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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wants lenders to back off mortgage cuts. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wants lenders to back off mortgage cuts. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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March 21: Mortgage-rate politics, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Glass-house mortgages

Twice in recent weeks, the Minister of Finance has chastised Canada’s lenders for offering discounted mortgages, which he feels will overstimulate the precarious housing market (Flaherty Pushes Up Lending Rates – March 20).

The difference between Manulife’s discounted 2.89-per-cent rate and its previous rate of 3.09 per cent for a five-year mortgage amounts to $10 a month, on a $100,000 loan – a saving of $600 over five years. Meanwhile, the minister is spending $185-million this year to hand out tax credits worth $750 to to first-time buyers to “help people buy homes.” I’m not sure $750 really makes a difference!

So the minister should ask himself: Who is really overstimulating the housing market, and at what cost to taxpayers? Hint: People dwelling in glass houses should not throw stones.

Steve Pomeroy, Carleton University Centre for Urban Research and Education

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If Jim Flaherty is so concerned about Canadians’ debt, perhaps he would like to call the banks and tell them to slash their extortionate credit-card interest rates?

No? Didn’t think so.

Andrew Mullins, Montreal

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Why does the Harper government trust Canadians with guns and not mortgages?

John Gauger, Vancouver

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Keep Experimental Lakes Area afloat

Re MPs Plead To Save Research Site (March 20): I am contributing to the new, unnecessary Office of Religious Freedoms (cost, $5-million), while watching the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area (estimated saving, $2-million).

This unique site allows scientists to perform important experiments in a system of closed lakes. A number on ongoing projects will be lost with the ELA’s closure. Water is one of our greatest assets. We need research to help us understand the impact of our industrial practices on this precious resource so we can make informed environmental decisions.

Really, the mind boggles: The projected savings are so small when considered against the overall federal budget, especially when counted against the benefits of maintaining the research station.

Catherine Maunsell, Toronto

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It’s still dependency

Given the disconnect between first-nations poverty and the enormous wealth being extracted from their backyards, I’m heartened by news of a special envoy to consult with them and “think boldly and creatively about the types of economic benefit that can flow from resource projects to ensure that all communities share in the increased prosperity” (Harper Appoints First Nations Adviser – March 20).

Unfortunately, evidence suggests that, unless a first nation is a signatory to a modern treaty, or has otherwise developed a system of governance outside the Indian Act that ensures accountability and transparency, direct infusions of resource revenues may not be distributed or invested effectively. And individuals who pursue training opportunities are often the first to leave after securing employment, knowing better schools and direct flights to remote sites await them in the city. Those who choose to remain are at risk of falling victim to the influx of drugs, alcohol and organized crime that inevitably follows the money, especially in remote communities lacking adequate security and mental health services.

All the money in the world won’t “ensure that all communities share in the increased prosperity” of resource development until the reserve system itself is fundamentally re-examined by first nations and governments alike. Merely substituting dependency on government transfers for dependency on resource revenue sharing is not the answer.

Ross Holden, Gatineau, Que.

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Hockey’s No. 4s

With all due respect to Bobby Orr, there’s only one hockey player who should be called “No. 4,” and he turned 81 last Aug. 31 (No. 4 Turns 65 – Sports, March 20). As the winner of more Stanley Cups than anyone else (10 as a player and seven as an executive), Jean Béliveau is entitled to that honour. Nonetheless, happy birthday to Mr. Orr. May he age as gracefully as the original “No. 4.”

Don Sancton, Beaconsfield, Que.

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No to rip it, ship it

It’s true that many American-based unions support pipelines such as the Keystone XL because they would create thousands of construction and refining jobs south of the border (Mulcair Mysteries – editorial, March 20). But Canadian workers oppose the trend toward shipping value-added jobs down the pipeline to the Gulf Coast (and perhaps China). What Canada really needs is a national strategy for adding value to our resources before we approve any more raw-export pipelines.

Once bitumen pipelines like Keystone XL are built, the options available to Canadians narrow dramatically. This kind of rip-it-and-ship-it infrastructure will lock us even more firmly into the lowest rung of the value ladder. That’s something our policymakers should be opposing, not celebrating.

Gil McGowan, president, Alberta Federation of Labour

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National Geographic’s appeal

Having enjoyed National Geographic magazine and used it as a research tool, I share Michael Parfit’s lament that its channel is vulgarizing its brand for erudite and reliable knowledge by indulging in the crass commercialism of trash TV (UFOs, Bigfoot And Booze. This Is National Geographic? – March 20).

The NG channel thereby joins The Learning Channel, A&E and the History Channel, with their Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Say Yes to the Dress, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Ancient Aliens and Swamp People, as having lost the educative purpose for which viewers such as my children and I used to watch. Rather than pander to the lowest common denominator, NG channel should emulate the magazine’s still-high standards to enhance its brand, so that we will watch it again.

Sean M. Kennedy, Oakville, Ont.

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Stonemason PM

Lawrence Martin suggests Jean Chrétien was “Canada’s one and arguably only blue-collar prime minister” (Our Proletarian Ex-PM Still Plays The Outsider – March 18). Alexander Mackenzie toiled as a stonemason before becoming Canada’s second prime minister (and the first Liberal to occupy that position) in 1873. Known more for his high ethical standards than for his political acumen – Mackenzie went down to defeat at the hands of John A. Macdonald’s Tories after a single term in power – his working-class background stood him in good stead while he was in office. In drawing up plans for the Parliament buildings (completion of which Mackenzie oversaw as minister of public works), he designed a special staircase that would allow him to avoid the unseemly appeals of patronage-seekers lurking outside his office.

Denis McKim, Sackville, N.B.

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