Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 27, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
4 LETHBRIDGE HERALD Saturday, April 27, 1974 Government unsure of inflation tactics A hidden tax of The money spent by Lethbridge city council is the people's money, and it is good to see the aldermen treat it with respect. The people have other money, of course, which they spend directly, not via taxes and city council. It is essentially all the same money, out of the same pocket, belonging to the same people. Some of their needs and wants the people turn over to city council lor financing through taxation, such as road- repairing, street lighting, industrial promotion, garbage collection and the like. Certain essential community services, in the area of voluntary welfare agencies, can easiest be financed through city council, and most of the people are content with that. Certain community projects, such as the historical production "The Sight, The Sound and The Fury." into which thousands of the people's dollars and thousands of the people's hours had already been put, and which would have been one of the most exciting and rewarding undertakings, also required some public financing through city council. But the aldermen, as responsible custodians of the people's money, decided that the historical production should be allowed to die for lack of civic help, and that some of the welfare projects should be squeezed. And at the same meeting the same aldermen blithely decided to "tax" the citizens about a year for more garbage bags (an average of a year extra, we calculate, for each of That is an outright cash expense in addition to the time taken in filling them and the time and expense to the city in hauling them away, for a product made from presumably scarce and increasingly expensive petroleum, and which is filled once and then buried and for which expenditure there's nothing lasting to show. And for which there has not yet been a satisfactory reason except that the big modern cities don't burn their leaves and papers and Lethbridge wants to be a big modern city. To put it briefly, city council couldn't find of the people's money to launch The Sight, The Sound and The Fury, or approximately to properly fund the Lethbridge pre-school services project and the North Lethbridge Child Development Centre, yet it voted to force the people to use of their money to buy a year's supply of plastic garbage bags. The judgment and the sense of values of this city council are becoming doubtful. Unflattering reputation Lethbridge by now must have a reputation for putting property values ahead of humanitarian concern because of the number of times attempts to establish specialized homes in residential areas have been thwarted by nearby property owners. That reputation was further "enhanced" this week when the second attempt to launch a halfway house for alcoholics was beat down by a group of people fearful that their real estate would deteriorate in value if the facility were to be located in the vicinity. The only comfort Norm Cowie and his Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Commission staff can derive from this setback is that they are not the only ones to have had their hopes dashed. Attempts to set up rehabilitative and care centres for other kinds ot afflicted people, including distrubed children, have met with a similar discouraging resistance. There is precious little comfort in this knowledge, however. The growing numbers of alcoholics makes the need for treatment and transition facilities pressing. The wastage of human potential caused by delay in setting up centres and homes is appalling. Some responsibility for the alcoholic's plight rests with the individual himself but a very large part of the responsibility falls upon society where the use of alcohol has become widely accepted and promoted. Alcoholics are the victims of an environment saturated with alcohol. Society then has a responsibility to care for its casualties The government has admitted this; now it is time for the citizens of Lethbridge to recognize it and play their modest part by removing the blocks in the way of getting the halfway house operative. One of the things that has to be overcome is the notion that the residents of a halfway house might be dangerous and degrading to have around. This is why it is often suggested that a facility for alcoholics be isolated in some sort of ghetto. But isolation is the wrong approach for alcoholics who are beyond the drying out stage and are on the mend. They need to be in normal interaction with others. When the third attempt to locate the halfway house in a residential area is made, it is to be hoped that the reputation which Lethbridge citizens have been acquiring for being property minded rather than people minded will be smudged. It is not a reputation to be proud of. By Maurice Western, Herald Ottawa commentator OTTAWA It is one of our happier traditions that the ministers of any government a band of brothers, no one of whom would dream of exerting public pressure on any other. We may assume, accordingly, that Donald Macdonald was merely musing aloud, without thought of politics or David Lewis, when he intimated on Tuesday, with particular reference to