Tuesday, January 27, 1998

Canadian Press

p. A10.

Teen prostitution bill tops Alberta agenda

Throne Speech today to detail Tory plans

EDMONTON — A bill to combat child prostitution in Alberta tops the agenda as the Alberta Legislature resumes sitting today after a break of nearly eight months.

"We have to send a clear message to these perverts that we will not tolerate them using our children," said Heather Forsyth, a Calgary MLA who has made helping teen-aged hookers her top priority.

Fines for using juvenile prostitutes will rise to $25,000 from $10,000 and the jail term will go to two years less a day from the current six-month maximum.

Prostitution is a federal Criminal Code responsibility, but Ms. Forsyth won support last year for ammendments to the province's Child Welfare Act that made use of under-age prostitutes a sex-abuse crime.

"What we are clearly saying is a child involved in prostitution is being sexually abused," she said. "The john or the pimp will be charged with sexually abusing a child and that can be done under provincial jurisdiction."

Lieutenant-Governor Bud Olson will read the Speech from the Throne this afternoon, but Premier Ralph Klein has already revealed much of its contents.

Earlier this month, Mr. Klein outlined plans to spend more than $1-billion more than originally budgeted on education, health and social services over the next three years. Millions more are slated for public-works projects such as road rebuilding and new schools.

"The theme is the future, the emphasis is on children, people development, the education of our children and the welfare of our children," Mr. Klein said yesterday.

His Progressive Conservatives made public a list of three dozen bills they want to see passed during what could be a four-month session, the longest in recent years.

Although most of the agenda is left over from the 1997 sitting, there are some notable new items, including Ms. Forsyth's bill. Other new legislation involves compensation for personal property confiscated by the government, domestic violence and agricultural drainage.

One bill that observers has expected, to require votes on future tax hikes, is not on the agenda.

Mr. Klein promised such legislation during the past election — it was his only campaign promise. A watered-down version died on the order paper when Mr. Klein adjourned the 1997 sitting of the legislature in mid-june after only 37 days.

Yesterday, Mr. Klein said the bill needs more work and will be discussed by a tax-review commission later this year.

Mark Milke, Alberta spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said it was "extremely disappointing" not to see the bill back on the agenda.

"It's not good enough [to require a vote on introducing a sales tax]. Fuel taxes, corporate and income taxes ought to be included in a taxpayer Protection Act ammendment."

The Liberal Opposition said it plans to focus on what it calls Alberta's growing human deficit — with a patient's bill of rights and legislation that would protect health, education and welfare from future cuts and would cap postsecondary tuition fees.

"Our caucus is attempting to address the vital things missing in the Conservative's legislation," Liberal House Leader Howard Sapers said.

"In a province as wealthy as Alberta, it is appalling that so many Albertans never see the benefits of this prosperity."

The two-member NDP caucus is also championing social programs and monitoring the Tory fiscal agenda.

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Created: February 25, 1998
Last modified: January 19, 2001
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