Need to know

Letters: 'What other than greed motivates this behaviour?'

Maclean's readers write in

Surreal estate

“The new real estate wars” (Economy, June 22) caused me to wonder if municipal residential tax rates were keeping pace with the dramatic rise in housing prices. They’re not. Check out the city of Toronto’s 2015 property tax rates for a home assessed at $524,833 and the taxes payable are a paltry $3,703.24, which includes education, transit levy and general taxes. My Ontario municipality, Chatham-Kent, has no subways, no expressways, no streetcars: only a simple bus system. My small two-bedroom home is assessed at $173,000 and my taxes, all in, are $3,292.86. If Toronto residents paid more, maybe they could afford all their amenities. It might well slow down the escalation of home prices if the buyer was faced with a tax bill upwards of $9,000 annually.

Clare Curtis, Chatham-Kent, Ont.

When it comes to demolishing small houses to build monster homes, what other than greed motivates this behaviour? Whatever happened to the basic family home that we Baby Boomers were raised in? Today, even with smaller families of three to four people, people don’t appreciate the efficiencies and adequacies of houses with 1,500 to 2,500 sq. feet of living space. I can’t fathom why everyone seems to “need” a big house. It’s a “want.” Today’s monster homes are likely to become tomorrow’s subdivided rentals unless we curb this enthusiasm.

Gary Scobie, Burlington, Ont.

Vancouver: not for Vancouverites

Now that politicians have finally stopped denying that Vancouver housing prices are a serious problem (“Flight of the young,” Society, June 15), perhaps they can also quit denying the cause. Unlike London, New York or other hyper-expensive cities, Vancouver simply does not have the kind of high-paying jobs to afford $1.9-million homes. The federal government has recently started to unwind the monumental mistake of the immigrant investor program, more aptly termed the “buy a passport program,” which has been a major contributor to the housing crisis. However, it appears they still welcome an unlimited flow of foreign money into our housing markets. The B.C. finance minister has stated that his main concern is to keep prices from falling, to protect the windfall profits already made. More likely he realizes that B.C. has little going for its economy right now other than the selling of Vancouver.

Ronald McCaig, Port Alberni, B.C.

Stop passing the buck

Your June 22 editorial about the Quebec court decision awarding smokers $15.5 billion was right on the mark: we should not expect the government or the courts to protect us from our own folly and irresponsible behaviours. Where public knowledge of the danger is limited, corporations and producers should be held responsible. However, the serious health hazards of tobacco have long been known. Our government is helping to keep Big Tobacco in business by its addiction to the tax revenue. Eliminating smoking has to be high on our priorities, right up there with cancer. But suing the producers will amount to squat.

Sigmund Roseth, Mississauga, Ont.

A person who chooses to smoke and then blames the tobacco company when he gets sick is as stupid as a person choosing to get drunk, choosing to drive, then blaming the car company for the accident. This all started in 1982 when Pierre Trudeau enacted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How different things might be today if it had been called the Charter of Rights and Responsibilities? Now this idea has become so entrenched that even the court system absolves the individual from taking responsibility for essentially stupid choices. The saying “there ain’t no cure for stupid” applies equally to the system as it does to individuals.

Dick Burgman, Blairmore, Alta.

Your editorial refers to an 18-year-old going to school showing her midriff. Would this same immature 18-year-old dress the same way for a job interview? Someone needs to tell her that school is not a social club or a Hooters Restaurant, but a place for vocational training. Therefore, dress accordingly.

H.J. Eckert, St. Catharines, Ont.

Your editorial states that “we live in an era of unprecedented choice and personal autonomy.” Really? Municipal and provincial planners are increasingly restricting our living choices, undermining our fundamental quality of life in the process. However, your conclusion was spot-on: with rights come responsibilities. But more life-changing for most of us than sugar and salt consumption is our rapidly decaying democracy. It’s long past time for all Canadians to assume greater responsibility for returning their governments to balance before basic freedoms are completely trampled by well-meaning but sadly misinformed activists, bureaucrats and social engineers.

John Challinor II, Milton, Ont.

Police problems

After reading “The little court case that could,” about Peter Merrifield, the RCMP officer suing the force for bullying and harassment, it would appear an officer running for the Conservatives (which Merrifield did) is a greater crime in the eyes of the RCMP than an officer caught soliciting prostitutes (which Marc Proulx admitted to), or potential perjury by a senior commissioned officer (RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, as your story suggests). With such a twisted sense of right and wrong, is it any wonder the RCMP’s reputation is in tatters?

