Letters: Fighting back against distracted pedestrians and cyclists

Maclean’s readers write in

Simon Hayter/Toronto Star

Simon Hayter/Toronto Star

Cars aren’t the only culprits

The title of your article “The cure for killer cars” (Society, June 16) betrays its ignorance of the role that pedestrians and some bicyclists play in their own deaths. Posting slower speed limits has no effect on aggressive drivers who are over-represented in collisions. However, pedestrians walk or run into intersections without even a glance to the side to check for traffic. Some are “distracted” by their smartphones, some aren’t. The pedestrian countdown signals installed to increase safety have backfired. Every day, I see even mothers with small children who, when the countdown signal is at four seconds, start a mad dash across what is usually seven lanes, sometimes having to jerk back and forth to catch the child who lags behind. They are lucky not to get run over. Municipalities or the provinces should make a new law against “reckless crossing” and fine pedestrians who violate it $175.

Randal Montgomery, Toronto

Bullying behaviour

Your excerpt from Paula Todd’s book, Extreme Mean, was hard to read (“A mother’s new nightmare,” Excerpt, June 16). Even harder was to comprehend how people can post such venomous words on social media sites. Our society rewards aggressive behaviour and we are programming our kids to be bullies. Looking around at how adults act aggressively toward each other, and what they are posting on social media sites, it’s no wonder bullying has become so common.

Nick Kossovan, Toronto

I was offended by your decision to publish two pages of disgusting cyberbully attacks on Carol Todd, the mother of Amanda Todd, who took her own life because of cyberbullying. One example would have sufficed; it would have gotten the message across to even the least perceptive of readers. Instead, you followed in the footsteps of the bullies and perpetuated their actions. Shame.

Marian Burke, Calgary

Stretching the concept of beauty

Jean and Alastair Carruthers, pioneers of the cosmetic use of Botox (Interview, June 9), want us to believe there is nothing wrong with reducing our ability to frown. They even go as far to say that if people “need to express compassion, they tell people how they feel.” What about a mother who decides to have Botox? Babies are born needing face-to-face contact. They need to see smiles from their mothers. When a baby cries, she needs to see her mother frown, expressing concern. At the opposite end of the age spectrum, when I am facing my final years and my doctor needs to inform me of a grim diagnosis, I hope she is showing me some compassion and frowning for me just a little.

Katy Bell, Waterloo, Ont.

Botox pioneer Alastair Carruthers says his company receptionist was “quite frightening to look at” partway through a working day, due to “a deep line [between her brows], which was like a crevasse.” Seems to me the employer had a choice at that point: improve working conditions so she suffers less stress—or fix her face. Clearly, the latter option is easier on everybody concerned. Except, perhaps, the receptionist.

Dale Wik, Nanaimo, B.C.

Friendly fur

H&M was included in your list of socially responsible companies because it banned the use of fur in its products (“Head of the class,” Special Report, June 16). Wild Canadian fur is a renewable, sustainable and 100 per cent organic product that causes virtually no environmental damage. It is one of the major sources of income for First Nations people still living on the land, and helps to support their traditional way of life. Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, are often oil-based, and we all know what that industry does to the environment. Even natural fabrics such as cotton require millions of acres of land and gallons of water that could be put to much better use. While I don’t suggest that we all wear fur, it is socially irresponsible to ban it.

Oliver Muckenheim, Nobel, Ont.

Getting out the vote

Your editorial advocating a return to election enumerations (June 9) overlooks the most serious failing of this antiquated practice: It enables, even encourages unqualified people to vote in our elections. I was enumerated several times under the old system, and never was I asked to confirm, let alone prove, my Canadian citizenship. Sorry, but the “good old days” weren’t that good. The permanent voters’ list is the right way to go.

Charles A. Bogue, Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury, Que.

While Maclean’s gets right the crisis of voter participation in Canada, it gets it wrong in suggesting that reinstating door-to-door enumeration will solve the problem. In Saskatchewan, the 2011 enumeration effort resulted in just 71.5 per cent of eligible voters being registered. After knocking on doors, only 52 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. Compare this to the most recent federal election, where the names of 94 per cent of Saskatchewan’s eligible voters were included in the national register of electors, without the cost and effort of going door-to-door. In this case, 59 per cent of Saskatchewan’s eligible voters cast a ballot. You might also consider that, across Canada, more than 90 per cent of voting-age adults are aware that an election is under way within days of a campaign beginning. Saskatchewan’s MLAs made the correct decision in deciding to eliminate door-to-door enumeration and establish a continuous register of voters.

