A living hell, the sequel
For years, we have been told by urban gurus that the way to curtail the continued march to the suburbs was to increase living space in the cities (“A living hell,” Society, April 28). In a country that prides itself on having vast spaces, herding large numbers of people into confined areas such as condominiums has turned into a sociological experiment, with predictable results. Unlike small countries, where adapting to large populations and small living spaces begins at birth, Canadians are largely unprepared to adapt to the crowded and diverse living styles that condominiums offer. Hence, the inevitable condominium price collapse that is on the horizon. Builders, of course, seem to be blissfully unaware of this.
Jeff Spooner, Kinburn, Ont.
I have lived in condos in two different cities since 1988, and I served on a condo board for 4½ years. No doubt that, aside from financial issues, the single-most difficult situation for condo boards is noise. In my condo, in the late ’90s, we lived through a situation of unlimited piano playing. Mediation was tried again and again; the offenders agreed to everything, then simply went their own way. Eventually, they moved, but the emotional cost to their neighbours was considerable. As a board member, I felt powerless. I would have welcomed a rule that would have levied fines; money is the only thing that talks. I salute anyone who takes on the role of condo board member. We rely on volunteers and, yes, a few become power-mad, but, in general, I have found they are decent, thoughtful people trying to make their home a better place, dealing with difficult issues, often with very little thanks.
Joan Johnston, Ottawa
Over the years, I have owned six condos. I currently live in one, rent one and I have served on the condo board. Attendance at AGMs and the willingness of owners to ask hard questions of their condo boards and property managers is poor. Fiefdoms occur when folks are too lazy to read the minutes or pay attention to the operation of what is usually their most valuable asset. I would advise anyone considering a purchase not only to read thoroughly the bylaws and two years’ worth of minutes and financials, but to look also at the performance and credentials of the property management company. They should also check whether the bylaws are robust regarding animals, noise, fines and liens.
Ann Sturrock, North Vancouver, B.C.
Living in close quarters can be problematic, whether you’re an owner or a renter. In other articles about rental properties, it seems the tenant is usually blamed for for not caring about the place he lives in—a one-sided approach, to be sure. But this story shows how difficult it can be to live where someone else has control over what gets done and what doesn’t. When things get broken or aren’t maintained or fixed, it isn’t always the fault of the one lower down on the ladder of decision-making. All we need is a similar article about people who have to rent where they live because they can’t afford to buy.
Sue McPherson, London, Ont.
I was fascinated by the article on condo living and the difficulty people have in living together in such close quarters. Perhaps the answer lies with crows, who are intuitive and smart, and have adapted well to challenging situations (“Don’t call them bird brains,” Society, April 28). I’m convinced our feathered friends would figure out this condo conundrum to everyone’s satisfaction, and not a condo board in sight!
Rosemary Alfers, Ottawa
Something to crow about
I have observed crows getting into a garbage bin with a swing lid (“Don’t call them bird brains,” Society, April 28). The crows would hit the swing lid with their beaks to get it moving enough so they could get their beaks down to pull out the discarded food. I know now that crows are very intelligent, as they use their brains to their advantage.
R.M. Thomson, Victoria
A not-so-fond farewell to Flaherty
Paul Wells concludes his eulogy for the late Jim Flaherty by saying that the former finance minister “was more alive than the next half-dozen politicians and assorted Hill denizens put together. That’s why his death leaves a shocking emptiness behind. Each of us should contemplate his example” (“A light goes out on Parliament Hill,” National, April 28). Really? Should we contemplate his record debt and endless deficits? His wretched omnibus budget bills? May the man rest in peace, but not so, the minister of financial disaster.
Brent Slobodin, Whitehorse
Power to MPs
I am sure most MPs are “good, decent people” who choose to run because they hope to contribute in a positive way to our society (“You’re doing it wrong,” National, April 28). The problem is the party system. Political parties have been continually centralizing power, so that MPs have almost no function in Parliament except to stand up and vote as they are told. No wonder so many MPs emphasize constituency work. To get the government we vote for and “deserve,” we must change the way our votes are used to fill Parliament’s seats. We must also create more incentives for MPs to take back the power they need to truly represent us and to hold the government accountable. Michael Chong’s Reform Act is a first small step in the right direction.
