Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - September 16, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
4 i HE LtTHBRIDQE HeRALD Monday, September 16, 1974 Ottawa has limited control over economy By Anthony Westell, Toronto Star commentator Attitudes need changing Growing uneasiness over the amount of drinking being done by young people today is warranted. A bumper crop of alcoholics can be expected in the future bringing to society an ever-increasing number of costly and. heart-breaking problems ranging from slaughter on the roads and lawlessness to broken homes and messed-up lives. No psychic powers are required to make such a prediction. Although it can- not be known in advance who will become an alcoholic, the percentage can be projected from the number of known drinkers. Some research also indicates that the incidence rises in cor- respondence to the earlier the age the drinking commences. The suggestion that keeps cropping up that young people might not plunge into heavy drinking when they reach the age of maturity if no legal age existed for drinking needs serious examination before acceptance. The plunge might simply occur at any even earlier age in that event. Teaching children to use alcohol wisely in moderation is no easy thing in a culture in which ritual restraints are largely absent. Parental introduction into the use of alcohol could simply provide an easier move into the sur- rounding ethos where excess is characteristic. It could be a case where approval of kind becomes interpreted as approval of degree as well. Until some attempt is made to change the prevailing attitudes toward the use of alcohol that drinking is THE thing to do. that drunkenness is funny, that ab- stinence is the way to oddity the mounting toll on individuals and society is likely to continue. Meanwhile all the efforts being made to deal with the alcohol problem are of the ambulance kind, a patching and picking up of the pieces. A new superplant Knowledge expands to solve insoluble problems. This variation of Parkinson's Law is the basic creed of the optimists of the world. Faced with today's emphasis on the finite nature of the earth's resources, the optimists reply that new technology as yet unknown or even un- dreamed will lead to infinite re use of finite resources, to discovery of new resources, and to adaptation of renewable resources to future needs. Every so often something comes along to reaffirm this faith in the boundless nature of knowledge and the ultimate solubility of all problems. The latest contribution is news from the International Corn and Wheat Improvement Centre in El Batan, Mex- ico, and it is directed at the problem of food production for a starving world. Researchers at the centre are working on the establishment of a new breed of superplant which they hope will, in the words of a report from that part of the world, "combine the drought tolerance and disease resistance of barley, the self fertilizing root system of the soybean and the high yield and food value of wheat." The biological forces which have prevented cross breeding between plant species (and therefore insured their development and survival as distinct lines) now are on their way to being over- come by the same method which has overcome the rejection of transplants in animals. The technique adapted to plants is in its infancy and the new breed of plant, if it comes, is still a few decades ahead. Nevertheless, scientists at the centre consider a "super plant" a viable solution to the food problem facing the world. This is a glowing possibility for the op- timists. Pessimists, on the other hand, are apt to conjure up memories of one of John Wundham's early books, The Day of the Triffids, in which a new breed of plant, this time from outer space, nearly took over the world. Their fears will find support in the recent action of some of the world's leading geneticists who ask- ed for a delay, until suitable monitoring devices can be established, in certain ex- periments which might unleash on the world biological forces for which there is no known control. RUSSELL BAKER The bent liberal stepped out of the house the other night to find a young man bending the radio aerial of my car some 90 degrees off the vertical and detained him with the idea of calling the police. To do so, he said, would be an act beneath contempt. He said he had had a very low opinion of the owner of this particular car when he first saw it parked there, but had certainly not expected him to be the sort of swine who called the police about every little act of self-expression. I said. "My good lad, you have vandalized my car. And I put my hand on the mutilated aerial which snapped and fell off. "You ruined he said. "Ruined "I am enraged youth struggling to express my frustration and anger with a sick society which flaunts radio aerials on its cars." he said. "I put a lot of myself into bending that aerial so that it expressed my bitterness with poignant despair and now you've broken it. It's ruined." "I didn't mean I said. "Oh. don't apologize." he said. "I don't want apologies from people like you." This was annoying. "Look here." I said. "I'm not like most people whose aerials you express yourself on. I happen to have van Gogh prints on my bathroom wall, and on that car radio you've just silenced I never listen to anything but the good music station." he cried. "I knew it the minute 1 saw that car sitting here. Have you ever heard about Bangladesh? Have you ever heard about the He had me there. Oh. I had heard about Bangladesh all right, and the ghetto too. but what had I ever done about either one? For that matter, the young man hadn't guessed half of it. What had I ever done about women's rights? Sensing my guilt, he twisted the knife. "Yeah." he said, "a guy like you is just the kind of guy I might have known would let his car sit around with the aerial sticking straight up in the sky when the people are oppressed flat out on the ground." What had I ever done about the tyranny of the telephone company? 