Pat Martin, St. Catharines, Ont.

A national tragedy

I have been a Maclean’s subscriber for over 30 years, and never have I found a cover story to be more compelling and relevant and engaging as “It could have been me” (National, June 15). It’s high time these women’s stories get told and the deplorable historical abuse be recognized: beginning with our residential schooling program of decades ago, which created pools of injured survivors with no skills to carry on their lives and raise healthy children. What is it going to take to get our Prime Minister to recognize that the cases of murdered and missing women are not merely a criminal matter to be dealt with piecemeal by our inadequate policing resources? This is a national tragedy that requires full inquiry and reconciliation.

Rachel Cormier, Mission, B.C.

Time to address the men

Your June 15 editorial sets up your cover story on missing and murdered Indigenous women very well. However, I ask you, what kind of blindness on your part would lead you to say that Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt is looking in the wrong place when he identifies the abuse Aboriginal men perpetrate against Aboriginal women? If this country wishes to provide justice for Aboriginal women, for those already missing and for those on and off reserves today, the issues of Aboriginal perpetrators are a key part of the equation. They have suffered from the errors of the past in every way as much as the women. Unless their pain, hopelessness, anger and aggression is addressed, Canada will have little hope of effectively addressing Aboriginal women’s issues in the long term.

Jerry Marek, Swan River, Man.

Sins of the $enate

In “Sober second thought” (National, June 22) it is revealed that the federal government spent $23.6 million to uncover less than a million dollars in expenses, only some of which will be repaid. Thus the government’s actions are far worse than those of a few profligate senators. The government would have been far better off if they had drawn a line in the sand, ignored past sins and laid out firm and solid rules to be followed by senators going forward and put in place a stronger check on future spending. Then taxpayers would have been ahead by $23.6 million, not to mention the legal costs associated with collecting any of those questionable expenses.

Bert Goodfellow, Whitby, Ont.

In the parallel universe of the Ottawa bubble, the Senate spending scandal apparently constitutes a national crisis: the NDP are even calling for the abolition of the Senate. But back on planet Earth it would be hard to identify an issue further removed from the real concerns of Canadians.

Jonathan Skrimshire, Pincher Creek, Alta.

Your article states that 80,000 Senate expense claims have been flagged by auditor general Michael Ferguson, at a cost to us of $23.6 million—which works out to be just under $300 per claim! It is indeed time that the RCMP be instructed to also investigate the investigators.

A.N. Hunt, Cambridge, Ont.

Like many Canadians, I was raised to believe our Senate reflected an important measure of checks and balances in our legislative process. But it took the disgraceful behaviour currently under investigation, and reading Patrick Boyer’s book, Our Scandalous Senate, to change my mind. Boyer, a former MP and teacher of Canadian democracy and constitutional law, considers the Canadian Senate redundant and an irrelevant colonial relic. It is costly to maintain and out of step with the values of a modern democratic country. Abolition is the Senate’s only future. It’s way past its best-before date.

Peter Jennings, Port Carling, Ont.

The current movement to abolish the Senate is nonsensical and dangerous. The concomitant proposal to allow Canada to be subject to voter referenda brings to mind one of Winston Churchill’s many insightful and pithy commentaries, to wit: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” The behaviour of some Canadian senators should outrage all Canadians, but will abolishing the Senate strengthen the capacity of our institutions to solve social, economic, and environmental concerns? If there are problems with corrupt politicians in our Senate, the solution lies in reforming the Senate, not abolishing it. Why not abolish the Royal Mounted Police, because the actions of a few bad apples resulted in embarrassing injustices? Do we really think that less legislative oversight over the country’s leadership will lead to better law-making? Why not abolish the judiciary as well? We should modernize and elect the Senate, but eliminating it will effectively bring us a step closer to national autocracy.

Kell Petersen, Osoyoos, B.C.

The year 2100: a reasonable goal

Paul Wells lays out a good case of the obvious political gamesmanship in putting off unattainable carbon goals until the person making that promise is long gone (“Why do today what you can put off forever,” June 22). But the G7 has finally made a promise that is attainable. The promise to end internal combustion as a source of energy by the year 2100 is, in fact, a much more reliable promise than usual. It would seem, that by that time, much of the world’s carbon resources will have been depleted. Promise made, promise kept. Unfortunately there will be a much higher carbon level in our air by then.

Brian Mellor, Picton, Ont.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.