The final frontier
I was delighted with the cover and feature article on the discovery of extra solar planets (“Planet hunting,” Society, Jan. 28), which captured the excitement and impact of these latest discoveries. The discovery of exoplanets is an important part of astrobiology, the broader scientific search for life beyond Earth. But the article did not mention Canadian participation in this area of research. The Canadian MOST space telescope was in some ways a precursor to the Kepler telescope and was involved in some of the research on 55 Cancri e mentioned in the article. The Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at the University of Western Ontario recently advertised a faculty position focusing on exoplanets. Let’s make sure Canada’s contribution is held high where appropriate.
Tom Olien, Summerstown, Ont.
I was pleased that astrophysicist Adam Frank pointed out that it will take another 75,000 years for Voyager 1 to reach the closest star, assuming it is headed in the right direction. So why hype this story by claiming that Earth-like planets are “closer than we think” and that “the race is on to see how fast we can get there,” as your cover headline does? Clearly, “closer than we think” is still prohibitively far. We are, as Frank asserts, bound to this solar system, and we had better make the best of it.
Charles Gracey, Ancaster, Ont.
Reckoning the detection of billions of new planets as the biggest discovery ever would be equivalent to confirming there are a lot of sand grains in all the beaches of the Earth.
Miguel Flores, Mississauga, Ont.
Pay it back
In your report on former prime minister Brian Mulroney, you did not mention his sworn testimony that he “never had any dealings” with lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber (“He’s back,” National, Jan. 28). While Mulroney’s answers fell short of the legal definition of perjury, he did not meet an ethical standard for honesty. Mulroney should repay both his $2.1-million settlement from the federal government for harming his reputation when the RCMP investigated his links with Schreiber and the $225,000 in cash he has since admitted receiving from Schreiber.
A.A. Sayeed, Toronto
The profile of Brian Mulroney is an informative and balanced piece, covering various personal lapses and several of his important achievements. Mulroney wonders: “How can you excommunicate from a party a former leader who had the greatest victories since John A. Macdonald, its founder?” His claim to “greatest victories” ignores the 1958 general election when former prime minister John Diefenbaker won 78.5 per cent of the seats and 54 per cent of the popular vote. In 1984, Mulroney did capture 211 seats—the most in history—but this was only 75 per cent of a Parliament that had then grown to 282 seats, coupled with 50 per cent of the popular vote. In 1988, Mulroney managed 169 of 295 seats: 57 per cent of the seats and 43 per cent of the vote.
Steve Clarkson, Ottawa
Your cover story, “The new underclass” (Society, Jan. 21) mentioned the need to “combat the stigma still attached to skilled trades.” Twenty years ago, I regret that I was a university snob; I completed a business degree and an education degree. But my eyes were opened when I learned about the rigours of my husband’s profession as a plumber. His four-year apprenticeship required more academic skills than one might expect. We now operate a plumbing business together, and I couldn’t be more proud of his occupation.
Michelle Eve, Exshaw, Alta.
I find it somewhat disingenuous that the same teachers who urge students to stay in school to get a better job retire and then come back to work on a contract basis, taking away those jobs from the students they taught. If you retire, you shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the same field. For the sake of the next generation, do some volunteer work instead.
Christopher Churchill, Toronto
In 1993, I graduated with a political science degree to discover a stagnant Ontario economy offering few job prospects. By 1995, I’d packed up and moved to northeast B.C. Paying ridiculous rent to live in Vancouver or Toronto while working multiple jobs, wasting one’s life on unpaid internships and more university degrees, is not the answer. Now I’m working as an engineer for a large gas-processing and transmission company, making a six-figure salary. My boss is also a discarded political scientist. What are new grads waiting for? Move west and north and start your adventure. The Toronto and Vancouver urban rat races are just a waste.
Adrian Telizyn, Fort St. John, B.C.
The Aamjiwnaang First Nation caught the attention of the CNR at Sarnia, Ont., and, by extension, a few of the industries in the area which chose to slacken their production for a time (“Idle on the tracks,” Business, Jan. 21). Your writer concluded, “So while the tents stand on the rail lines and police look for a peaceful ending, industries can only sit and wait.” I beg to differ. The industries can get off their padded chairs, call their MPs or, better still, our Prime Minister. They can urge our government to get on with realistic, fair and honest negotiations with our First Nations people. We have waited far too long for real action and achievements. Our First Nations shared the land with the colonizers. Now let us work out the partnership.
