Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - September 11, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
4 LETHBRIDGE September 11 1973 Stop gaps merely window dressing? By Mauriel Western, Herald Ottawa commintator More subsidization? Tax reductions are almost always pop- ular but not necessarily to be en- couraged. The proposal to reduce the gasoline tax in Alberta is one that ought to be examined with great care. This could prove to be another way of sub- sidizing the rich at the expense of the poor. A tax on gasoline is a fair kind of tax. The people who pay most of the tax are the people who can afford it since they are the ones who choose to drive big gas- gobbling carts and to use them in preference to public transportation. There is some evidence that the more a person drives his vehicle the more he is subsidized by others. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher says that in terms of essential services, such as road maintenance, the actual cost of driving can be up to more per mile than a driver contributes in gasoline and other taxes for use of the roads. Thus reduction of the gasoline tax could mean a shifting of the burden further onto the non-driver or the lesser-driver. If the provincial government wants to serve the people it could leave the gas- oline tax alone and channel some of its apparently excess money into improving public transportation. Not only would this benefit the less affluent but it would be taking a step in a direction that seems necessary in a world of urbanized living where better ways of getting about than in the private automobile are desirable. Reducing traffic congestion and air pollution as well as conserving fuel are goals which are being forced on officials almost everywhere. Fortunately the matter of a gasoline tax reduction is as yet no more than a proposal. There is thus time for a serious probing of its advisability. Another loss of liberty As always, evil begets evil. Reaction to the latest outbreak of terror bombing, this time a rash of letter bombs directed against British officials and agencies, has shown once again how true it is. Outraged by the despicable nature of an attack that kills or maims the servant but never the master, and completely convinced of its being the work of the Irish Republican Army, several British papers are calling for the most severe repressive measures against Ireland and everything Irish. It is particularly saddening to see new- spapers like The Times and The Sun, so long the sturdy defenders of individual liberty and human rights, joining the de- mand for anti-Irish rules. The Sun wants the government to declare an end to "a special relationship with a land that repays our friendship by harboring a nest of bitter, murderous enemies." and demands that British ports and borders be closed to all settlers or visitors from the Republic of Ireland. And The Times, normally the staunchest of champions of human rights, is urging the government to invoke a special law under which it can prohibit suspected Irishmen from entering the country, or expel anyone Irish it believes might be dangerous. This attitude could foreshadow a beginning in Britain of what has become an ordinary fact of life in Ulster and to a lesser extent in the Republic of Ireland. In the North, normal Civil liberties are gone; they were replaced several years ago by virtually total martial law. Even in the Republic, where sympathies are as often for as against the IRA, the govern- ment has the right and has exercised it to arrest men without evidence, im- prison them without trial, and generally set aside considerations of personal liberty when dealing with IRA suspects. With hundreds dead and more hundreds injured, with homes and buildings of all kinds bombed and burned, and with tumult and riot throughout all of Northern Ireland, the loss, perhaps only temporary, of some small liberties may not seem a very im- portant matter. It is important, though, that violence by a few fanatics can destroy in days what it took a thousand martyrs and many centuries to achieve. Fair rents needed The demand lor housing reaches its peak in Lethbridge early each fall when out-of-town students, attending the local college and university, converge on the city. It can result in a field day for eager dollar-hungry landlords, anxious to take advantage of students needing a roof over their heads, or a profitable sharing experience in which the homeowner and student-tenant share the adventure of securing a post-high school education. The landlord asking a "fair" price has the satisfaction of contributing to, rather than gouging, today's youth preparing to fill tomorrow's vocations and enables the student, forced to live within a tight budget, to complete his prescribed course. A landlord overcharging defeats this goal. Recently college students have slept in parked cars while shopping around for inexpensive housing rather than paying some quoted price (a basement suite for two at monthly, for They iare forced to economize on housing (if possible) to ensure adequate funds for inflated food costs, tuition and books. Many from rural towns have expressed astonishment at Lethbridge prices. Since it is apparent a wider local response will be required to meet the student-housing requirements (200 students still require accommodation despite the fact 100 found housing over the Labor Day weekend) it is hoped homeowners will not seize