Wendy Bergerud, Victoria
Special-interest parties always demand proportional representation (“Gaming the system from the fringes,” Colby Cosh, April 28). Too bad for them; let them find their way into the larger political discourse. First-past-the-post is the most robust electoral system. Those who oppose it are too marginal to ever win. Why would you want a party of losers to game the elections? In a country with a highly fragmented voting pattern, multiple parties create coalitions, which is just fine. That’s simply minor parties coalescing into major ones. Don’t let the wannabes tinker with Westminster-style democracy.
G.S. Lorentz, Toronto
So Colby Cosh’s argument is that because people were gaming Australia’s elections, it counts as a knock against electoral reform? That happens in our elections, as well, unless Cosh is unfamiliar with the process of vote pairing. If, and when, it becomes more organized, to the degree of Australia’s Glenn Druery and his Outdoor Recreation Party, then that will be another argument against electoral reform out the window. Like it or not, there is no such thing as an electoral system that can’t be gamed—and one could argue that it’s easier to do in our system then Australia’s.
Clifford Thai, Langley, B.C.
The ‘easy’ way out
When I was younger, I had several very painful surgeries. If someone had asked me, while I was in severe pain, if I wanted to die, I would have said yes (“Planning death,” Society, April 14). Conservative MP Steven Fletcher says his euthanasia bills will “empower competent adults to make decisions for themselves based on their own values and ethics.” His bills actually empower physicians, and the state, to kill people by euthanasia. People with disabilities, people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, people with cognitive disabilities are all at risk. Fletcher speaks about choice, but these people are dependent on others to make decisions for them. In Belgium, a recent study found that people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or who were in a coma, were often being killed without request, yet the Belgian law has the same supposed safeguards as Fletcher’s bills. In Switzerland, the assisted-death groups have established themselves in nursing homes. Once assisted death becomes a legal option, it also becomes an ever-present suggestion. Legalizing euthanasia does not create greater rights for people with disabilities and the frail elderly, but rather it will often lead to the death of vulnerable people.
Steven Passmore, Hamilton
A cover story referencing “new evidence” and “controversy” about the “real Jesus” (“Son of God and a husband?” Society, April 28) overlooks the inconvenient fact that there are literally thousands of extant manuscripts, many older than the eighth century, that support the traditional view that Jesus was an unmarried man. There is no controversy here; only wishful thinking. The argument that Jesus was married is based on popular works of fiction and a single scrap of papyrus, itself of extremely questionable provenance. A news publication that would like to be viewed as serious would do well to exercise more restraint with how it presents its cover stories than is apparent with such overstatements.
Andrew Walls, Guelph, Ont.
Chivalry is a trap
The most generous and helpful thing a man can do for a woman on an individual level is to hold her accountable: no letting her off because she’s female. If traditional expressions of chivalry are important to women (“He also pays for his own dinners,” Help, April 21), let women do them. My girlfriend brought me flowers last night because I had a bad day. Fine. I’ll cook her dinner sometime. Listen, men: Chivalry backfires. If you pay for the first date, you’re losing a valuable opportunity to screen out the women who will see you as nothing but an ATM machine. Don’t let your sense of chivalry turn you into a victim. You’re better than that.
Frank Lin, Boston
The good side of McDonald’s
I found your article on McDonald’s to be both informative and fair (“No more clowning around,” Economy, April 28). However, there was no mention of the great work McDonald’s and its employees do through their support of Ronald McDonald Houses across Canada and the world. I work for the charity, and in all of my dealings with this much-maligned corporation, I have found McDonald’s employees to be humble and giving. Over the years, McDonald’s and its employees have provided hundreds of millions of dollars, and countless volunteer hours, to provide a home away from home for families who have children with a life-threatening illness. It is nice to see people now coming to the defence of this oft-misunderstood multinational corporation.
Joe Hargitt, Vancouver
Today’s GM: no better than before
My wife drives a 2006 GM HHR. We received a letter of recall a couple of weeks ago (“Stuck in the past,” Economy, April 21) and called the local dealer, as directed in the letter, to arrange for the ignition switch to be replaced or repaired. I was told the work could not be completed at this time; the new parts were not available and I would be contacted as soon as they were, but the dealership had no idea when that would be. So we are still waiting. Not only is GM ignoring their responsibilities to the car owners, they are putting their dealerships in a hopeless situation. It appears “today’s” General Motors is definitely stuck in the past when it comes to people’s safety.
H.R. Boyd, Little Britain, Ont.
Sorry, no lawyers
Why aren’t there any law students or young lawyers on this list of “Canada’s future leaders” (Special Report, April 21)? As a law student, I’m told on a daily basis, along with the rest of my class, that we make up the future leaders of society.
Peter Howie, London, Ont.