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Today’s letters: Why the federal budget’s housing solutions won’t work


Saturday, April 16: on affordable housing; far-free transit; masking up; and Ukraine. You can write to us too, at letters@ottawacitizen.com

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Immigration and housing are at odds

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Re: Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford are just pretending to fix the housing shortage, April 12.

Randall Denley got it right regarding government-fuelled population growth and the housing crisis. The federal budget proposes $1.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies to fix the demand problem that immigration policy has created.

The subsidies have a target of creating 100,000 new housing units over five years. But that hardly addresses the issue when the government plans to welcome 431,645 new permanent residents in 2022, 447,055 in 2023 and 451,000 in 2024. And it is not just housing that suffers with population growth; it’s growth in traffic, urban sprawl, crime, pollution, homelessness, use of social services and infrastructure, and more. Time to rethink our obsession with population growth.

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Dean Lauer, Ottawa

We need these skilled workers

Governments may pretend to fix housing, but Randall Denley is pretending to offer solutions. While he acknowledges the connection between supply and demand, he forgets that a larger labour force can produce more goods: more labourers might create more demand, but they also create more supply. He fails to consider what the net effect of immigration has on housing, beyond the increase in demand for housing.

Denley then bemoans the shortage of skilled workers, only to deny that we need more people of working age in Canada doing these jobs. Does he know where we can grow some of these tradespeople? A garden centre, perhaps? Any attempt to sync the rate of immigration to our current capacity to build houses will sink our ability to house those immigrants later. So then, is Denley suggesting we solve the supply crisis or is he suggesting we lower immigration?

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Gabriel Arrigo, Kanata

Two problems with housing policy

Re: A budget to keep home ownership within reach, April 8.

The government’s measures to boost home ownership come much too late. Prices are so outrageously high that they will not likely go back down to previous levels. The real issues were never properly addressed.

First, interest rates should have been higher at least 15 years ago to discourage speculation. Foreign buyers were and are a problem as not all are real investors; it is well-known that Canada has become a major money-laundering hub. Many high-rise towers in Toronto or Ottawa are often left half empty on purpose. Also what happens after the two-year freeze on foreign buyers? They will use front men in the meantime.

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Another major problem is the bidding process, manipulated by real estate agents. The current legislation on bidding should be amended to forbid real estate agents to push for higher bids than those offered. If a buyer offers what the vendor asks, then the deal should be settled at that price. Buyers feel cheated, and today young people cannot afford a first house. It is not the $40,000 tax-free first home savings account that will make the difference when the down payment required is for instance, 20 per cent of $800,000. All these measures come too late.

Leopold Battel, Ottawa

What happened to the ‘science,’ trustees?

Re: Trustees at Ottawa’s largest school board vote to require students and staff to wear masks, April 13.

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For two years the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board board has “followed the science” and “trusted the experts,” rejecting the idea that mandates were politically motivated. Now that the same experts have made decisions that leave them uncomfortable, they no longer trust them and claim that their decisions are politically motivated.

Who amongst board members has the credentials or expertise to make public health decisions that are contrary to decisions made by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore? As individuals, they have the right to make decisions for themselves. Once they start creating mandates for a group of people, they now venture into the realm of public health policy, and the standard of evidence and expertise required increases.

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None of them have that level of expertise. They have ventured into making public health policy relying on their feelings. This is not right from a scientific, policy-making or a moral perspective. It is self-aggrandizing and irresponsible.

In the absence of a conflict of interest or other minor administrative reasons, there were no valid reasons to abstain from voting on this, as some trustees did. Abstaining from a vote on a contentious issue is a dereliction of duty. At times their duty may force them to vote in a way that goes against their personal feelings. If they are unwilling or incapable of doing that, they should not be trustees.

Paul Groulx, Ottawa

Fare-free transit would be costly, indeed

Re: Fare-free transit, done right, can make all the difference in Ottawa, April 11.

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As a long-term property-tax payer in Ottawa, I totally disagree with Kirstin Pulles of Free Transit Ottawa.

In 2022, I will be paying more than $900 on my property taxes for a service I don’t even use. Property taxpayers in Ottawa are required to subsidize transit services by 45 per cent of the total cost of transit. But in fact, taxpayers are actually paying close to 60 per cent of the actual cost of transit fares through annual property tax payments, the annual deficits incurred by Ottawa transit services, and paying the annual interest payments on the massive LRT debt. The city of Ottawa also receives roughly $34 million to $38 million annually through the Gas-Tax funding program from fuel pumps in Ottawa, which also goes directly into transit. If Ottawa taxpayers were to participate in fare-free transit, they would see their portion of transit services on their tax bill almost double.

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I say no to fare-free transit in Ottawa.

Leo Berndt, Ottawa

Hold a referendum on transit fares

Although Ottawa transit planners are now in difficulty — due primarily to the federal public service not physically returning to work in the near future — it should not be for city of Ottawa to decide on free transit, with a property tax increase. It would be unfair for taxpayers in general not to have a word on this development.

The city of Ottawa should have to hold a binding referendum before deciding: “Free transit with increased property taxes — yes or no?”

