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Remove those monstrosities

After reading Sudden silos concern residents (Sept. 18), I drove by these towering structures that have instantly devalued the homes of River Heights residents facing them on Lindsay Street. I was outraged at this industrial assault on the rights of innocent and vulnerable homeowners and equally alarmed about what these giant silos are meant to contain.

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Apart from the esthetics of plunking such ugly things down where they don't belong, there is a justifiable concern that doing so in the dead of night adds a surreptitious or nefarious aspect to the act, hinting at a plan to house toxic chemicals there. And just what is this shipper who has leased the property from the BNSF Railway shunting around in the tank cars sitting on the site, feet away from families with children?

Formerly the home of benign little market gardens local residents leased, this property has suddenly become a perceived threat to its environment.

The city's land use, planning and legal departments need to band together and put a halt to this, after demanding that Fort Distributors reveal if there will be chemicals or other dangerous goods on-site and exactly what will be stored in those silos (one of them has a large stain on one side, which may or may not suggest the presence of liquid). This is, after all, a Winnipeg company, which must be answerable to the concerns of fellow Winnipeggers, and which certainly had a moral obligation to clear this inappropriate installation with the city in advance, yet did not do so.

These silos need to be moved outside city limits. Even if they prove to contain nothing more threatening than grain, they are an insult to the neighbourhood and must go.

Judy Samson


Subsidies are democratic

The Free Press has taken a strong stand against the public subsidy of political parties (Another political tax grab, Sept. 17). There are sound, democratic reasons for supporting it, and the practice is widespread, including in the U.S.

The cornerstone of democracy is that everyone is equal: Every citizen has one vote, and our elections have a number of rules in place to ensure that our elections and political parties aren't simply taken over by monied interests.

The public subsidy was introduced to make up for the loss in revenue that occurred following campaign finance reform. Union and business donations were both banned, in Manitoba by the NDP and by the Liberals at the federal level.

There are several benefits of a public subsidy. It is transparent; there is no question of undue influence in exchange for favourable treatment; since it is per-vote it should encourage political parties to get out the vote as much as possible and not just concentrate on where they can win.

By funding parties that have popular appeal but no wealthy backers, it levels the playing field. These are all elements of a healthy democracy.

Political parties and elections are already subsidized to a large degree: Donations are tax-deductible (up to 75 per cent). Election campaign spending is eligible for a government "rebate" of 50 per cent. No one, to my knowledge, is suggesting that these measures -- which cost more than the subsidy -- be eliminated.

But these measures all reward the winner. The more they spend, the more they get back. The per-vote subsidy is one of the few taxpayer-funded measures where the amount relates to results, not just spending.

The number of people who actually donate to political parties is very small. They do it for different reasons, ranging from true believers who donate only to their own party to people who expect something in return, and will donate to whoever is in power.

The party in power has unlimited access to the public purse to spend promoting themselves in saturation advertising on multimillion-dollar TV, radio and newspapers campaigns. The opposition literally cannot afford to respond except through a press release. The Manitoba NDP and federal Conservative governments have both adopted this strategy.

Without public subsidy of opposition parties, the situation is even worse.

It is a strange argument to argue that since we live in a democracy, we should not use public funds to try to ensure the political process is free from undue influence.

Dougald Lamont



The Free Press rejects the practice of using per-vote subsidies to political parties as undemocratic and urges the Manitoba government to "get its funding from people who truly want to support its policies."

Forgive me for my naiveté, but I was under the impression that my casting of a ballot during an election is the cornerstone of democracy and that this action speaks loud and clear as to which political party's policies I truly want to support.

I would argue that current taxpayer-funded subsidies to both political parties and to private political donations are overgenerous and concentrate power in the hands of too few people.

A generous per-vote subsidy would, I believe, expand the political arena by giving equal power to all citizens who cast a ballot, whether or not they can afford to contribute to the party of their choosing.

This would also go a long way to alleviate the apathy of many citizens, especially young adults, who now question how casting a ballot makes any difference to the way politics is currently conducted.

Now that would be true democracy.

Evelyn Fletcher



I agree that funding for political parties should indeed come from people who want to support their policies. In our democracy, we measure that support by voting, so logically the funding should be per vote.

A per-vote subsidy is much more democratic than the current system of tax deductions for political donations. It's time to end subsidies for political donations and fund parties based on their popular vote alone.

Steven Robbins


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2012 A12

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