Right in the centre - About rules and the ridiculous


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner 

I just read two articles this morning that are enough to make an ordinary person cry. The first was about the many goofy ideas that get government grants. Some of the things we give government grants to are absolutely insane, such as groups making porn films, just as an example.

The second article is about how the government of Manitoba has adopted stricter building codes, especially concerning energy efficiency and insulation.

Government grants to absolutely goofy, and in some cases very harmful, initiatives will do nothing to help Manitobans. Neither will stricter building codes. Manitoba building codes are already restrictive enough, we have some of the highest insulation and structural standards in the world. We sometimes have huge snow loads, but when was the last time you saw a properly maintained house roof collapse. In fact, house roof collapses are extremely rare. Insulation standards are far higher than they used to be. In the 1950s, you could still build a house with no insulation whatsoever. Now you have to have several layers and at least 2 x 6 inch wall insulation and so many layers of air barriers that it’s almost ridiculous. So now we have raised the standards again. Has the government gone insane? Do they not realize that there is a huge scarcity of investment capital for housing, especially affordable housing in Manitoba? To make the regulations even more strict will not trigger investment at a time when we so badly need it.

The article goes on to say that, under the new regulations, renovation will be more affordable relative to new construction but renovation only works if there is a building to renovate. In Neepawa, we had a 100 room building, East View Lodge, to renovate into 40 suites of affordable housing. The government so badly bungled that deal that it never happened, the building declined with neglect and all that’s left is a scruffy, grassy hill on the edge of town. Replacing that housing will cost in the range of $10 million. The grassy hill awaits but, worse yet, also waiting are dozens of people who need seniors housing. Behind  them in the waiting line are even more dozens of working families who need housing.

By the way, the minister who screwed up the EVL deal was Theresa Oswald, a leadership candidate for premier. Oswald is rightly considered a bright politician but she badly messed up the EVL deal. She also claimed to support a new hospital for this region for several years but all that’s been done so far is to have some soils tests on a highly questionable location for the hospital.

Our problem is not Oswald, or Selinger, nor will it be Pallister or any other single politician in the future. The problem is that, collectively, the public and the politicians do not have the courage to call “bullshit”. Now that’s a cruder expression than print readers are usually comfortable with but, as Manitobans, we have to be prepared to make that call.

We don’t need higher insulation standards in Manitoba, we just don’t. We don’t need the extra cost and extra energy to make low range electric cars. And, God help you when the battery wears out as it will cost a fortune to replace. And then from a recycling point of view, where do you stick the dead battery. We can’t even recycle fluorescent light bulbs any more because it’s just too expensive and impractical. Let’s face it, how do you transport, highly breakable light tubes to a recycling depot? You don’t, they go in the garage can. Not nice, not good for the environment but what choice do you have?

Regardless of who the new NDP leader becomes or when the PC party comes into government, we need to take a serious look at everything we do and ask whether it makes sense or not. Do we really need to fund a militant arts community that insists on creating porn as a feminist militant statement? Do we need to make grants to artists that nobody wants to see or hear. If a musician has to have a job to support their music passion, is that a bad thing?

Government grants should be for infrastructure that benefits everyone. Government grants shouldn’t be for industry, artists or activists.

Government regulations should make it easier for people to invest in housing, not more difficult.

Our towns and cities have thousands of houses that were built 60 and more years ago and no, they aren’t up to today’s standards. They do house people quite adequately when properly maintained. Maybe we should spend some of the government grant money on teaching tenants how to look after a rental property, how to buy a house and how to fix it up.

Today’s catch phrase is “Housing First.” It’s a good policy but if we waste government money on ridiculous rules and projects, we may never achieve our housing goals.