this oppor- tunity as a chance to "make hay while the sun shines" but will, by offering "fair encourage these young people. Many a young person crediting their ''home-away-from-home" as their strongest support during their university and college years, has gone on to make their landlord proud of them. Dissidence and detente The conviction of two Soviet citizens on what appears to Westerners to be flimsy charges of anti-Soviet agitation brings into question how detente can flourish when dissidence is treated with such harshness. Sentences of three years' im- prisonment followed by three more years of exile were imposed on two men found guilty of disseminating unacceptable ideas. Soviet officials contend, with some- justification, that it is not the outsider's business to tell them how to run their af- fairs. The state has the right to defend itself from troublemakers, they insist, and to do so according to Soviet law and custom. Criticism and gratuitous advice is seldom welcomed from outside by any nation. Nevertheless, Westerners find it im- possible not to at least wonder if the trial does not signal the need for being cautious about taking Soviet interest in detente seriously. An opening up to one another must include an exchange of in- formation and views. It involves the risk of people being exposed to "dangerous" ideas. Perhaps Soviet officials haven't yet faced the full implications of their policy of detente. They may have thought there could be freer exchange of scientific in- formation without the danger of dissi- dent ideas being part of the deal. But this is illusory. Once people start mingling together, for whatever reason, new thoughts are generated. A decision will have to be made ul- timately in the U.S.S.R. to accept detente and abandon the attempt to suppress ideas or to retreat again behind the iron curtain. The best policy for the West is probably to let the Soviet leaders face up to it in their own way and time. THE CASSEROLE At this pretty it's kind of amusing to observe the torturous manoeuvring of European politicians as they try to show how stalwartly they have built their defences and the tremendous progress they have made towards military self- sufficiency, but at the same time how utterly unthinkable it is that the U.S. should withdraw a single soldier from the defence of Europe. If you happen to keep a yawn-of-the-week file, you may be interested in noting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided that imposition of auto emission stan- dards for nitrous oxides scheduled for 1976 models will be postponed for another year. According to that Bible of business and finance, the Wall Street Journal, 105 Cana- 'ian corporations reporting on second quarter profits show a remarkable in- crease of 54 per cent over the same quarter in 1972. This is even better than for the first quarter, when 140 corporations reported profits 37.1 per cent higher than in 1972. OTTAWA The uncertain course pursued by the federal government since Mr. Trudeau produced his package of inflation-related policies suggests that the new plan owes quite as much to a dis- rupted timetable as to mature ministerial consideration. Everyone concedes that in- flation, once well established, feeds on popular expec- tations; being in part a psy- chological problem. Thus a government, with a serious and well thought out program Ought surely to have two concerns, readily observable in its own actions. The first is that policies should be well un- derstood and the second that everything possible should be done to mobilize a favorable opinion in their support. It is a matter of frequent and wry. comment in Ottawa that various ministers take no chances even with relatively minor programs. They summon special press conferences and provide cor- respondents with heavy bundles of releases in at- tractive (and probably ex- pensive) folders. The response to inflation is obviously far more important to far more people. But Mr. Trudeau's delayed statement to the House has been'follow- ed by no concerted effort either to clarify its many ob- scurities or to appeal to public opinion. Instead, information has had to be extracted from ministers who have displayed inside and outside the House all the eagerness of nervous patients in a dentist's office. If some of the subsidy meas- ures speak for themselves notably the pension es- calations and interim increases in family same cannot be said for the new policies having to do with wheat and oil. Farm members report that the new stabilization policies affecting wheat for domestic consumption have been greeted with mystification, widespread suspicion and often hostility in western Canada. This would appear to be confirmed by criticisms voiced not only by the NDP premier of Saskatchewan but also by the Liberal leader in the same province. What seems to be in prospect is an arrangement by which the farmers will sub- sidize consumers while world prices are above those charg- ed to the millers in return for a unilateral, long-term (probably seven year) guarantee by the government of the floor. In other words, if the price drops the taxpayer will come to the res- cue of the producer. Nothing has been said about farm costs. But Mr. Lang, un- der questioning, has volun- teered other comments wi.ich rather confuse than clarify the scheme. Thus he explained to Alf Gleave Biggar! that the arrangement is being negotiated with the Canadian Wheat Board "which, of course, can enter into such arrangements easily, say, with a buyer from another country." It can, of course, if the buyer is willing though a seven year commit- ment might frighten many buyers. Mr. Trudeau re- peated the argument, thus giv- ing it greater emphasis. But if this is a unilateral Canadian government guarantee apply- ing to the domestic price. what is the relevance for the producer of wheat board dealings with foreign buyers? The current guarantee to the consumer has also become, through questions, more elusive. It is evidently a 'What bothers me is that Jack, Jane and Spot never mention inflation, labor-management problems, mortgage interest..." Sticky business getting stickier WASHINGTON -Relations between Canada and the U.S. are becoming somewhat sticky with oil. U.S. officials say they are concerned about the difficulty in talking to Ottawa on the subject. They are also concerned about what they see as a nationalistic attitude building in Canada. A treasury department offi- cial described recent Ottawa announcements on oil policy as "what seems to be increas- ing from the world oil shortage." U.S. attempts to strike a co- operative policy of sharing and swapping oil resources with Canada "haven't worked out" he said. "To me it shows we can't depend on Canadian oil." he added. "I would be the height of folly if the U.S. made plans for longterm dependency on Can- ada. "Canada is a foreign country and Canada could shut off the oil." The lesson of previous talks between Ottawa and Washing- ton and of the current lack of communication is that "we don't want to depend on Cana- dian he said. "We'll go ahead and build TAPS (the Transalaska pipeline One result could be even more Alaska oil tankers sail- ing along the B.C. Coast than had been expected. There is a nationwide scare about the shortage of oil and about the reliability of import supplies in the U.S. It was whipped up this sum- mer when some gasoline sta- tions had to close down and when industrial as well as residential power consumers were hit by shortages of fuel. It has been exacerbated by the capricious behavior of the oil-rich Arab countries who are wielding a new-found weapon to seek better terms lor oil sales and for a settle- ment of the Arab-Israeli dis- pute. And it has been somewhat intensified by Canada's behavior. Hv I rank Kuiu-r. Herald 1 Ironically. Canada has only just begun to flex its oil mus- late to'strengthen its position on the one bargaining issue where it might have had an advantage, the routing of oil from the north slope of Alaska. If anything, its position is now weaker on the question of diverting the tankers away from the B.C. coastline. As the U.S. feels increasing- ly pressed to establish new and secure supply lines for oil it needs, it is turning on the heat for a speedup in the Alaska pipeline- Although the initial es- timates have been for produc- tion of two million barrels of oil a day in Alaska, by the time the system is in opera- tion there may be much more oil flowing through the pipeline and into the tankers. "Five to six million barrels a day is a guesttimate for what could becoming down the Pacific said the treasury official. That's as much as three times the amount of oil talked about last month when Con- gress was debating the project and the initial capacity of the proposed pipeline would be only two million barrels, ac- cording to the oil companies. The Senate has already moved quickly to set up a con- ference committee with the House of Representatives so that joint legislation speeding construction of the Translaska pipeline can be submitted for President Richard Nixon's signature. If Alaska produces more than the Pacific northwest and California markets can absorb, the administration hopes that it can make a barter arrangement with Japan. The U.S. would send some Alaska oil to Japan and in re- turn Japan would divert to the U.S. some of the oil it obtains from the middle east or else- where. This idea was discussed in Cohgress where fears were expressed that the Alaska pipeline was really a Japan pipeline, and that, export of oil t ashniiitoii rommiMilalor was planned from the start. However the legislation being put together by the conference committee is expected to provide for exports which can be proved to be in the national interest and subject to congressional ratification. U.S. officials are still await- ing a clear explanation of the new oil policy proposals sug- gested last Tuesday by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Energy Minister Donald Macdonald. These proposals- include some form of control mechanism over the Canadian oil market, either through a tax on exports or a marketing board, a temporary price freeze on domestic oil supplies and consideration of plans for a pipeline to carry Western Canada oil to Mon- treal. One official here described this as a logical extension of the direction of Canada's policy. "It's increasingly unfor- tunate that it's every man for himself in the oil said the treasury department of- ficial. He said the U.S. would have liked to work out a share-and- swap agreement with Canada. Under such an agreement Western Canada would supply the western U.S. with oil and the Eastern U.S. would supply Eastern Canada. This is pretty much the way things were done in the past. Canada delivered oil to the Pacific northwest and to the midwest and the U.S. supplied oil to Montreal along a pipeline from