne Speech.

Bill C-22, the previous incarnation of the age of consent legislation, died on the order paper when Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament in September.

David Rayside, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, says opposition parties are even less likely now to stop the legislation.

“Clearly there are lots of folks within the Liberal, NDP and Bloc who think this is totally unnecessary and that there’s no real demand for this but they’re not going go to the wall on this,” he says.

In the speech the minority Conservative government fanned the flames of irrational fear. Even though Statistics Canada reports that homicide rates fell 10 percent last year, continuing a downward trend since the 1970s, Harper’s tough-on-crime measures begin with a preamble that reads, “Canadians feel less safe today and rightly worry about the security of their neighbourhoods.”

The Tories also reconfirmed their plan to enforce mandatory minimum sentencing. This would limit the discretion of judges to impose sentences on a case-by-case basis and ignores research that suggests tougher sentencing rules do not lower the rates violent crime.

The Tories also reconfirmed their plan to cut the GST, which will cost the federal government close to $5 billion per year in revenue. This is bad news for cities, says Rayside.

“Transferring significant taxes to cities is off the table,” he says. “That’s extremely disturbing for anyone who cares about cities.”

While the Throne Speech is soft on social conservative issues, the Tories may be preparing to use subtler ways to exploit their so-con base. Last month Harper sent a mailing to Jewish constituents i a Toronto riding to mark Rosh Hashanah. Rayside says that this move gives an insight into his tactics for the next election.

“The fact that they’re ramping-up the strategy to target communities that have traditionally voted Liberal is worrying,” he says. “They might want to campaign in ways that would be deeply divisive and use our [queer] issues to do precisely that.”