1 asked myself. "Tell you I said. "Why don't you take the aerial and bend it into a triumphant expression of youth's degermination to be free of the dead hand of the "Keep your precious old he said. "I accept no gifts from a man who is hung up on his car." Hung up on my car! He was right. Two days earlier I had spent an hour trying to get its rotten materialistic windshield washers to work again. That had actually seemed important to me. I had lost my temper when they refused to work despite my labors. "I'm not hung up on my I lied, "My car is nothing to me. And I kicked the car in the left rear tire just as hard as I could. "That's how I feel about my car." "Oh. man, you're he said. "Did you ever hear of love? You come out of your house and see one of the people struggling against this machine symbol of materialistic oppression and right away you're on the machine's side. You love machines so much you don't even know how to love people." How could I make him understand that it was not that I didn't want to love people, because I did want to love them. Love was what everything was all about. I had seen enough movies to know that, heard enough folk songs. It was just that people made it so hard to love them, what with their always bending your aerials because they weren't being loved enough. And then you had to go into the repair shop where nobody ever loved you back, no matter how lovably you behaved while they put on a new aerial. What had I ever done about migrant labor? It was impossible, of course, to call the police. I was the one who should have been jailed. I was the one who had turned this boy into an aerial bender. "You must forgive me." I told him. "If you wait a moment I will bring out an axe and let you slash my tires." "Not a chance." he said. "I wouldn't waste my time expressing myself on !he tires of the likes of you." 1 thought momentarily of smashing my windshield to show society how it stood with me. But didn't. T shall boycott grapes instead, starting next month. Excruciating experience By Doug Walker Our Paul has a number of excuses for not wanting to go lo church. High on his list is the embarrassment caused him by his father's singing One Sunday, when he broke down and came to church with us, he insisted on having Elspelh between him and me so that he might be spared hearing me sing close up at least. Back home he disgustedly remarked that his mother was nearly as bad a singer as his father. Paul may have to sit by himself when he goes to church. OTTAWA Parliament should be summoned to do something about inflation and the slowdown in the economy. Right? Right. Do what? Aha, that's a different question. Nobody knows. Or rather, almost everybody has his own idea but hardly two of us agree. It is easier to see what is wrong with other people's ideas than to write a fool-proof prescrip- tion. For example, a lot of people who may disagree on everything else seem to share the view that the first thing to do is to restrain government spending. Among them are Conservative Leader Robert Stanfield who was urging severe economics and a balanced budget during the summer election, U.S. Presi- dent Gerald Ford, many new- spaper editorialists and, as one would expect, the leaderr of the business community. The general idea appears to be that excessive demand in the economy is forcing up prices and that by cutting its own programs, the govern- ment can reduce pressure. But where is the evidence that demand is outrunning supply and overheating the economy? In fact, demand has slackened to the point that the economy has stopped growing. Unemployment is rising. Stores are full of goods. Normally in these economic circumstances we should be hearing urgent proposals for greater govern- ment spending to stimulate demand. But assume for a moment that we do need to restrain total demand in the economy. Why is it government and not private spending that has to be cut? The conventional answer is that government spending is unproductive and tends to be wasteful, while business spending is efficient and generates new wealth. Before accepting such ideas ask yourself a few questions. Would you rather see your money invested in public hous- ing or in bank skyscrapers? Do you think it more impor- tant to raise old age pensions "I should think it would cheer them up to know they're a conversation piece in Saskatoon." Top civil service changes expected By Richard Gwyn, Toronto Star commentator Prime Minister Trudeau is about to change his guard of mandarin, in his own Privy Council Office and in key de- partments like finance and ex- ternal affairs. As interesting as who-goes-where (about which, more is why Trudeau is making the shuffle, the most extensive since he