Ken Robinson, Ottawa
Keeping up with the Diefenbakers
Rosemary Westwood’s proposal to ensure the upkeep of Canada’s heritage sites through the American model of donations and ticket sales is well-intentioned but misinformed (“The grave state of a PM’s digs,” National, Jan. 21). The successful American non-profit model is supported by a generous tax-credit program. Canadian heritage organizations and Parks Canada have worked together for over two decades to introduce such a program to this country, but Revenue Canada has steadfastly refused. Meanwhile, Canada maintains the dubious honour of being the only G7 country without a tax-credit program for the conservation of its historic places. And taxpayers continue to foot the bill with diminishing returns at an alarming rate.
Michel Audy, retired Executive Secretary, Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Gatineau, Que.
Don’t give it a toss
It baffles me that people throw out or destroy perfectly good food and that much of it ends up in landfills (“The food-waste debate could use a pinch of common sense,” From the Editors, Jan. 28). I found it infuriating to read that “an estimated half-million kilograms of safe and edible meat was landfilled.” Couldn’t we at least have it composted, so it can turn into nutrient-rich soil, instead of polluting our air by creating methane gas in a landfill? All municipalities and businesses should have food-waste collection as well as recycling services.
Barbara Frensch, Burlington, Ont.
When I was an elementary school teacher, I sometimes would draw the kids’ attention to the wasting of food. During lunch break, I collected from the waste baskets half-eaten apples, partly eaten sandwiches and many other discarded items. I would arrange the kids in a wide circle and use plastic gloves to show them the good food they had thrown away. Who knows? Maybe some of those remonstrating against food wastage today were students in one of my classes.
Frank DeVries, Abbotsford, B.C.
Here is a great idea for bananas with brown spots on them: peel them and eat them. Bananas are supposed to be eaten when they are ripe—meaning browning. Green bananas aren’t ripe. Bananas with brown spots are sweeter, are digested more easily and taste better. If you don’t like the texture, put them in a smoothie with frozen strawberries.
Steve Braun, Burlington, Ont.
We love torture, don’t we?
Michael Petrou’s article “Bringing torture to light” (International, Jan. 21) is very informative, and the situation in Iran is intolerable. But Canada’s minister of public safety, Vic Toews, considers torture an acceptable means of obtaining information crucial for the country’s safety, even if torture is proven to be inefficient in providing conclusive information. The minister’s position is in contradiction with Canada’s international engagements against torture, our country being a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture. Let’s suppose Minister Toews is in a position of power in Iran instead of Canada: which side would he be on?
Serge Harvey, Jonquière, Que.
Diet of shame
At Weight Watchers, we take healthy living very seriously, and a proper support system is an integral part of achieving a healthy lifestyle. The article “Lean, mean Twitter machines” (Web, Jan. 28) mocks the role community plays in a weight-loss journey. For 50 years, Weight Watchers has known the serious, critical role community plays in weight-loss success, because we pioneered it. This is why our members still meet every week—to share their weight-loss triumphs and struggles in a supportive, not shaming, environment. Social media is a tool to supplement an existing weight-loss program, not replace one. Your article, though well-intentioned, may leave Canadians confused about the role community plays as a complement to a proven approach to weight loss.
Karen Miller-Kovach, Chief Scientific Officer, Weight Watchers International, New York
Words of wisdom
Ezra Levant needs to be reminded that free speech is not an end in itself, but rather the means to an end (“Going on the offensive,” National, Jan. 21). Words have the power to either obscure or elucidate the truth, to take us to war or to bring about peace. We need leaders whose speech is tempered by respect for other nations, who recognize that arrogant tribalism is hopelessly antiquated in the face of mankind’s shared future. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “We can live together as brothers or die together as fools.” Levant, like all those in a position of privilege, needs to ask himself which of these futures he is leading us toward.
Mike Ward, Duncan, B.C.
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