Editorials - Nov. 17, 2023
Stretched a bit thin
The current state of the Canadian housing market has been defined as a “bubble” for some time now and it finally looks like the inevitable collapse is imminent. A CBC headline this week may be just the harbinger of more bad news to come: “This London house dropped $300,000 in less than two years.” The property that sold for $748,000 in February, 2022 lost 41 per cent of its value in less than 20 months, selling for just $435,000 last month. In that same time, mortgage rates rose steeply from 0.5 per cent to more than five per cent.
The Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation is now warning that 2.2 million homeowners are about to face “interest rate shock” as their mortgages come due over the next two years. Many Canadians bought at a time when property values were at an all-time high, necessitating stretching their monthly payments to the limit. For most, record low interest rates allowed that to happen, but they may discover that rates north of five per cent have left them with more house than they can afford. Even the story mentioned above was a case of a bank foreclosure.
Interest rate direction is now a big gamble that homeowners are trying to win, hoping that interest rates come down before renewals are due, but all indicators are pointing at rates staying put, at least through 2024.
Locally, we’ve all noticed that house sales were measured in days just last year, and now similar properties are sitting on the market for weeks or even months. As scary as the house prices were for those trying to buy, it’s even scarier for those who are trying to hold on to their homes. – DS
Do we not bleed?
Twenty-three-year-old Isabelle Lessard has resigned from her position as mayor of Chapais, Quebec, a town of just over 1,500. She was acclaimed to the position in 2021, when she was just 21, but has cited burnout and a risk of post-traumatic stress syndrome after seeing her community through last summer’s historic wildfire season. Her resignation is effective today, Nov. 17, about halfway through the term.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Lessard said she had been on leave since September and knew returning would be untenable. “Even if I was at 100 per cent when it was time to return to work, the workload was going to be enormous because I have been absent for a bit,” she said. Lessard said the stress of the wildfire season was overwhelming and she wasn’t sleeping well, overcome with anger due to the fires and then with herself for not being “strong enough”.
“Isabelle gave her body and soul for her community, it is now her turn to take care of herself,” said Martin Damphousse in a statement on behalf of the Union des Municipalités du Quebéc. “Her decision seriously reminds us that municipal officials are, above all, human beings, the challenges and crises they face are increasingly complex and also reveal the importance of their role.”
As Damphousse illustrates, the job of Lessard and others is one that, often, not many people want (she was acclaimed to the position despite being 21 with no political experience) and offers little in the way of pay and popularity. Here in Huron County, every four years, more positions are often acclaimed than contested and what follows is often thankless, challenging and difficult beyond its pay grade. No one likes to pay high taxes and the challenges, especially for smaller communities, are only worsening, but remember that, most often, elected representatives are simply people who want to better their community; people who put their hand up when no one else did to try and help. – SL
The unsung heroes
This week, Betty Graber Watson marked the 25th anniversary of her column for The Citizen. Betty (just Graber, then) wrote her first piece in the Nov. 11, 1998 issue of The Citizen. Now, thousands and thousands of words later, she still serves the community for little compensation.
Many correspondents have been in their positions for many, many years, while others have come and gone as life’s circumstances changed. Furthermore, The Citizen has had more than its fair share of guest columns from community members who think they have something to say that may appeal to our readers. This dates back to The Brussels Post and The Kansas Farmer (resurrected briefly in recent years by Jack Thynne’s grandson Paul Nichol) to contributions from locals like Julie Sawchuk, David Blaney and Jessica Sparling to more recent series from Cindy Norgate, Marguerite Thomas and our historian Karen Webster.
While our reporters are busy gathering news from council meetings, sporting events and anything else may supply the news that’s fit to print, correspondents are keeping readers up to date on the minutiae of a small community, connecting with people in a way reporters can rarely do. Furthermore, the connections your community-owned community newspaper has with residents is laid bare through columns like these.
To Betty and everyone else who takes the time to contribute to The Citizen, largely out of the kindness of their hearts, thank you. You are a bigger piece of the puzzle here at The Citizen than you know. – SL