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Sign of the times

Nice to read that Mayor Sam Katz has decided to do the right thing by tying up some loose ends in his personal business affairs (Mayor severs link to Shindico, Oct. 23).

There are, however, some things that cannot be fixed -- his arrogance and lack of judgment that make him think he still has some credibility with the electorate.

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The reality is the only option he has is to resign and what better time than now? Winter is on the way, and he has a place in Arizona he got for a great price.

Heck, if he resigns we could name a street for him. I think Coun. Harvey Smith already has the sign.




I'm feeling very sorry for the folks of Winnipeg. The irresponsible activities of your mayor, council and administration are embarrassing, to say the least.

The blame games are more embarrassing. These officials are responsible for looking after the community's best interest in a manner that brings pride to the community. How is the community pride today? Damaged badly.




If you're a Crown prosecutor and you dismiss legal charges against a company and they then donate $65,000 to a worthy charity whose board you chair (but from which you receive no personal benefit), you get fired (Crown attorney fights firing, Oct. 23).

If you are a public CAO and you direct staff to manipulate processes to favour a commercial venture with close ties to your close friend, you are given a few hundred thousand dollars as a parting gift and allowed to resign.




Missing the thesis

I cannot tell what point, if any, Ken Klassen is trying to make in his Oct. 19 letter in apparent criticism of Graham Lane's Oct. 16 op-ed piece, Hydro has conflict with gas.

Klassen says Lane neglected to cite his source for the figures he used in his piece. I cannot speak to this matter, as I am not privy to any sources Lane might have used.

Klassen points out Lane's estimated costs are higher than Hydro's similar estimates. Did Klassen not notice what Lane's thesis was? It is less expensive to heat a home with natural gas than with electricity; Manitoba Hydro, as the supplier of both electricity and gas, has a natural bias toward hydro-electricity.

Whether Lane's or Hydro's figures are accurate, both demonstrate that gas is a less expensive way to heat a home than electricity.

I note also that Hydro has emphasized gas heating is less expensive than electrical heating in a recent flyer sent to all Hydro customers.




The cost of Mincome

Congratulations to the Free Press for encouraging Brian Pallister to begin a discussion about the feasibility of introducing a guaranteed income (Progressive conservative, Editorials, Oct. 19).

But the editorial states a guaranteed income is expensive, claiming a limited experiment in Dauphin in the mid-1970s cost $17 million. In fact, the Mincome Manitoba project was conducted in Dauphin, Winnipeg and a few rural communities. The entire four-year experiment in all of the communities cost $17 million, but that included both the cost of the guaranteed income and the very significant cost of running the experiment, including the research directors, the statisticians, the interviewers who gathered data from families, the keypunch operators who entered the data, and so on.

More important, however, the cost of continuing our current strategy of running an inefficient employment and income-assistance program that off-loads significant costs onto other sectors is very high. We found the hospitalization rate fell by 8.5 per cent for people who received a guaranteed income from Mincome, compared with people just like them who did not get the guaranteed income.

To put that in perspective, Manitoba Health currently spends $2.5 billion a year on hospitals. Potential savings amount to $213 million annually in hospitals alone.

We also saw significant reductions in visits to doctors, particularly visits motivated by mental-health issues. I suspect these costs might be even higher today.


University of Manitoba


The main Mincome Manitoba project was held in Winnipeg in the form of a controlled experiment in which some 3,000 low-income households received monthly payments for three years in order to provide a statistical estimate of the labour supply of the working poor members of the labour force. I worked on the project for several years as a senior statistician.

The idea was to replace most, if not all, income support systems. But unlike welfare, workers who chose to enter the labour force were allowed to retain a good portion of their earnings, thus encouraging a greater participation in the active labour force. The whole payment system would be run by a taxation department using the concept of a negative income tax.

Mincome Manitoba was initiated by then Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau and NDP premier Ed Schreyer. The project lasted for almost a decade and cost in total $17.3 million, 75 per cent of which was paid by the federal government. Mincome Manitoba was terminated by the Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark soon after his election in 1979. A proper analysis of the rich and extensive data base, unique in Canada, was never undertaken.

A subsequent estimate of labour-force participation was done at the economics department at the University of Manitoba. It detected some withdrawal of labour, but the conclusions must remain tentative given the statistical difficulties that plagued the complex process of conducting an experiment involving human beings.




Barking and biting

Re: Duffy outlines 'conspiracy' (Oct 23). It is safe to say the appointed "lapdog" has turned on its master.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 24, 2013 A12

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