My Two Bits

Aug. 7, 2018

Demonstrating and protesting make for interesting political theatre but accomplish nothing to solve the problems of society.

Sunday’s little theatre pitted a foreign-born protest group against another group, mostly-local actors, flying the flag of communist Russia. Nothing was accomplished, nothing resulted and no solution was found to the problem of housing in Nanaimo. It was all about name-calling and placard waving. Great for media camera.

The tent encampment is not the issue, whether your are for against it or against it. It's a much bigger issue than that.

Where the real protests need to be is at city council meetings, calling a majority group of councillors to account for creating a large part of the housing problem. Council had millions of dollars in their lap to build about 40 housing units in the south end of the city. Council said “no thanks.”

Nanaimo MLA Len Krog had doubtlessly put in considerable effort to get that money from the province, but a small group of residents wanted to choose whom they would accept in their neighbourhood. The ones who were in line for that housing were not good enough to live in their midst.

When placard messages insist “housing is a right” where were they when council made that decision or when that neighbourhood rejected the poor and needy? “Housing, not hate” is another popular slogan.

This is not new – it happened less than a decade ago when the city got housing money from the province. City council at that time decided that such housing would be located throughout the community, with the first projects in downtown, mid-town and the north end. The South end was to get its share later on.

There was a push back from residents, especially in the north end, but council stuck to their guns and made it happen. More than 100 units were built and the sky did not fall.

As far as can be determined, the province is not standing by, waving a fistful of cash for Nanaimo to try it again. But, if that should happen we need a city council ready to step up to the plate and take action. 

Of note is that some of the vocal opponents of the most recent opportunity are now candidates for city council. That should worry all of us.

This type of sideline bickering between groups of citizens plays right into the hands of our elected officials – they sit back and do nothing, except maybe introduce another race-based tax or two, blaming investors for the real estate situation.

The crisis is much bigger than a few campsites and the blame can be laid at the feet of three provincial political parties. A major shift in philosophy took place a couple of decades ago when the Social Credit government introduced a plan to shut down mental health facilities and integrate patients “into the community.” The following NDP government carried through on that strategy, and the Liberals did nothing concrete to reverse that.

There was brief talk about reopening Riverview mental treatment facility, or part of it, but that raised the NIMBY syndrome again. A plan to raise money for the renewed hospital by selling part of the property for private housing got the NDP all riled up, accusing the Liberal of greasing a path “for their friends”. 

In the meantime, the mental health and housing situation continued to deteriorate.

The mental health crisis has reached epidemic proportions because of the rise in drug use, and it’s not going to get any better. What it will take is millions, if not billions of dollars, to really fix this problem. It will have to be a serious commitment by all parties. Involuntary committal to treatment will have to be part of the program. 

Simply providing housing for those in need won’t solve the problem. Governments need to do what it takes or accept that things will continue to get worse, with more and more tent encampments and rag tag agitators without any solutions. 

Present band aid solutions won’t stop the bleeding. It’s been a long time developing, and there are no instant fixes. 

Jul. 4, 2018

By Merv Unger

If it moves, tax it. That’s the real bottom line with the phony tariff war between Canada and the United States. It’s simply a diversion meant to lull us into acceptance of the latest scam by politicians.

A tariff is a tax, plain and simple, and that’s the bottom line. We’re being bamboozled again by politicians. They’ve been taking us to the cleaners on the illegitimate “carbon” tax scheme, but that’s not enough for them.

Now we’ll pay ten per cent and more additional tax on every-day purchases, mainly food products, which we can’t do without.

Sure, the issue carries all the feel-good labels that tariffs are there to protect our products from unfair competition. How does anyone benefit when one country slaps a tariff on another country’s exports only to have the same applied from the other side in retaliation? Governments on both sides of the border have an extra revenue source, and some citizens willingly line up to support the tax grab in the name of nationalism. 

The United States rakes in extra tax revenue from Canadian metal products and Canada grabs the extra taxes on food stuffs and other imports. Notice the revenue doesn't go to the agrieved industries – only to government.

By making the “other country” the villain they strike a note of patriotism, making many of us proud to pay another tax. They’ve got it down to a science. It stirs a certain amount of "Buy Canadian" outrage from the public but it doesn't solve any problems except make everything more expensive. 

Jun. 30, 2018

The Canadian government is flexing its muscle in a trade confrontation with the mighty United States – like a flea attacking an elephant.

There are never winners in trade wars, but a whole bunch of losers, the enitre population of the country. Our prime minister and his government are not hurting the U.S. with these tariffs, on the world stage Canada is a minor player.

There are more losers than winners in trade wars. Prime Minister Trudeau is punishing Canadians, most directly the midle class whose lot he vowed to defend and improve. This move certainly won't achieve that promise.

Take a look at some of the items on the list to be hit with tariffs including yogurt, coffee, licorice, chocolate, prepared meals including pizza and quiche, cucumbers, gherkins, soya sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, flavoured water, whiskies, manicure and pedicure products, shaving products, dish detergent, candles, glue and various types of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.

That's only part of the list, so be prepared to pay at least 10 per cent more for virtually all those and other products the next time you go to the grocery store.

Jun. 27, 2018

Finally the cost of Prime Minister's carbon tax scam are available. It took some poking and prodding and committee testimony, but now we know what the bill will be for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax.

The Financial Ports reports that University of Calgary economics professor Jennifer Winter revealed the bottom line of the Trudeau Carbon Price in a report to the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.

Using energy-consumption data from Statistics Canada, and imputing prices from average household expenditure on transportation fuels and provincial gasoline prices, Winter calculated the impact of the carbon tax on a typical Canadian household across different provinces. 

British Columbia will get the lowest carbon tax bill at $603 per year. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia will be hit with more than $1,000 of carbon tax per year to comply with the $50-per-tonne carbon tax Ottawa has mandated for 2022.

Nova Scotia $1,120
Alberta $1,111
Saskatchewan $1,032
New Brunswick $963
Newfoundland $859
Prince Edward Island $788
Ontario $707
Quebec $662


Jun. 13, 2018

0612 - Leonard Krog will confirm Nanaimo's worst-kept secret this afternoon when he launches his campaign for mayor. The kickoff will be at the Coast Bastion Inn at 5 p.m.

I sat down with Leonard – as he likes to be called – to discuss the move from the Legislature to city hall, specifically the mayor’s job. What stood out was the support he received from across the political spectrum that encouraged, even pressured him to run.

Read the full column here