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Behind The Numbers delivers timely, progressive commentary on issues that affect Canadians, including the economy, poverty, inequality, climate change, budgets, taxes, public services, employment and much more. Contributors include staff and research associates from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).The views expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the CCPA. Visit the blog at Behindthenumbers.ca.

The Harper house rules: An intervention

| January 17, 2012

Stephen:

We recognize that no roommate is perfect, and from time to time we have all gotten on each other's nerves. But you take the cake (and let's be honest, sharing anything -- including cake -- is not exactly your thing).

Because you have signed a sub-lease (with a previous tenant who, we might add, seems quite smug about the household unrest that has been caused by your presence), we will be sharing these accommodations until fall 2015. So until then, the rest of us expect you to follow a few basic rules which we are submitting in writing as you refuse to attend house meetings and become hostile when confronted directly.

1. Stop taking and/or ruining our stuff.

Since you moved in, a number of important items (some of which were left by former tenants for future ones to benefit from) have gone missing, or are looking considerably worse for wear. And given that the majority of the damage occurs during or after you have been entertaining your friends, your repeated insistence that the "invisible hand of the marketplace" -- not your deliberate actions -- is responsible is just plain weird.

We have come to the sad realization that replacing these items -- let alone making any necessary upgrades -- will take years, and we are increasingly concerned the expense will exhaust our emergency reserve fund.

The irony in all of this is that it's not as if you want these things, it's just that you don't seem to want us to have them.

2. Clean up your mess.

When you invite your friends over for one of your "jam sessions," put your empty Tim Horton's coffee cups in the recycling (note: this is not a socialist plot -- it's about keeping the house tidy and reducing waste) and clean up the living room afterwards. Don't just keep reminding us of how someone who lived here five years ago regularly left dirty dishes in the sink, and then stomp off to your room to listen to your stereo. And, Steve, about your assertion that "true" Canadians appreciate Nickelback's genius: let's get real. It's Nickelback.

3. Stop claiming to speak for us.

When you take phone messages, stop changing prior arrangements we have made with other people. Many of these plans have involved significant time and energy, and no one appreciates you altering or cancelling them depending on how you feel about the individuals involved or how "loyal" they've been to you.

Your editorializing has shredded our reputations, leaving a number of our friends with the mistaken impression that we have changed our ethical standards or opinions on a variety of issues, and are not to be trusted. We are spending a great deal of time apologizing for your actions, trying to make it clear that, where the majority of the occupants of this house are concerned, you're a bit of an aberration.

And yes -- we know you're writing a book about hockey. Everyone knows. Please stop using it in an attempt to build street cred with everyone who calls or comes by the house.

4. Contribute your fair share to household expenses and chores.

Reading by flashlight and brushing your teeth with bottled water does not absolve you of paying your share of the utilities, regardless of how often you quote Milton Friedman. It's particularly infuriating, given your habit of not replacing the communal food you and your friends polish off while telling the rest of us to "tighten our belts". And given your less-than-adequate tendency to contribute fairly, your suggestion -- if we can't be trusted to effectively manage our allotted resources we should pay a third party to oversee division of food -- is not only an unfair characterization, it's insulting.

(You seem to have a whimsical appreciation for austerity, by the way; did you think we wouldn't notice you slipped the bill for your friend's gazebo in with the household expenses? Nice try.)

Of course, with shared utilities come a few guidelines, largely based on courtesy and common sense (and not as a result of us being "hijacked" by "foreign special interests"). In the interests of saving money, and the environment, please keep the indoor temperature at a reasonable level. We noticed that some time ago you discovered sweater vests but, if you are still chilly, instead of continually turning up the heat perhaps you could invest in some sleeves.

Furthermore, the bilingual schedule we have posted indicating whose turn it is to take care of various house duties like taking out the garbage and shovelling snow is not, as you claim, indicative of a "second-tier socialist" household (please remind us again why you want to live here), but rather one that functions smoothly because we all help. Stop crossing out the French -- not all of us speak English as our first language -- and refrain from changing the schedule so that you do not have to participate in these duties. It is unfair to expect some of us to do two or three times the work because you think "some people's" time is more valuable than others, regardless of what your friends tell you.

It's evident that the next few years will not be particularly pleasant, but hopefully these guidelines will set out a framework for a bearable living arrangement until our contractual obligation to you is terminated and someone else, better suited to the priorities and goals of this residence and its inhabitants, replaces you.

Finally: this is not "your" place. Others live here and, as with former and current tenants, your presence is temporary. So please stop referring to this location as "Casa Harper".

Sincerely,
The house majority

P.S. We have made a duplicate of this document for our records to avoid the "confusion" that occurred when your copy of the lease was mysteriously altered in an attempt to absolve you of basic responsibilities -- including paying your share of the damage deposit.

This article was first posted on Behind the Numbers.

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