oil company returns, that John Turner will be looking closely at an excess profits tax. This is. of course, an item on the NDP shopping list and might have political significance if Mr. Lewis is still interested in shopping at the government store. Mr. Lewis favors a tax which would be "strong and broadly applicable." although he is particularly eager to apply it to large corporations, many of which are foreign owned and thus peculiarly undeserving. Mr. Turner might be expected, however, to be resistant to such a tax. He has stoutly defended the tax incentives of his 1973 budget. They were intended to generate funds for new investment and. in the minister's view, have been successful. It would seem contradictory to have one policy for generating iunds and another for expropriating them. The case for such a tax would depend, presumably, on a fair shares argument. Some companies, for a variety of reasons, are making large profits. The government, by confiscating the unfair percentage of these, would obtain a fund which could be used for social purposes, perhaps for assisting the needy or for subsidizing prices. a But it is far from clear that an excess profits tax (not to be confused with the anti- profiteering measure of which the prime minister gave notice on Wednesday) would be of much help in this regard. In effect, business would have a choice: it could pay more to the government or disperse to its employees what it expected to lose anyway. It seems improbable in these circumstances that much would go to the government. Who would be the beneficiaries? Obviously not people who work for governments at any level, or for boards or utilities or regulated industries. Not the nurses, hospital employees and people in such categories. Their employers will have no excess profits to distribute. 'On the other hand, many of the large industries that might be affected, such as steel, lumber and petroleum, already pay high wages. In some cases, because of the power of strategically placed unions, pay scales compare favorably with those in the United'states. It might, therefore, be another example of to him that hath. There is also the difficulty that the people likely to fare best from such a transfer of funds are those well enough off to exert very strong pressure on the demand side of the market. But the problem is already one of excessive demand for scarce commodities. Nor is it clear how the government, which has talked very vaguely about "windfalls" would determine how much excess is excessive and in what circumstances. In some industries, farming being an obvious case, income rrtay vary widely from year to year for a variety of reasons. So. obviously, may costs. It might be very difficult to ensure that the pursuit of equity did not have inequitable consequences. The government would have less difficulty in acceding, at least is; part, to the Lewis demand for a two-price system covering some basic s. Only last week the new president of the Ontario Lumber Manufacturers' Association predicted that wholesale prices would advance 25 per cent by fall. There has apparently been a strong increase in demand from the United States, Europe and Japan. If exports were limited, supplies would be delivered to the domestic market. It would be unnecessary for the government to set prices since the market would do that and at a lower level than those which would otherwise rule. This might appear attractive to the government, as well as to consumers, since there is already legislation before Parliament dealing with export and, in some cases, i.mport control. However, the argument which has prevailed up to now is that this would be protectionist and would brand us as unreliable suppliers. Evidently, we have some obligation to export not merely our surpluses but also products such as cement to Saudi Arabia mentioned in Mr. Gillespie's latest talks which happen to be in short supply. The odd thing about this argument is that the government is quite prepared to use this very "protectionist" weapon if it will help Canadian manufacturing. This is the purpose of the export-control legislation. The idea, a favorite argument of the late George Drew, is that we should restrict exports in order to force more processing in this country. In his recent speech in the United States, Mr. Macdonald left no doubt of our willingness and even determination to be unreliable suppliers if this contributes to the realization of the government's developing industrial strategy. However, something has to be done about inflation and the government, as of Wednesday is persuaded that action must be initiated in advance of the Turner budget. This does not necessarily mean that Mr. Turner and Mr. Macdonald are of different minds about an excess profits tax, although that would not be surprising. But it does appear that the government is none too confident of its present battle plans. How far it proposes to change them, we will not know until Parliament is in possession of both the promised items; the mysterious new antij profiteering bill and the May 6 budget. Turner's budget must please everyone WEEKEND MEDITATION By Anthony Westell, Toronto Star commentator The anonymous friends Some time ago in this column it was pointed out that many