02 April 2010

Status of Women Minister Buys $880K Ottawa House

... and mortgages it for the full purchase price of $880,000. No money down. House was bought in November.

Helena Guergis, Minister of Status of Women Canada, gets a salary of $157,731. That includes a $56,637 top-up for her Cabinet position. As far as I know her husband, one Rahim Jaffer, is currently unemployed. He will begin receiving a lucrative pension at age 55, thanks to his brief career as a Member of Parliament.

Normally I consider the personal lives of MPs to be off-bounds, but this case points to two issues that I think cross over into the public sphere.

First, what was the woman thinking?! Has she no sense of economy? Has she no clue what it's like to maintain a budget? Even to consider buying a house that's six times one's annual salary, one that's subject to the fickle political winds of change, seems ludicrous to me.

And I have to laugh at the irony, given something that happened to me a few days ago. It highlights the stark differences between life for many women in Canada - women for whom Status of Women Canada is supposed to be a champion for change - and those few like Guergis.

I live in the lowest decile category of income. I've a lifelong dream of owning my own tiny home, on a tiny piece of land. To keep the dream alive, I occasionally visit mls.ca, run a search, and see if anything comes up. Then I check the ads out and run a bunch of 'what ifs' in my head. That's how I keep the dream alive.

A few days ago, I found an ad for a 5th wheel, sited in a mobile home park about two hours by car north of here. Asking price: $11,500. I contacted the realtor and we exchanged emails back and forth. Right away, I contacted friend Daphne; we discussed the pros and cons via emails and one Skype call. We talked and talked some more. I agonized over the possibilities. Ultimately I decided against, before ever going to see the trailer.

Even assuming I could get the price down to under $10,000, it would take more than half of my remaining savings; and my income, beginning in July when I turn 60, will be approximately $8,000 per year. The issues to be considered weren't just the price of the trailer, but the pad rent ($334/month), the security of the pad (might the owners be thinking of selling?), security in the other sense (is it a safe area?), the maintenance costs (does the roof need replacing? if not now, when? what else needs fixing/maintaining?), heating, the cost of products locally (is it more expensive to buy there than here?), accessibility to shopping and services for someone with no vehicle, and so on.

Which brings me to my second point...

How can Guergis possibly relate to the problems women like me face when she has no clue how to manage her own finances? And what the HELL is she doing overseeing any government Ministry, let alone the Status of Women Canada?

I ask, because unless there's a rich daddy somewhere, Guergis & Co. will be heading to bankruptcy court in the not too distant future.

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