took office. Trudeau's reasoning, ex- plains a close colleague, "is to prevent what happened to him in '68, a slump into com- placency right after an easy election victory." Trudeau first applied this technique of self-generated pressure to his cabinet. He in- tended to make as few shifts as possible, then changed his mind, dropped four ministers and let the others know that no one's post was permanent. (A fifth, Supply and Services Minister Jean-Pierre Goyer also was due to go but surviv- ed after a one-hour debate with Trudeau at his Harrington Lake summer col- In another step in the same direction, Trudeau last week approved Consumer Affairs Minister Andre Ouellet's re- quest to make public an attack on Agriculture Minister Whelan over the egg scandal. Trudeau justified the debate as proof of "cabinet vitality." The civil service now will feel the pressure. Trudeau deliberately is building up an exceptionally powerful per- sonal political staff under Principal Secretary Jack Austin. The latest recruit is Joel Bell, an outstanding young lawyer and economist, principal author of the Gray Report on foreign investment and now a consultant to the energy department where Austin used to be deputy minister. In contrast, Trudeau's per- sonal civil staff in the Privy Council Office (PCO) has dwindled in influence. Once a prize source for the "counter- vailing" ideas that Trudeau uses to challenge those com- ing forward from departments, the PCO now serves mostly as a paper processing centre. Fresh new blood will come in at the top, and later on lower down. Next January, Gordon Robertson, the Clerk of the Privy Council, the most important civil service post in the country and one which he has occupied for 11 years, will step down. Robertson probably will become Am- bassador in Washington. Robertson's likeliest successor is Sylvan Cloutier, deputy minister of national defence. An alternative prospect is Michael Pitfield, deputy minister of consumer affairs and one of Trudeau's closest confidantes. Pitfield, brilliant but unorthodox, is only 37. Cloutier, a first-rate administrator, has a more conventional mind and is more likely to appeal to the mandarin circle. A quite separate chain of changes will be precipitated by the appointment of Senator Paul Martin as High Commis- sioner in London. Martin, 71, Task force to study property tax By Dian Cohen, syndicated commentator MONTREAL For years. Ottawa and the provinces have been battling for control of municipalities The British North America Act says municipalities are provinces" responsibility. One of the main problems in this jurisdictional battle is that no one knows how much money local governments collect, exactly where they collect it. and worse, exactly where Oiey spend it. All that is about to change. A 1ri level task force has been se1 up !o explore the jiingic of federal provincial municipal finances. How might all this financial hocus pocus affect your life? One of thf most obvious ways is the abolition of the property lax and the institution of a municipal income tax. In the o3don days, Ottawa fillrrtrd the most in taxes of various sorts, and also spent the most in our behalfs on national defence, health and welfare, transportation. But over the years, the areas in which public funds are needed has become increasingly concentrated in provincial and local hands. As things stand Ottawa makes unconditional grants to the provinces, and trusts that some of the money finds its way into local coffers. Because the transfer of funds must be made without strings, it is impossible to determine what money comes from whom, and who pays for what. Ottawa transfers to the provinces which transfer to the municipalities, which transfer money back to both. For Queens University prin- cipal John J. Deutsch, who heads the tri level task force, his career has come full circle. One of Dr. Deulsch's first assignments as a young economist forty odd years ago was the Rowell Sirois Commission on federal provincial affairs. Dculsch describes his job as that of "supervising the collection of financial data about who pays for what thai will be accepted by the three levels of government. Right he says, "there is simp- ly no commonly accepted standard of measurement. I'nti! there is. it is impossible to agree on who SHOULD be paying WHAT to WHOM Obviously, agreement, in this long contested area brings with it hope for a fair distribution of the burden of taxes some time in the future. Take the properly tax, for example. Long the bastion which keeps all local governments afloat, it has the distinction of being the single most hated of all taxes, including income and sales taxes. Critics of the property tax say it is regressive meaning the wealthier you are. the lower your properly tax will be. Further, it is argued that poor families who are renters are even worse off than poor home owners, since property taxes are passed on in increased rents. The property lax is blamed as well for the widespread abandonment of substandard housing in inner cities, and the refusal of landlords to im- prove rundown rental proper- ties, because improvements mean increased valuations. which in mean increased lax assessments. IV. as. and when such movements are successful, you can look forward to drastic changes in Ihe amounts you pay in taxes, or in the quality of services you gel from your local government. is