Portland, Maine. However, Canada is now talking about supplying Montreal with Canadian oil, and the U.S. is already feeling shortages in the midwest and cast coast which would inten- sify if Canada reduced exports which were stabilized earlier in the year. "We've tried to talk to Can- ada." said the treasury of- ficial, "but we just haven't, been successful. "Nothing has ever come of these talks." One reason, he suggested, could be the inability of the minority Trudeau government to act decisively for fear of losing office. He said the plan to build a pipeline to Montreal would probably result in higher oil prices in Canada. "Moving Alberta oil to Mon- treal in the end means an aw- ful lot of transportation costs. As an insurance policy in case there is a shut off of foreign supply it makes more he said. "But there is a price you have to pay for economic self- sufficiency." However, despite the lack of negotiations, on the Trans- alaska' scheme or other proposals for sharing oil resources, the U.S. has been getting "the message from Canada loudly and clearly" said the treasury official. "I've got the very distinct impression from officials of the Government of C.'.nada that it reserves the right to allocate oil as it sees fit." The response here is: "We don't want to depend on Cana- dian oil. We'll go ahead and build the Transalaska pipeline system. It's a secure supply of oH." There is now little chance that Canada can do much to negotiate the Alaska oil tankers away from Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In fact it may be increasing the environmental dangers by stinging the Americans into greater shipments there. calculation of what ought to occur if the cost of domestic whpat (but not other costs) is kept down. It js not a firm commitment obtained from bakers by the government. In comparison to the new oil policy; however, Mr. Lang's scheme is crystal clear. The prime minister on Tuesday prefaced his remarks with an expression of concern about the prices of gasoline and heating oil. As Mr. Macdonald has since explained, the actual policy applies to crude since the government is in no posi- tion to deal with retail prices. But the qualified freeze is not designed solely to give consumers immediate relief; it is intended to afford the government five months in which to establish a control mechanism. No attempt has been made to demonstrate the efficacy of an excess profits tax. applicable to one in- dustry, in holding down con- sumer prices. Neither has there been any attempt to demonstrate the workability of the alternative mechanism; a national oil marketing board. If the idea is that oil surplus to one area is to be diverted to deficit areas, effecting competition with offshore supplies, what physical means are available for that purpose? The bottleneck is the ex- isting two-branch pipeline, now Operating at near- capacity. There will have to be new construction if much more is to be moved or if the government's swift con- version to the Montreal pipeline is to yield practical results. But since the govern- ment is not free to act in a foreign jurisdiction, this presumes American cooper- ation from the level of Washington and the FPC down to that of the states and even counties since a pipeline im- plies a right of way which is not presently available. It is interesting to compare the prime minister's state- ment of Aug. 13 on inflation policy with his statement this week. Each presumably was written with an eye on the NDP wing of a de facto coalition. In August, however, Mr. Trudeau had reason to hope that the rail strike would not lead to the recall of Parliament. This week, with plans disrupted, he had to face Parliament. In the comparative freedom of August Mr. Trudeau enun- ciated a group of policies which he could immediately implement (such as the licensing of meat exports) or could reasonably hope to im- plement, such as higher payments to groups on fixed incomes. Under the com- pulsions of September he has liad to appeal with policies which have theoretical attractions but which in im- portant cases cannot be readi- ly implemented because they depend on the actions of other governments or groups. Thus it is far from clear in the case of oil that the Ameri- cans have any interest in assisting us. It is not clear either that Mr. Trudeau can count on a favorable response from the provinces whose cooperation is also sought. The federal plan conflicts with a Quebec superport plan and Mr. Bourassa has not, in respect to other projects, been particularly attentive to ad- monitions from Ottawa. Nor can the government count on the enthusiastic cooperation of certain other provinces, such as Alberta and New- foundland. In any case a plan of insur- ance for the late 1970s is no an- swer to the problems urgently confronting us. What place does it have in a program of "immediate measures re- quired to stabilize the action of the If it is more than window dressing, why has there been no serious attempt to banish the present confusion? If it is window dressing on a grand scale, it can only strengthen suspicions that ministers, battered by events, are none too confident of their own policies and inclined accordingly to seek reprieves through rather des- perate improvisations. The LetHbridge Herald 504 7th St. S.. LETHBRIDGE HERALD CO. LTD.. Proprietors and Publishers Published 1905-1954. by Hon. W. A. 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