Letters to the Editor for Mar. 3

Letters to the Editor discussing everything from affordable housing to conservative views and a personal story about a job loss.

Letter to the Editor re: Fernie’s housing market

I appreciate you bringing up the issue of affordable housing in Fernie. As a young(er) person looking to start a family, buy a home, etc., I often feel overwhelmed and disillusioned when looking at houses in the area as they are and will continue to be with very little exception, out of my price range. Those aforementioned exceptions are in various stages of disrepair, and also probably haunted.

Sometimes I feel like the City of Fernie is more focused on getting people to visit, rather than getting people to stay, and sorting out the housing situation would go a long way to rectify that. How would we go about doing that?

I don’t know. I don’t have any answers. All I know is that to get people to live here, to get people to stay here, to get people to grow old here and have kids here and have their kids have kids here, they need to be able to afford it. Period.

Poorly yours,

Michael EmoryFernie, B.C.


Letter to the Editor re: Fernie’s housing market

While I appreciate the thoughts in last week’s editorial about “affordable housing” in B.C. in general and Fernie in particular, I think the piece only deals with half the problem. The affordability of housing is determined by both the price of the housing and the standard prevailing wage in the area. Together these two factors determine the affordability of housing.

Seventy per cent of the economy in the valley is supported by the Teck mines. Teck directly employs over 4000 individuals locally. Add in the suppliers and associated contractors (Finning, Bears’ Paw, etc) and the effect is even greater. These are high paying jobs with great benefits.

If you talk to real estate agents, most of the activity in the last year involved resource extraction based employment families—mining and timber. Second home sales to Alberta residents were few and far between.

Most of the non-mining jobs are minimal skill positions paying far less.  We have a two-tier wage system. Until the second (lower) tier starts being paid more, in line with the top, housing will remain unaffordable to the lower tier. The market is driven by the top tier employees.

Many of the second-tier employers claim that labour is a substantial part of their operating costs.  This is untrue. The greatest expense is capital investment and recovery.

Here are a couple of easily seen examples:

A Tim Horton’s costs somewhere between $450,000 and $1 million to set up, depending on whom you believe. The parent company takes 17 per cent off the top every month plus the franchisee must buy everything from Tim’s parent company.  Labour will not be the big item obviously.

A ski lift costs something north of $3 million to install. Three lifties at say $11 an hour, 8 hours a day for a 130-day season racks up about $34,000 in labour costs. Double that for maintenance, again, minimal in comparison to the capital cost.

Look at the employees at Canadian Tire and then look at the building and the inventory. Again, the comparison of capital recovery to labour is a no-brainer.

This is not to say a business should not regain their capital investment. Essentially, the business seeks to recover the capital efficiently and uses the lowest labour cost possible all the time complaining about the “high” cost of labour.

Few businesses understand the cost of labour turnover and seek to retain their trained labour. I know of one restaurant paying more than $12 an hour to their dishwashers.  Some restaurants don’t pay Red Seal chefs $12 an hour. I know of a retail shop starting sales people at $16 an hour. Turnover is minimal and people grow and move up the ladder in each business.

Most businesses would rather replace than pay more. A false savings.

The long-term stagnation of lower tier wages is a far greater factor in the affordable housing equation than the market based price of the homes.

Keith LiggettFernie, B.C.


Letter to the Editor re: Reply to Gerald Hall

There must be something in the water on Vancouver Island.

First of all there were the painful chunterings of Joe Sawchuk writing from Duncan to your Letters to the Editor column, and now the purblind verbiage of Gerald Hall, writing from Nanoose Bay.

Apparently Gerald has, since Election Day, 2015, dedicated his life to blanketing B.C.’s newspapers with his myopic and unreconstructed Harperite conservatism, a brand of politics trashed 2-to-1 by Canadian voters last October 19, and now channeled for us by the warped and Trumpish Kevin O’Leary seeking the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada

So Gerald penned a baseless and generalized attack on Canadian moral support for the thaw in Iranian-American relations (The Free Press, Feb.4) claiming that Iran is the seat of a world-wide terrorist conspiracy – naturally ignoring the fact that Saudi Arabia, the Conservative Party’s closest Arab ally in the Middle East, was home to 16 of the 19 Twin Towers terrorists, and that in 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton admitted that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups.”

Then both Gerald, in The Free Press, Feb. 18, and Candice Bergen, Conservative MP for Portage-Lisgar, on CBC Radio, Feb.17, ranted about non-fossil fuel energy – naturally ignoring the progressive and increasingly successful use of renewable resources in many northern European countries: Sweden, for example, seems set to be fossil-fuel free by 2050.