Michael Boda, Chief Electoral Officer, Province of Saskatchewan, Regina

Impossible to walk the talk

Under “Bad News” (“Unfairly tarred,” This Week,  June 16), you criticized Desmond Tutu for using fossil fuels while travelling to Fort McMurray, Alta. It is impossible to live in a system that one is seeking to create, because it doesn’t yet exist. Until our government ceases to underwrite and protect the fossil fuel industry, all of us are forced to use that polluting system. We can do better. We must do better, and that is the challenge from Desmond Tutu that you, sophomorically, dismissed.

Gordon Allaby, Osler, Sask.

Never-ending pension wars

Kudos for your coverage of the critical pension debate (“The pension wars,” National, June 9). In a world where the private sector must compete with countries such as China and India, letting public sector remuneration pull ahead of the private sector is a formula for a long, slow spiral toward the fortunes of Greece. As your article points out, it might be too late, when you have a significant separate voting class that identifies with what it sees as entitlements. It’s always much harder to take something away than provide it in the first place.

Brian Johnston, Grand Bend, Ont.

To be envious of pensions other people are receiving is not going to help the matter of young workers entering the workforce, or folks retiring from non-union, blue-collar jobs. Do you believe that public and private sector workers, with the exception of upper management, would have the pensions in place today, were it not for their union representation?

Cec Fry, Kanata, Ontario

Old Age Security (OAS), unlike the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), is an unearned benefit available to all Canadians who have lived in Canada for the required number of years. For most people, OAS payments total just over $6,600 annually. What many may not know is that the recipient must earn more than $71,000 before the government demands repayment of any of this amount, and almost $115,000 before OAS payments are entirely clawed back. This is totally ridiculous. No one earning more than $70,000 can justify receiving such a large amount. I am one of the fortunate former private sector workers with a very generous company pension, and my lifestyle would not suffer significantly if I had to return $2,000 or so of my OAS.

Art Davison, Edmonton

Perhaps the solution to “pension envy” is to educate Canadian students about the value of living within your means. It is frightening how many people have no means to sustain their current lifestyles, should they become injured, ill or a retiree. CPP and OAS are only intended to supplement your retirement income. People need to learn to plan ahead and start early.

Glenda Komenac, Elkford, B.C.

I graduate from high school this year. If public sector workers honestly think my generation will be digging deep into our paycheques to fund their pensions and skyrocketing health care costs in 30 years, when we ourselves have nothing for retirement and little for day-to-day living, they are dreaming. As Detroit has shown us by slashing existing pension payouts to the bone during its municipal bankruptcy, you cannot get blood from a stone. Public sector workers either take their pain now as they near retirement, or in 20 to 30 years, when they can least afford it.

Rachel Dye, Bragg Creek, Alta.

There is a little green in Tom Corbett’s complaint about the difference between his small pension and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (“The PM and the pauper,” National, June 9). Corbett chose an altruistic path after dabbling in politics. He says, “A job was something I believed in.” It’s admirable that he “finds rewards in his pastoral work.” But most everyone is aware that the rewards are not monetary. Prime Minister Harper continued on in a career he believed in and became the leader of a country and has his own rewards. Corbett had the life he chose, and should not compare himself to others.

Cherryl Katnich, Maple Ridge, B.C.

Eye of the beholder

How delightful to open up your latest issue and see a feature on the photography of Kelly Hofer (“Realizing a world apart,” Society, June 9). A few years ago, my father, an ex-Hutterite himself, took me to an exhibit of Kelly’s work, his first in Winnipeg. Even though I knew a lot about Hutterite life from my father, Kelly’s photos opened up the beauty of daily life on a colony. His portraits of Hutterite children are especially striking, and one of them now hangs on my wall. Thank you, Kelly, for showing us the beauty in Hutterite life.

Naomi Maendel, Winnipeg

A photographer has an obligation to respect the discretion and culture of people scrutinized by the camera he controls. Images used for gain of people who were “always covering their faces, always hiding, and telling me to stop shooting” amount to, at least, a boorish intrusion of personal privacy; at worst, a kind of theft. Not even a humble Hutterite colony is exempt from the modern camera’s insatiable eye. Why should we enjoy looking at pictures of people who were unable to persuade the photographer to leave them alone?

Robert Petersen, Kamloops, B.C.

Good point

Opposition to fossil fuels is trite and unworkable (“Unloading on fossil fuels,” Special Report, June 16). The petrochemical industry that produces thousands of products on which we depend has a greater impact on our lives than does simple fuel for transportation needs. We should be putting lots of money into developing safer methods for producing nuclear energy, or funding research into cold fusion—rather than stopping pipelines and feeling pure about it. Windmills and bicycles just aren’t going to do it.

Douglas Ball, Mississauga, Ont.




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