News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Monday, January 14, 2008

Socialism Alive and Well in Calgary Mayor's office

Calgary is often said to be a Conservative city. A glance at the political representatives seems to agree - all 8 MPs are Conservative, including Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada. At Provincial level, the 2004 election saw all 12 suburban seats and 8 of the 11 central seats won by PCs, including then Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. It's been like that for decades.

Yet the "Independent" Mayor is Dave Bronconnier, who was re-elected in October with another thumping majority, albeit with a miniscule turnout of less than 30%. Red Dave is the de facto leader of Alberta's left, in a province with few officials elected under either the Liberal of NDP banner. His politics would look less out of place in Pyongyang.

Today, Bronco's asking Calgary's Aldermen to vote through is proposal to nationalise housing in the city. Following North Korea's model of governance, the controversial decision will be taken behind closed doors. So much for democracy.

The proposal is to buy up 46 units which have already been developed in the beltline. They have been finised to a high standard, with granite counter tops in the kitchens, for instance. The nationalised homes will be sprinkled throughout the block, meaning that those who have already purchased units will not know whether their neighbours are being subsidised to attain the same living standards.

Of course, Calgary's housing shortage is a serious problem. However, I question whether this is the solution. These apartments are units which have not sold on the open market. They're not unique, and Bronco's already boasting that word is spreading amongst developers with flats on their hands that the city council has its cheque book at the ready. To me, that means one thing. The flats were overpriced. If the mayor hadn't stepped in, the prices would have fallen to a level that the market could sustain. Instead, by stepping in to buy these units, the mayor is artificially inflating prices. That is, he has become part of the problem which he is trying to solve!

Who's actually gaining from the nationalisation of these properties? Not the taxpayer, who has been lumbered with the cost of buying at the top of a precarious market. Not the occupants of the block who paid full price for their units, who will soon find themselves living cheek to cheek with subsidised tennants, who will get to have the same living standards and a fraction of the cost, paid for out of their own city taxes! It's not the young people who are currently struggling to afford to get onto the property ladder either - they have been gazumped by the city just as property looked to be coming into their reach.

The main winners are the developers. They get to sell property which the market had judged to be overpriced - not a bad deal. Longer term, the winners will be the bureaucrats at city hall. Once they can control our homes, they can control our lives. And that's exectly what every socialist secretly dreams of. Bronco will be feeling an almost erotic sense of excitement at the prospect of stitching up a generation into the cult of government. Reliant upon him, how could they resist voting for ever bigger government controlled from the centre? The reality that any organisation controlled from its centre is controlled for its centre.

The city should not get into this. Let us not forget that only 12.5% of people who live in Calgary (including minors) and less than 20% of those eligible to vote actually voted for Bronco's brand of secret socialism. Many of those will have done so blissfully unaware of his desires. The only long term solution is to work with the market to ensure that supply in the city meets demand, allowing the price to naturally reach a sustainable level. Instead, the city's embarking on an unsustainable road, and wasting taxpayers' money which could and should be used to provide the infrastructure needed for a rapidly expanding city. It was only a few weeks ago that the city had to vote on suspending development of new areas of the city due to a shortage of planners! It's the blind leading the blind.

Of course the vote hasn't happened yet. We can all hope that the sensible aldermen will win the debate, preventing Bronco from launching his wild socialist experiment on unsuspecting Calgarians.

1 comment:

Radley77 said...

Well-written article, Dan! I entirely agree with your sentiments. Why would the City of Calgary socialize housing? It certainly is not benefiting the people that may have bought or rented the property on the free market instead.

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