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Beyond MPI's mandate

Re: It's about keeping a lid on MPI rates: Swan (Nov. 2). Andrew Swan can't understand why Conservative leader Brian Pallister would reject an MPI investment in road infrastructure out of hand. I don't know where to start in response, but road repair is not one of their mandates.

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Canada's Motor Fuel Act was implemented specifically to raise funds from the users of the roads, bridges, etc. to maintain them. Research shows that between 33 and 55 per cent of the cost of fuel, depending on locale, is excise tax. There hasn't been one governing party that has put the billions collected annually wholly towards infrastructure.

Let's start here -- all motor fuel taxes strictly for infrastructure. The rest becomes moot.



Re: Apply brakes to MPI (Oct. 30). If MPI indeed "should stick to the business of providing coverage at the lowest cost possible," then it is in the best interests of ratepayers to fund infrastructure improvements. This does not mean a routine resurfacing of Henderson Highway, but targeted safety improvements such as new left-turn lanes.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), has operated a road-improvement program since 1990. Over that time, they have invested more than $100 million in infrastructure safety improvements. The result has been a reduction in collision frequency and severity as well as a net benefit to ICBC's bottom line.

The infrastructure investments had a benefit cost ratio of 12.8 over a five-year service life. This means that for each dollar invested, $12.80 less was paid out in claims. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

MPI's current healthy financial situation affords the corporation a level of security and flexibility. It is therefore an opportune time to include physical road safety improvements as part of MPI's road safety program, to save lives and save money in the long run. With our large infrastructure deficit, this is a win-win deal for everyone.



I am cynical of the contention by MPI that spending resources, which rightly belongs to the people it insures, will reduce claims through increased road safety. It seems that this desire is motivated by the fact that this corporation is running surpluses in the hundreds of millions.

If it was in a deficit, it would no doubt be asking for substantial increase in premiums and I doubt it would be clamouring for the province to increase spending on infrastructure. The government has instituted taxes supposedly for infrastructure. Consequently, those who argue that any infrastructure expenditure by MPI represents another tax have a substantial case.

Instead of trying to find ways to spend huge surpluses, MPI should be looking at its own management to determine if it is discharging its responsibility to the people insures.



Barry Craig, Don Paetkau, Johanna Denesiuk and Cal Paul (Premium misuse, Letters, Oct. 30) are apparently unaware that we have the lowest automobile insurance rates in North America. Similarly, people are continually complaining about Manitoba Hydro, although they give us the lowest electricity rates in North America.

Maybe these people would be happier if these two services were privatized, as is MTS. At least then they would know that, as the rates keep going up and up every month, the extra revenue is going straight to the shareholders and not being wasted on wild-eyed ideas like wireless service to farmers out in the boonies.



I can well understand the need and desire to improve upon our roadways, etc., but until the motorists of this province demonstrate a willingness to improve upon their driving skills and road etiquette in general, no amount of infrastructure renewal will serve to make our streets safer.




Appalling results

Re: PM blasts guards' actions in Smith case (Oct. 30). In his response to Corrections Canada, Stephen Harper is forgetting that it was his own government that set the stage for this horrific incident, with Bill C-10.

The Tories voted against a number of amendments to C-10, including those that would have promoted humane treatment of young persons with mental illness. Instead, we continue to criminalize mental illness, with appalling results.

As a nurse, I am particularly horrified by how Ashley Smith was treated, not only by individuals but by the system.




Worth the outlay

Reading the story Oct. 30 story Desert perfect place for solar power unless you're a turtle reminds me of plans by a U.S. company to replace asphalt roads with solar panels under special, tough-textured glass.

Although more expensive than conventional materials, these modular solar panels would pay their way with solar generated power and are designed to last longer than traditional roads. Being modular, defective panels could be easily replaced as needed.

As a bonus, solar roads in snowy regions would not need to be plowed, since the panels would generate sufficient heat to melt snow falling on them.

Considering there are over 100,000 square kilometres of paved road in the U.S. alone, that would translate into a huge amount of solar power, and desert tortoises could keep their existing habitat.




Equipped to spend

Re: 'Sheriff' Struthers content to continue robbing from poor (Oct. 29), I am surprised to find Shannon Martin, and others on the right, take a sudden interest in "the poor," considering that whenever the government decrees a 25-cent-an-hour minimum wage increase, they holler bloody murder and predict economic collapse.

Of course, as Martin says, a wage increase is revenue neutral for the government. We can't stand for that, can we?

I do agree with the idea of raising the basic personal income tax exemption, but it would have to be done in a way that will not impoverish the government. With reduced funds, it would be hard for the government to maintain such tired old benefits as schools, hospitals and infrastructure, and it would be hard for individuals to provide these amenities for themselves. In these areas, the government is definitely the best equipped to spend our money.

The recommended changes to the basic personal exemption would be revenue neutral to the government if we imposed a corresponding tax increase on those individuals and companies who can best afford to pay it.




Bouquet for Books

I'm writing to compliment you on your excellent book-review section. Each week I read about books I just have to have, so I rush out to the library or the bookstore.

Usually the books that have been positively reviewed are every bit as good as I expected. So I have had many a great read as a result.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 A17

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