Right in the centre - Myths and movements


By Ken Waddell
Neepawa Banner & Press

There are many myths out there and unfortunately, they often generate a movement with steadfast followers.

Myth #1: Tommy Douglas was the father of Canadian Medicare.

No, he wasn’t. Matt Anderson, from Bulyea, Saskatchewan, was the father of medicare. Canadian medicare did have its Canadian start in Saskatchewan in 1938 and was adopted by Douglas some 20 years later.

Myth #2: Medicare covers all medical costs and situations.

No, even Tommy Douglas’ adoption of medicare didn’t cover all medical costs, far from it. And no, today, far from all medical costs are covered by Canadian medicare.

Myth #3: If the government pays for it, it is free.

No, if the government pays for it, it is not free, it comes from all our pockets and often at a much higher rate than if the service was delivered by a private person or company.

Myth #4: Governments have cut expenses to the bone and can’t cut any more.

No, Governments haven’t cut to the bone yet and likely never will. In the province of Manitoba, where there are 14,000 provincial civil servants on the public payroll, plus workers at Crown corporations, plus health care workers, plus workers at all levels of education, from day care to university. A government will likely never get enough sympathy or votes to actually cut expenses to the bone.

Myth #5:  You have to have a university degree to________! You fill in the blank. The list  now includes a dizzying array of jobs from day care worker, to teacher, to accountant and the list goes on. Basically, our society worships a bit too much at the alter of education. Many people today have invested huge amounts of money into 20 per cent of the cost of a university degree and while education is light to carry around, it may not have equipped them to get a meaningful job. And please note, I said 20 per cent of the cost. Our tax dollars have paid for 80 per cent of every university degree out there, whether it resulted in a good job or not.

Myth #6: The housing crisis will be solved if we have more public housing.

No, it won’t. The housing industry has been geared to building bigger and more expensive houses because that is where the profits are. The real need is for modest and affordable housing. A tour of any town or city in Canada will show that housing growth has largely been in the “mortgage heights” sections of town. There is no real  way of curbing the material, labour and land resources going into expensive high end housing and directing it to more affordable housing. Well, there may be a way, but it would mean putting punitive taxes on the higher end housing or putting huge incentives on lower end housing so builders could actually make a profit  on so-called affordable housing.

Myth #7: The government has control of housing regulations.

Partly true, but not totally true. The government makes rules about zoning and building codes liberally across the industry, but they do little to enforce housing rules, especially in existing housing. There is almost no control on over-crowding, illegal renovations and safety violations in housing, be it public or private. A town or city cannot even conduct random fire inspections on housing, which seems ridiculous, given that many communities suffer from some over-crowding and some run down housing stock.

Myth #8: If we only had a higher minimum wage, poor people and students would be better off.

No, raising the minimum wage destroys jobs. Employers cut back on hours of operation and employee’s hours. Employers are very reluctant to hire green student workers as they can hire an experienced adult for the same wages. Minimum wages need to rise slowly and there needs to be a student, entry level wage rate.

The overall answer: If we can bust some of the myths about public spending, perhaps we will achieve greater economic growth. The only way to make real progress is to apply the truth to any problem.