Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 18, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
THE LETHBRIDGE Thursday, April 18, 1974 Spiralling housing costs The rising cost of food, which has received so much attention in recent months, is moderate in comparison to the spiralling cost of housing. Toronto seems to be the place where housing is most expensive but inflated prices are common across the country. In his column elsewhere on this page, Richard Gwyn attributes the spectacular rise in housing prices to speculation. No doubt there are other factors involved high cost of materials and construction, high interest rates on mortgages, high cost of land development but the tendency for property to appreciate in value and become attractive for investment makes the charge of speculation plausible. Economist Jack McArthur says that the inflationary spiral in housing costs could be stopped if profits realized on turnover were taxed 100 per cent. But he also says that no government will ever impose such a tax because too many taxpayers would be negatively affected. Most home owners are probably not to be classed as speculators but at the same time they are likely all hoping to gain on their investment. Despite the apparent contradiction in the figures given by Richard Gwyn, the answer to the distressing effect of the high cost of housing on medium and low income families probably lies in supply outstripping demand. In the long run nothing should have such a beneficial effect on lowering housing costs as empty units. For this reason the imposition of rent controls in B.C. is likely to worsen the situation in the city of Vancouver where the vacancy rate of rental units is only 1.2 per cent. Rent controls will discourage apartment building construction, the very thing needed. Perhaps the sleeper in the situation will turn out to be the increasing output of mobile homes. Their numbers could significantly shift the supply-demand ratio of housing so as to induce a saner pricing of all kinds of accommodation. Different information The Herald's information on burning barrels is different from that in the letter printed on this page. Alderman Vera Ferguson had stated that 18 per cent of the city's fire department calls last year were caused by burning barrels getting out of control, and the banning of burning barrels was justified since it would reduce by 18 per cent the city's fire losses. The fire department reports 518 fire calls last year. Of these. 112 were false alarms, leaving 406 fires attended by the fire department. Total damage from these was Further, 105 of the fires were "from garbage or of open-burning and the total damage from these was More than half of that damage came from two fires, one out of the city and the other at a city industrial plant. A further 16 of these fires were at the city land fill, where it is intended that all of the material the citizens now burn, be dumped. Some of these may have been started by citizens dumping hot ashes from their own burning barrels. So it boils down to 87 citizen fires "from garbage or open-burning origin" last year, causing less than damage. Most of the fires would have cost no damage; most of the damage would have come from just a few of the 87 fires. If prevention of fires were the only concern, a case could be made for banning burning barrels. But if property damage or public convenience or the cost to both the citizens and the city in not permitting burning barrels were admitted as issues, Alderman Ferguson's argument would be worthless. Disgraceful situation A clear, if inadvertent, message has come out of McGill University's 23rd annual industrial relations conference: Canadian companies are not interested in further equal employment opportunities. This annual meeting regularly draws top executives from across Canada, of whom about 80 per cent are usually men. This year the topic was Women and Work and the purpose was to advise corporations on implementing fair employment practices before they were faced with expensive lawsuits and government interference in management prerogatives. Instead of sending top executives, many businesses sent their token women and conference attendance was 90 per cent female. The dean of McGill's management faculty called it a disgrace and pointed out that it hadn't been intended as a "spiritual meeting for women libbers" but was an attempt to assist decision-makers in setting policy before the government sets it for them, as has happened in the U.S. IBM's director of equal employment opportunity, in his address to the group, warned Canadian business to review hiring, training and promotion policies now so that they wouldn't end up with the courts telling them whom to hire. When a provincial official complained that he couldn't find enough qualified women applicants, he was told by a Columbia University expert that if he meant business he'd be able to recruit them but that if he wasn't really serious he would find "1001 excuses not to find the women for the jobs." It's a pity that the intended message of the conference fell on the wrong