of the greatest inventors, scientists, and hymn writers were anonymous. When Schweitzer was asked who was the greatest man in the world, he replied that it was probably somebody whom no one knew anything about. This was true regarding the friends of Jesus; some of the most important ones remain anonymous. When the disciples were sent to Bethphage for the donkey and the colt, they were told that if anyone said anything to them, they were to reply. "The Lord has need of them" and "He" would send them immediately. Since Jesus was being hotly debated through the country and especially in Jerusalem, this took quite a bit of courage. These people were associating themselves in Jesus' cause, taking his side in the quarrel. But their participation is strictly limited. They were willing to send Jesus to Jerusalem, to provide the transportation. They were not willing to go themselves. It is a partial discipleship they offer. Just like some people who sympathize with the church. They will give a cheque if it does not hurt their resources too much. But they do not identify themselves with the Christian cause. They do not give themselves. "Perhaps this cheque will send out a. missionary, since I cannot go myself." "No, I can't give personal service in the church, but .this may help hire someone else." Then Jesus before the Passover sent two of his disciples into Jerusalem telling them they would meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. They were to follow him. Obviously this was a pre-arranged signal and meeting. The servant's task was a simple one, but how important it was! The first lesson of discipleship is faithfulness in small things. Had the officials known where Jesus was partaking of the Passover doubtless he would have been arrested there. He wanted to have the Passover meal with them free from interruption. It depended on the faithfulness of the servant. By such men Jesus is protected and never betrayed. Jesus further said to his disciples that they were to follow the servant into the house and ask the owner, "Where is the guest chamber where I may eat the passover with my They would be shown into a room and there they were to prepare the meal. Now Jesus only asked for a simple room on the ground floor, the "katalyma" which is a sort of storage room. But the owner gave him the "aliyah" or upper room which was the most important room he had, the room the owner would normally use for his family and himself. It had, not only an entrance from inside, but an outside entrance by a stairway. So the owner gives the best to Jesus and takes the inferior room for himself. What a glorious history that room had! Here the church was founded, here the disciples met, here Jesus came after his ressurection, here the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples. Whatever is given to Jesus he always glorifies. Give him the best you have and it will be more wonderful than you could dream. There are other anonymous friends. There is the young man in the garden who had followed Jesus, but when the soldiers seized him he left his garment and fled away naked. Anyone who flees from Jesus is naked, losing everything of value in life. Then there was the anonymous benefactor at Calvary who brought the sponge filled with vinegar, doubtless a sedative, an impulsively kind man, but impulse is not enough. The centurion too is nameless who recognized in Jesus the Son of God. He only carried out his duty as a soldier, but that figure on the cross would finally win over the Roman Army. All these anonymous friends have something to tell us. Let us meditate on them that our sympathy may be entire and be in time! PRAYER: 0 God, in the cause of justice keep me entirely loyal and wholehearted. F.S.M. The Walker talker By Doug Walker Flspelh occasionally packs her bag and goes off to a meeting in the north and leaves us to fond for ourselves. On one such occasion when I had whomped up a meal and was leaving the preparation area I turned off the radio. "Why did you do asked Keith. I said, "so we can hear ourselves exclaimed Keith. "Mother's not here." OTTAWA The problem before Finance Minister John Turner as he writes his budget is roughly this: First, the budget must be economically respectable. It cannot win unanimous approval because even non- partisan opinion is divided on what needs to be done in the economy, but it must be seen to be a serious and defensible policy approach to the issues. A purely political document would bring a storm of professional and business criticism on a government which needs above all to strengthen its credibility. But, second, the budget must take account of political realities It should contrive to make it difficult for the New Democrats to withdraw their support in the Commons for the minority government. Third, it must be a popular budget on which the Liberals can hope to win an election if they fail to keep the support of the NDP and are defeated in the House. That means, the budget policies should upstage Robert Stanfield and the Conservatives and give the Liberals the initiative. BERRY'S WORLD The three goals may appear to be irreconcilable, but that is merely a stimulating challenge to a skilful politician. And Turner knows he is juggling not only with the lite