one of Canada's most ex- perienced, and deftest, politi- cians. He became an MP in 1935, a cabinet minister in 1946, twice contested the Liberal leadership and until July was government leader in the Senate. In Britain, Martin will re- place Jake Warren, a former deputy minister of trade and commerce. Warren will come back to Otawa as under- secretary of state for external affairs, the department where he began his career. Warren's appointment will touch off in turn one of the most important of Trudeau's moves among the mandarins. Ed Ritchie, the present head of the external affairs depart- ment and former Ambassador to Washington will become deputy minister of finance. Ritchie, an economist, will replace Simon Reisman, a controversial figure, bright, tough, cigar-chewing, and one of the few senior civil ser- vants with a defined image. Reisman's future is un- certain: He may go to the In- ternational Monetary Fund, or into private life. Another cluster of changes may be touched off by the fact that Secretary of State Hugh Faulkner wants to drop his deputy minister, Jean Boucher. For months the two hardly have spoken to each other. Pierre Juneau, Chairman of the Canadian Radio-Television Commis- sion may move into the slot; Juneau is being considered also for the Canadian Inter- national Development Agency that is languishing under its present head, former Quebec cabinet minister Paul Gerin- Lajoie. The shuffle of mandarins, planned or possible, is more extensive than the changes Trudeau made lo his cabinet. When I pointed out Ihe contrast, an aide replied: "What makes you think the cabinet will last together for or to build a factory to produce plastic backscratchers? Would you rather finance medical research or scientific efforts to improve the colors of toilet tissues? The point of course is that the private sector of the economy uses vast amounts of capital and labor to produce vast amounts of junk, and in this sense is more wasteful than government. Another idea being widely canvassed is that the way to fight inflation is to tighten the money supply. The theory is that we have been printing dollar bills much faster than we have been increasing the supply of goods and services on which to spend the money, and so the value of the dollar has declined. All we have to do, say the monetarists, is to ensure that the money supply grows at the same rate as production. They are right except that nobody knows how to achieve that perfect balance. Changes in the money supply take months, perhaps even years, to influence demand and production. It has been argued, even within the sacred precincts of the Bank of Canada, that almost every major change of money policy in the past quarter century has been mis- timed and done as much harm as good. That is, the bank with all its expertise has expanded the money supply when it should have been squeezing, and squeezing when it should have been inflating. Certainly in recent years the bank has been expan- sionary, and an expert com- mented recently in a delight- fully wry phrase: "Now we're trying to let the South Sea Bubble down gently." It's interesting to recall, also, that all the ideas for beating inflation now being advocated were tried by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1969 and 1970. He froze the civil service for a time, brought the budget into surplus by reducing the rate of growth in government spen- ding, tightened the money supply, and called on labor and management for wage and price restraint. The result was to slow the growth in the economy to the point at which unemploy- ment rose. Inflation was reduced, but the politicians and the press decided that ris- ing prices were better than unemployment. Trudeau was roundly abused as cold, callous and archaic in his thinking. He was, one might say, a premature inflation fighter. But he gave up too easily, in the face of political pressure and public criticism. Now he is being urged to try again with the same methods when circumstances are different. In the 60s, the problem was to slow down the rate of growth in the economy: today, there is no growth. The real solution to our domestic economic problems, I suspect, is what is being call- ed in Britain a new social contract that is, a new un- derstanding between the com- peting groups in society about how to share the economic product in the common interest That has to be worked out with the interesl groups as labor, business and consumers with government representing not only the national interesl bul also Ihe needy and the unorganized who cannot make their own case for a larger share of resources. None of these groups is directly represented in Parlia- ment which long ago ceased to bring together the Estates of the Realm and fell instead un- der Ihe control of political parties with confused ideologies and constituencies. So while it would be nice to sec Parliament back at its rouline duties and parly games, nobody should think thai il can actually do anything about Ihe economy. The lethbridge Herald SI, S. Alberta LETHBR1DGE HERALD CO. LTD. Proprietors and PuWWhers Second dots Man Registration No. 0012 OLEO MOWERS. Editor and PtAffittm DON H. PILLING DONALD R OORAM General Manager ROY F. MILES Advertising Manager DOUGLAS K WALKER Editorial Page Editor ROBERT M. FENTON. Circulation Manager KFMMETH SAHNETT Business Manager "THE HERALD SERVES THE SOUTH"