ears. ERIC NICOL High noon for law and order Well, kid, I'll tell yuh. I reckon that when the moral rot really set in, out here in the Canadian West, was the spring of '74. That was the year the four western provinces joined up to operate the Western Canada lottery. Right there, it was High Noon for law and order west of Thunder Bay. I remember the day they come ridin' in together Smiley Barrett, the fastest tongue in the West and the dirtiest, Pete (Oil Can) Lougheed, Saskatoon Blakeney with raw potash on his breath, and Red River Ed, ridin' the wind outa Winnipeg. The four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, I guess they was. And not a man to stand up to 'em, when they hitched their wagon to the lottery barrel. You gotta understand, kid, that up till then there was no gamblin' to speak of, in the West, except by them as had money enough to play the stock market. The average workin' hand, he had to ride south all the way to Nevada, to Vegas, to get shorn with the rest of the herd. The Canadian West still hadn't become knowed as The Strip. Decent folk bought lottery tickets on the Irish sweepstake, because it was illegal and didn't count. All that changed, fast, when the Raffle Boys moved in. They set up a first prize of right in the main street of town where the womenfolk and the parson and the sheriff couldn't help but be tempted. That was when Regma become known as "Harold's Club North." They told us the Western Canada lottery was the best way to lick inflation. If' we didn't win the it was our own fault for buyin' a lottery ticket with the wrong number on it. The Canadian West become like other places that had state-run lotteries, places like France and Italy. Folks bought lottery tickets instead of income tax. Farmers left their tractors standin' in the fields to go lookin' for a mistress. And you couldn't get a decent cup of coffee from Victoria to Portage la Prairie. We shoulda knowed what would happen next. But it still came as a shock: One day a big helicopter landed in the middle of Edmonton and a bunch of dudes in black suits stepped outa the plane and said that Howard Hughes had bought most of Alberta. They had plans all complete to turn the place into one big gamblin' joint. They started with the provincial legislature buildings in Edmonton. Hughes put in a bigger bar and renamed the house Sheba's Palace. The noise from the slot machines made the cattle restless as far south as Lethbridge. Some western Canadians were scairt to see the legislative chamber taken over by Eddie Fisher and other name acts. But by then, kid, the West was too far gone down the road of Chance. There was no way we could get our cayuses back on the trail blazed by Honest John and the living saints of Social Credit. The Raffle Boys promised to use the millons of dollars they creamed off the lotteries "for cultural or recreational purposes." What that meant was they gussied up the Calgary Stampede with a stripper named Louisa Riel who performed her act with the help of a life buffalo. That about brings us up to date, kid. A sad story, but I tell it pretty good, right? Now I gotta get back to work: Guy your government lottery tickets here, folks! Four winners already this "Then it was zoned single-family high-rise The housing merry-go-round By Richard Gwyn, Toronto Star commentator Canada's housing crisis is on the point of spinning out of control at just the moment when governments are finally moving to try to bring some order into the chaos. Ontario's land speculation tax and British Columbia's apartment rent freeze which could backfire and discourage apartment construction represent the first attempts by governments to flatten the upward spiral of house prices. The moves are late. They may be too late. Certainly they will not be enough. The housing market has become, in the expressive phrase of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation president Bill Teron, a "hot merry-go-round" that is being whirled about by individual Canadians searching for a hedge against inflation or for quick and easy capital gains. Government inertia, real- estate speculation, free loading foreign investment and municipal red tape, all exacterbate the problem. But the hard fact remains that a large part of the problem is caused by Canadians speculating against each other. The disheartening aspect of the housing crisis is that it no longer responds to common sense economics. High prices should discourage buyers instead, it is precisely those high prices that are attracting buyers. An excess of supply over demand for any product should' dampen prices in a competitive market instead, artificial demand is jumping ahead of the real supply. The basic facts are as follows. House prices across Canada increased by 20 per cent last year. In the crisis centres, Toronto-Hamilton, Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver, the increase was one-third or more. So far this year in Toronto, Multiple Listing Service sales, which are slightly above the market par, are averaging As one horror example among many, a plain, semi-detached brick house, with