I wanted to talk today about the Rent Control debate that has been raging across the province for the past month. In the past week or 2 it has been supplanted, to some degree, by the spat between Bronco and Ed over funding for municipalities. But, if you listen very carefully, you can still hear the opposition parties crying foul over the lack of Rent Controls in this province.
The only voices crying out louder than the opposition parties themselves are the self-righteous hounds of the main-stream media... self-appointed "defenders of the people", these columnists write about how Ed is stupid, Ray Danyluk is a clueless bumpkin, and how the entire cabinet looks like it was plucked off the streets of Mayberry.
THIS is the level to which the debate of ideas has been debased in today's media?
Look, full disclosure here: I'm a renter. In Calgary. I don't WANT to be a renter - I want to be a home-owner. But, unless I start getting 3 or 4 thousand hits per day on the Google Ads to the right of this column, that's not going to happen anytime soon, in Calgary. Maybe not in Alberta, for that matter. So I rent. From a "mega-landlord". I'm in an apartment slightly under 900 square feet. It's okay - it has it's problems, but so does every home - and I pay a shade over $1000 per month for the place. It JUST fits into my budget. If the landlord decides to raise the rent by $500 per month next year, will I have to move? Absolutely. Am I worried about it? Sure I am.
But, Henry and Martha Albertan don't hear my story. They don't hear it, because the same columnists who think Ray Danyluk's beard is a valid point of discussion on the housing issue are repeating the same mantra over and over again, like a Hari Krishna with OCD - "Tory's don't care about rent controls, because Tory's aren't renters."
At least 40 of the people I spoke with at the PC AGM in May were Tory party members, and renters. There goes that theory. But, god forbid that the media or opposition actually research their assertions!
"Tories are Tories because they have lots of money. And since it's a trueism that all Tories are well-off, it must stand to reason that no Tories are renters. In fact, a lot of them are probably land-lords."
"Makes sense to me... run with it. Those are all 100% fact, no need to check the figures."
I think some level of rent regulation would be a good thing. To be honest, I think we'll see it brought in, by a Stelmach government, within the next year. The market just isn't sustainable as it is, without some pressure to cool it off in a controlled fashion. The fact that it's not being brought in RIGHT THIS SECOND, as the NDP and Liberals want, is what people are seeing. They think that nothing's happening, because they SEE nothing happening. But this is a different government, and a different Premier. You're not going to see big, flashy presentations of thin, drawn-up-on-the-back-of-a-cocktail-napkin policies. You're going to see methodical, controlled and responsible governance. It's not sexy, but it's what we need. There's enough hype in Alberta as-is - we don't need more from our government.
A lot of these self-important media "personalities" are rubbing their hands together, eagerly anticipating the death of the PC Association of Alberta under Ed Stelmach. What they forget, though, is that the Alberta PC's have been one of the most impressive political machines in the world for over 30 years... a few pretentious writers and some precocious, spiteful children (Yes, YAPCA, that would be you) aren't going to bring all that down without a TONNE of help.
Does the Enlightened Savage support Rent Controls? Yes, he does. But he also supports the building of affordable housing. And since it takes longer to build a home than it does to sign an executive order capping rent increases, I say let's use the plans the government has put in place, get those living spaces on the drawing board, and THEN we can squabble about how much Boardwalk, Morguard, and Joe Smith who rents out his basement are allowed to "gouge" us renters. Because once those spaces are built, if Boardwalk tries to raise rent by 75%, guess where their renters will go? That's right - the newly-finished, affordable housing. And Boardwalk will just be out the rent on those spaces completely. Now THAT is the best cap of all - the one that businesses have to put on themselves because of market forces and common sense. Because no tax dollars go to enforcing it.