ol the government and the future of the Liberal party, but with his own career. A successful budget which wins wide support and keeps the government in office would be a personal triumph. He could retire from the finance department this summer, wreathed in honors, and take the less controversial position of external affairs minister as the unchallengeable heir- apparent to Pierre Trudeau. An unsuccessful budget which led to the loss of an election might easily end Turner's political career. Angry and out of power for who knows how many years, the Liberal party might well turn its back on the finance minister who brought it to disaster So while Turner has warned us not to expect miracles he is not after all quite that influential we can look for a 1974 by NEA. Inc Yes-INDEED, it DOES say something to me. It says to me: You're in the wrong field, maximum effort from a skilled politician advised by civil servants in the finance department who have taken quite a beating from critics in recent years and would like nothing better than to restore the department's reputation. To be economically respectable, the budget will probably have to be approximately in balance. With production at capacity, demand high, inflation accelerating and unemployment dropping, there is certainly no case for slashing taxes to produce a big deficit. In fact, it would be easier to make a case for policies of restriction rather than of expansion as the Bank of Canada demonstrated by raising interest rates. But as the international outlook and the demand for Canadian products is uncertain, it would be unwise to cramp the economy at this stage. The other imperative of general economic policy is to address the problem of inflation in a serious and comprehensive way. Even those who agree with Turner that much of tne problem is international in origin still want to see him act as firmly as he can within Canada to deflate expectations and check the growth of a run- away psychology. This will be a question for Turner of reviewing and reaffirming the steps he has already taken to stimulate supply and ease the impact of prices on the poor, while adding some new measures and expressing a new determination. He should for example, remove the sales tax on building materials to try to put downward pressure on housing and construction costs although it is probably the pressure of demand more than of costs which is forcing up prices. He may also cut or abolish sales taxes on clothing and other items, if he has the money available in the revenue. Turner has said several times that profits are now at a level at which he feels able to ask business to resist inflation by absorbing some increased costs instead of simply raising prices. That may indicate he is thinking of some form of excess profits tax, or perhaps a tax on profits which are distributed to shareholders rather than reinvested. Such schemes would be hard to administer equitably and might not have much real effect as profits are probably levelling off anyway, but they would look good. There has also been a hint that Turner is looking for a way to get at real estate speculators. A tougher capital gains tax could be the answer. If ideas on those lines were tried by Turner but failed to win over the NDP, he would face an election in which the main threat would come from the Tories. Stanfield has made it plain he is eager to campaign on the issue of inflation, and his main policy plank would be income and price controls He is promising a 90-day freeze to give time to work out a system of controls with business, labor and the provinces. By controls on prices, it now appears he really means a tax on profits in excess of a fixed rate of return to business to remove the incentive to raise prices. Turner, as we have seen, may anticipate him on that. What the Tories really mean by controls on incomes has never been clear, but presumably there would be guidelines for union contracts and a tax mechanism to limit increases in other less visible forms of income. The unions of course are bitterly opposed to any such scheme and it is inconceivable that Turner would alienate the NDP by seeking to beat the Tories to the punch. But Turner might try some other, less controversial way of restraining high incomes. To take an example out of the air, he could announce a special tax on incomes over, say, to confiscate any increase over 10 per cent this year. That would not touch the majority of families, or prevent the poor from catching up, but it would limit the comfortable classes to an increase roughly in line with inflation. It would be hard for the NDP to oppose and it would take a lot of the fizz out of the Tories. This of course is speculation. But it is surely the sort of idea which must have occurred to Turner the sort of surprise he will need to produce in his critical budget. The Lethbridge Herald 504 7th St S Lethbridge, Alberta LETHBRIDGE HERALD CO LTD Proprietors and Publishers Second Class Mail Registration No. 0012 CLEO MOWERS, Editor and Publisher DON H. PILLING Managing Editor DONALD R DORAM General Manager ROY F. MILES Advertising Manager DOUGLAS K. WALKER Editorial Page Editor ROBERT M FENTON Circulation Manager KENNETH E. BARNETT Business Manager 'THE HERALD SERVES THE SOUTH"