no yard, in Toronto's Annex sold recently for These prices simply are encouraging buyers. In Jan- uary and February, the latest period for which Canadian Real Estate Association figures are available, house sales across Canada jumped by one-third. In Toronto, sales almost doubled over the same period last year. Both these records were piled on top of records already set last year. As puzzling as the ability of Canadians to buy houses at prices that are at best exorbitant and at worst lunatic is the way these prices have soared upward although supply exceeds demand. Last year new dwelling units were completed across Canada. But new demand amounted only to units, a figure made up of new families, individuals entering the work force and the number of existing houses demolished or destroyed. The gap is accounted for by families buying better houses. The rate of new dwelling starts, at was even higher last year, which means more houses and apartments will be completed this year. This construction pace is continuing. The explanation lies not in economics but in "inflation says Urban Affairs Minister Ron Basford. "There is a widespread public belief that housing prices are going to go up and up, and so people want to buy now." Dealing with the housing price crisis, says Basford, "is going to be very, very difficult." One difficulty is that during the past two years nearly one million Canadians bought houses. (Because of private sales no exact figures are A majority of these Canadians paid inflated prices and so have a vested interest in a housing market that stays high. A second difficulty is that houses, which are free of capital gains tax when they are owner-occupied, do represent one of the best investments around. A growing number of Canadians are financing house purchases with cash drawn from savings held in stocks and bonds. What are the solutions? Ontario has moved to discourage land speculation and excess foreign capital. Basford in an interview cited the existing corporation tax loophole which allows companies to deduct expenses on land that lies idle. The longer-term solution, Basford says, "is to do all we can to increase supply, particularly the supply of serviced land in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver." That makes good economics, but poor psychology. The housing price crisis will end when Canadians realize, or remember, that every merry- go-round has to come to a stop, particularly when it's a hot one. THE CASSEROLE The United Nations took a small step for womankind last month by adopting the title Ms. to replace Mrs. or Miss. Though Mohamed Gherab of Tunisia, UN personnel director, denies discrimination against women, it is nevertheless true that few women are named to top posts. They are usually found in the lower-level secretarial and clerical branches. Quite often in the past too, male delegates have asked women delegates to take dictation, just assuming that a woman in the corridors of the UN would have to be a clerical worker. The Wall Street Journal reports thai the American baby food maker, Gerber, aware of the declining birth rate, has started a pitch at the adult world. The company has started market tests for a line of adult entree and side dishes, and is pushing some baby foods as adult snacks, desserts and toppings. be obtained from farm and municipal waste and from other fuels, including coal. Without modifying engines, as much as 15 per cent methanol can be added to gasoline. Of course, the idea of using alcohol as fuel isn't new. But rising prices for gas and dropping cost of methanol is making the idea feasible. One of the best things about fairs is the opportunity to try foods from different lands. At Expo '74 World's Fair in Spokane, Wash., this year, oriental delicacies will abound because many of the nations participating are on the Pacific rim. From the Phillippines; Chicken adobo chicken breasts sauteed in vinegar; Japanese; Ginza pork and ol fish and vegetables deep fried in light batter: India, roghar, josh (spiced lamb) and Russian and Ukrainian dishes in the Soviet pavilion. II all the problems can be ironed out, there may be a new use for alcohol soon. Two engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are looking into means of getting alcohol from coal, wood and garbage lo stretch gasoline supplies. One kind of alcohol is methanol which can Tiffany Co., New York, is advertising "finger bracelets." For those who have to ask, these are "tiny links that conform comfortably to the shape of your while presenting "an intriguing concept in ring design." Makes you feel a bit of a clod, eh? Letters Back no-smoking bill The Alberta Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association and the Canadian Cancer Society believe that the type of legislation as expressed in Bill 204-1974, to limit smoking in public places, is needed and is indeed supported by a large proportion of the non-smoking Alberta population. We have received numerous contacts, verbal and written, from Albertans who ask what can be done to prevent smoking in public places. Smoking is a very serious