Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sex Party added to the fringe festival of bit players

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
April 23, 2009

VICTORIA

In an election campaign, it’s hard to beat the Sex Party when it comes to pressing the flesh.

The declaration by the group that they will be contesting seats in the May 12 provincial election gives rise to two questions.

What is a Sex Party?

And why wasn’t I invited?

The party stands for better sex education in schools, as well as a repeal of laws prohibiting sex work and public nudity. The party demands sex shops be treated as ordinary retail businesses, which is not a surprise considering party leader John Ince, a lawyer and author, owns such a store in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood.

The media comes in for criticism in the party’s manifesto for such prudish behaviour as presenting sexual terms with a letter followed by dashes, a policy even some columnists think is f------ nonsense. (Foolish. Foolish nonsense.) It also calls on media outlets to assign journalists to a sex beat. Just think of the overtime, not to mention road trips.

Finally, the party insists Valentine’s Day be an official holiday, while Victoria Day, which honours a notoriously prissy monarch, should be renamed Eros Day.

No word yet whether the provincial capital should be renamed Eros, British Columbia. That might improve the tourist trade, but it’s not likely to fool the rest of the province.

However serious the party’s goals, its presence on the campaign trail adds a certain inevitable levity to the proceedings. Every entendre is doubled.

In a statement posted on the party’s website, candidate Dietrich Pajonk writes: “I don’t look like Brad Pitt.” (Who says there is no honesty among politicians?) “What I can tell you is that in spite of my shortcomings, I manage to have a pretty darn fulfilling sex life.” That seems to strike the proper note of self-deprecation, narcissism, and exhibitionism common to those of his ilk, which is to say politicians.

Scarlett Lake, 56, is a former exotic dancer and escort who plans to file paperwork before Friday’s deadline to be the Sex Party’s standard bearer in Vancouver-West End. She is a self-described madam as proprietor of a business in which she matches customers to escorts.

“Your average party and politician is reluctant to touch anything of a sexual nature,” she said. “It can be such a hot-button area.”

At least the Sex Party’s candidates do not worry much about being exposed by compromising photographs.

An NDP candidate stepped aside on Sunday after his Liberal opponent drew attention to photographs on his Facebook page that were “racy” (Times Colonist), “raunch” (Winnipeg Sun), “dodgy” (the Province), “offensive and demeaning” (his Liberal rival), “inappropriate” (the candidate himself in a judgment echoed by party leader Carole James). The Globe was alone among the print media in reporting the candidate displayed “bulging underwear.” That was shocking, as underwear normally billows, or balloons, and cotton is not known to become tumescent.

Premier Gordon Campbell said the photos called into question the candidate’s judgment, a subject about which he has an expertise. Six years ago, a Hawaii judge levied a $913 US fine on the premier after he was charged as a drunk driver for blowing nearly twice the legal limit.

While the vast majority of votes cast next month will go to representatives of the NDP, Liberal and Green parties, Elections BC has registered another 29 parties who are qualified to have their name on the ballot.

There are Communists and Conservatives. There’s a Western party and a Western Canada Concept, a Democratic Futures and a Democratic Reform, a Nation Alliance party and a Progressive Nationalist party. There’s a Herb party and a Planting Seeds party and a Marijuana party which will go up in smoke after voting day.

There is Espavo Sozo’s Platinum Party and James Filippelli’s Your Political Party. Gordon Watson heads a group called Party of Citizens Who Have Decided to Think for Themselves and Be Their Own Politicians. They are also known as the POCWHDTTFTABTOP, which is probably why they rarely get a second reference in news stories.

There are Libertarians who want to eliminate government and hard-core Marxist-Leninists for whom North Korea is a dangerously liberal.

There are Western separatists and American annexationists.

There is a Patroit party and a Work Less party, whose irresistible slogan is “Workers of the world relax.”

No wonder Maclean’s magazine once described British Columbia as “the banana-peel belt of Canadian politics.”

Our second premier, born as plain old Bill Smith, came to Victoria after chasing gold in the California hills. When the settlement of Mud Springs gave itself a makeover by changing its name to Eldorado, Mr. Smith had an inspiration of his own, renaming himself Amor de Cosmos.

We have since had a premier whose home address was a Biblical theme park, a roadside attraction complete with windmill. Like one or two others to hold the province’s top office, he became unwillingly familiar with the interior of a criminal courtroom.

As for the fringe festival of bit players, don’t laugh at their ambitions.

After the Second World War, a warring collection of conspiracy theorists, anti-Semitic holdovers, and funny-money theorists contested the 1949 provincial election. The two splinter groups combined to claim less than two per cent of the vote.

Just three years later, Social Credit formed government. W.A.C. Bennett, a Kelowna hardware merchant who took over the party before dismissing most of the more unpalatable elements, then sat in the premier’s chair for two decades.

Today, the B.C. Legislature. Tomorrow, the world.

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