Guy Carisse, Ottawa

Here’s to a free and improved transit system

I have long believed that our public transit system should be vastly improved, and should be free to riders. Imagine if bus drivers could concentrate only on driving, without checking that passengers are paying the correct fare. There would be significant benefits in efficiency and safety. Imagine, too, if most of the money going towards private vehicles could be put into public transit. What a wonderful system we could have.

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Kirsten Pulles states that car ownership costs between $8,000 and $13,000 a year.  This is a lot of money just to enable us to own a vehicle that likely sits in a parking space for 23 hours out of 24. Although we have been conditioned to consider a car a necessity, surely we can find better uses for that amount of cash.

The trend for governments today seems to be to invest heavily in electric cars. While there are some environmental benefits, electric power is only as clean as its source. Far better to move away from the mass use of private vehicles, and electrify a better and more expansive — and free — public transportation system.

Carol Evoy, Ottawa

Help some, not all, transit users

Currently the average residential home owner pays about $600 annually for subsidizing OC Transpo. This is  not counting provincial and federal grants, which paid two-thirds of building light rail. So now we have proponents advocating for free transport, supported by the taxpayer.

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Most of the users of OC Transpo are using it to go to work, so they can afford to pay fares. I do not object to subsidizing welfare recipients, disabled people and seniors but the workers should realize others are paying half their fare. I am particularly aggravated by this discussion as for 20 years my workplace was not reachable by OC Transpo. So end this discussion now.

Richard Turle, Blackburn Hamlet

More tips for safer cycling

Re: Pedal power: Here are five simple tips to make the road safer for cyclists, April 11.

Generally, I dislike articles telling cyclists how to be safe because I feel they often deflect responsibility from drivers and place too much blame on cyclists for breaking traffic laws despite the numerous infractions by drivers every day. However, I appreciate Jill Barker prefacing these tips with an acknowledgement of the poor cycling conditions on many roads and the need for better infrastructure.

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I just wanted to add to the point about choosing a safe route by letting people know that Bike Ottawa has created a “Stress Map” classifying all the streets in the city and beyond (including towns such as Arnprior, Carleton Place, Kemptville and Casselman) by how stressful it is to ride on that street. Using this, you can always check your route ahead of time and adjust to find safe streets. This, and other helpful maps for cyclists, can be found at maps.bikeottawa.ca or with a simple Google search for “Bike Ottawa Maps.”

Eric Post, Ottawa

Build separate, safe lanes for bikes

Imagine the dirt roads 100 years ago, when cars and bicycles were pretty much equal in safety and speed. The fastest and most dangerous conveyances would have been horses.

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Over time, the speed of motorized vehicles increased immensely, but the speed of bicycles remained the same. Many safety features were added to cars, including air bags. The only safety feature for a bicycle is the riders’ helmet. Thousands more cars and trucks are on the streets, and roads have been built to accommodate only them.

Some bike paths were created when railroad tracks were removed. But the mantra of “share the road” is ludicrous because the participants are not on an equal playing field. Bicycles cannot be on the same road surface as motorized vehicles because it is extremely dangerous for the cyclist. We should build separate, safe lanes just for bicycles. European cities care about cyclists. Does Ottawa ?

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Shirley Webb, Stittsville

How to avoid controversial names

Re: NCC committee gets set to plunge into dangerous waters of toponomy, April 9.

Why do we have to use names for streets, highways and buildings? What was wrong with the Eastern and Western parkways? Simple, meaningful and they did not involve history or a name. There are numbers, such as Highway 417 or 10th Line, to name a few. These are boring, perhaps, but they don’t hurt or insult anyone.

So, why don’t we go back to keeping things simple and unbiased? Not forgetting the cost, both financial and in time, the confusion and chaos with toponomy is certainly not warranted. There are better things in which to invest our energies, both financial and mental, don’t you think?

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Nona Nalley, Orléans

City union has safety duties, too

Re: City union expresses concern over return to office plan amid COVID surge, April 8.

School children of all ages have been back in class for months. Surely office workers can now do the same.

The Civic Institute of Professional Personnel (CIPP) says it is the city’s responsibility to ensure the protection of its workforce. I always thought that health and safety was a joint union-management responsibility in a unionized environment. Surely, the CIPP requesting its members to mask and physically distance when they return to the workplace is a good place to start.

Brian Caines, Ottawa

Unspent defence money could help Ukraine

“Disgusted” is the most apt, and printable, word I can use to describe my feelings about the federal government’s unwillingness to send meaningful help, such as armoured vehicles or Harpoon missiles, to Ukraine.

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For goodness sake, the Canadian Forces’ budget was underspent by hundreds of millions. Surely, some of this money could be used to get this equipment to the courageous Ukrainians.

John Fraser, Ottawa

Sanction Russia’s friends, too

Re: United Nations suspends Russia from human rights body over Ukraine, April 7.

I notice that 24 countries voted against expelling Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, which in my view puts them on side with Russia. Certainly, then, these countries deserve the same sanctions against them as Russia is receiving.

Hope somebody in Canada’s Parliament is paying attention.

Bruce Saunders, Ottawa

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