and well-recognized health problem. The pollution of the air we breathe, whether at work or play, has been a matter of governmental concern and it has worked diligently to improve the qual- ity of air that citizens must breathe. Since the smoker is unable to control the pollutants he emits, the effect is to subjugate not only the non-smoker but those with respiratory ailments to the harmful effect of his personal addiction. Enactment of this basic legislation will demonstrate the leadership of the government in a positive manner to the public and act as an encouragement to all who strive to correct a serious health problem. We urge the legislators to support this bill on behalf of all non-smoking constituents. J. M. McKENZIE Edmonton Statistics don't lie I was amazed when Alderman Ferguson at a council meeting April 8, informed me that 85 fires, or 18 per cent of the 518 fires in 1973, had been caused by burning barrels. I was so amazed in fact that I went and checked the fire department records and here my amazement turned to utter dismay, as I could find only 15 fires recorded as having started from a burning barrel. In 1973 the fire department made a total of 85 calls to rubbish fires of all kinds, and this impressive figure apparently suited Alderman Ferguson's purpose. The 85 calls, however, include false alarms, a large number of grass fires, some stubble and straw fires outside the city limits, several fires at the city dump as well as backyard fires and burning barrel fires. I realize the importance of building up impressive statistics to win a point, but there is some merit too in quoting facts when dealing with the public. I would suggest that the discrepancy between the 85 burning barrel fires, as quoted by Alderman Ferguson, and 15 burning barrel fires actually recorded is startling, to put it mildly. According to my calculations, that comes closer to 3 per cent than to Alderman Ferguson's stated 18 per cent. If this is substantially correct, then it raises a point of far greater importance than the fate of the lowly burning barrel namely, the. reliability of figures and statistics quoted by our elected representative at City Hall. NIELS E. KLOPPENBORG Lethbridge. Equal competing rights I was somewhat disappointed about the way the Lethbridge Community College board of governors resolved the issue of smoking in classrooms at a recent meeting. Judging from the press report of the proceedings It would appear that the main reason given for not .banning smoking in the classroom was because several board members enjoy the habit themselves. Some mention about smoking being part of our social mores was also made. Aside from any educational or health hazard considerations, it seems to me that personal liking for certain habits is no basis to foist them on other often unwilling subjects. This becomes especially pernicious when the college also has a rule that forces all students to attend all classes on pain of dismissal if a certain number are missed. Surely if the board would take consideration the civil rights of the non-smoker they would have no choice but to ban smoking in the classroom. Social mores are not much basis in support of smoking either when it is noted that the rather prevalent habit of drinking alcoholic beverages is not allowed in classrooms. Many authorities have condemned smoking as hazardous to health, even to those who inhale it second- hand. Smoking is most certainly a source of pollution, burns, damage, etc. Surely the board would have been treading on sounder ground to have banned smoking on purely educational consideration. Smokers would no doubt argue that they can concentrate better with a cigarette in hand. But what about the non-smoker? The rule as it now stands leaves the matter up to the discretion of the instructor. This can be a rather capricious means of protecting the rights of the non-smoker. One cannot rightly expect the smokers on faculty to be any more tolerant than the smokers on the board were. Smokers would no doubt argue that it all boils down to a matter of equally competing rights. An impartial judge would have to rule in favor of those who maintain the natural state the non- smoker. Those non-smokers who are forced to endure endless billowing clouds of smoke should arm themselves with a packet of sunflower seeds. Eat them with exuberances, expel the hulls with gusts, and let the chips fall where they may. After all if it is OK for someone to blow smoke in your face one ought to be able to return the compliment with sunflower seed hulls. Perhaps it really is a matter of equally competing rights? HAL HOFFMAN President College Faculty Association 1974 bv NEA Inc "Can't you understand, dear? I m bored being around the house all the time. I want to have a CAREER like The Lethbridge Herald 504 7th St. S. Lethbridge. Alberta LETHBRIDGE HERALD CO. LTD and PublKhera Second Class Mail Registration No. 0012 CLEO MOWERS, Editor and Pubhiher DON H PILLING Managing Editor DONALD R. DORAM General Manager ROY F. MILES Advertising Manager DOUGLAS K. 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