His latest outburst was on euthanasia in Canada (The Free Press, Feb. 25) – naturally ignoring the fact that the practice was accepted unanimously in principle by our Supreme Court in February, 2015

Doubtless Gerald will continue to gnaw away at the federal Liberals – naturally ignoring the fact that he and his ilk, just like the Bourbon dynasty, returning to the French throne in 1816 after the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, have ‘learned nothing and forgotten nothing’, and that getting rid of the Harper government was, as one commentator observed, like being released from a Turkish prison.

JC Vallance,Fernie, B.C.


Letter to the Editor re: Disability funding

In the Budget recently presented to the B.C. legislature, Finance Minister de Jong announced that those receiving disability assistance in B.C. will, as of Sept. 1,  receive an increase of $77 per month.  This was a modest, but welcome, bit of news for the 100,000 people receiving disability assistance which has been frozen at $906 a month since 2007.

But before we start congratulating the government for its largesse, it is important for the public to know that the increase will be partially cancelled for about 55,000 people who currently receive free monthly transit passes.  The government will soon stop paying for those passes, resulting in an additional cost to the disabled of $52 per month.

To date the government has felt that transportation subsidies were necessary to ensure easy access to public transit systems in our large urban centres, since for most people with disabilities these systems are their only method of mobility.

A reversal in this policy of transportation subsidy means that the current increase in disability benefits lauded by the government as generous and long overdue, becomes a mean-spirited claw-back of an essential service and results in a very modest increase in the disability pension of only $25 a month.

Coleen PelletierFernie, B.C.


Letter to the Editor re: Job loss

I lost my job of 23 years to someone else in 2015. I was a contractor at Englishman Creek on Lake Koocanusa. I was pretty devastated.

Every five years, the contract comes up. The first of the five years is a trial year. I honestly thought I had a chance for 2016 that was even told to me.

All I was told last year was that I had it too long. What’s wrong with that? I did a good job, I was clean, kind and cared about all of my customers.

It took me years and I built up a regular cliental, something the new people benefit from.

I’m glad they didn’t tell me I was too old. I live on my pension, which barely gets me by anymore. I’m not ready for a rocking chair yet. Because of my minimal income, I can no longer afford to give my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren any gifts anymore. It makes me feel like crap.

You know it’s terrible to get old and you still have your health but nobody wants you.

I love that job – it was my life. I managed to do something I would never have dreamed about in my early years. I was a nobody and became a somebody because I cared. I love camping and that job was right up my alley.

Margaret BlumhagenFernie, B.C.



Letter to the Editor: Lights on highways

Here’s my question.  When is someone going to do something about the crazy lights on our highways?  I have spoken with many people and the consensus is the same.  Driving lights, the bright blue white lights, light bars, fog lights, pencil beam lights, and the newest spaceship looking lights around the headlights are blinding to oncoming traffic.  This is especially true if the roads are wet or snow-covered, or are in bad shape from a winter of snow removal that has scraped the lines basically into non-existence.

It seems we have lost the necessity for individual responsibility.  I would estimate 40 per cent of all people driving are using some form of these lights.  One of the saddest things I see is that the transport trucks are using them more and more too.

I would hate to guess how many of the crashes and deaths with undetermined causes have occurred because people were blinded by these lights.  I know in the past that some vehicles came with some form of these lights straight out of the factory.  I also recall that some of these lights became legal because they were on the vehicle when the vehicle came out of the factory.  Obviously LED lights around the headlights are simply a selling feature and some people think they look cool and space-age.

I speculate that most people think they can drive faster because they have brighter lights.  I also speculate that some people think they will see a deer, elk or another kind of animal in time to avoid hitting it.  The fact is, reducing your speed is the only real cure.  Posted speed limits are tested speeds that have been determined the maximum speed that we can go with a relatively, not perfect, chance of having a safe trip to wherever it is we are going.  Unlike older times these speeds are considered okay for day or night.  I do remember a time when speed limits were posted as a higher speed during the day and a lower one at night.

To me that would be common sense but in a faster world with somewhat better maintained and more well constructed roads we think one speed limit will do.  I was taught to do the speed limit plus 10 per cent.

I was taught that, not because it was safe, but because I most likely would not get a speeding ticket if I didn’t exceed that boundary.

Part of the reasoning was that speedometers were not that accurate, though in today’s day and age with all the new technology that argument has been deflated.  As a matter of fact most arguments are simply to get the guilty out of trouble in the courts of law. The lights and the speed are both obviously detrimental to the health of everyone on our roads whether it’s individuals or families. So, when, and now who, is going to do something to make the roads safe and equal for everyone again.

Is our Government going to stand up to the manufacturers, are class 1 drivers going to lead the way instead of just being drivers of big trucks, are R.C.M.P.  going to be more present on the roads to enforce the laws where they can, or are we as individuals going to be responsible and just say no to what is wrong?

Ted MellenthinFernie, B.C.