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Letters


 

Oily dilemma

The article outlining the economic misfortunes set to befall Canadians if pipelines aren’t constructed soon to connect bitumen to outside markets was informative in many ways (Oil sands bust, Business, Feb. 11). Only half the story was told, however. No mention was made of recent pipeline failures, including Enbridge’s infamous 2010 spill in Michigan, in which more than one million gallons of raw bitumen was dumped in the Kalamazoo River. The $765-million cleanup, subsequent eviction of longtime residents of the area, and the irreversible destruction to the environs isn’t minor collateral damage to be omitted from an article. As well, it’s not only the “green lobby” and First Nations opposed to increasing oil-sands production and export, but also ordinary citizens who are realizing that the health and safety of our environment is not worth risking for some perceived economic gain.

Brydie Todd, Vancouver

I am a nature lover with as great a concern for the environment as anyone. However, I am realistic enough to recognize that worldwide demand for oil is not going to decrease. All those oil-powered engines on the roads and on the oceans, in the skies and in power plants, are not going to go away. Therefore oil, or its byproducts, is going to be moved from A to B somehow, and those who want to stop pipelines are not suggesting any viable transportation alternatives. Should we use coal? Beast of burden? Nuclear energy? Or electricity, which is not generated out of thin air? Do we also do away with all plastics, which are made from petroleum? Would it not be better for us to use the best, safest technology available to construct oil transportation systems in areas of the world where we have control over their security?

George Page, Orillia, Ont.

A minister’s work . . .

Provocative juxtaposition of articles: “Welcome to my world,” (National, Feb. 11) and “Harper’s inner circle,” (National, Feb. 11). Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s “world” is multiracial and ethnically diverse, like Canada. The Prime Minister’s “inner circle,” where political advice and power originate, is nearly all white. Clearly, Kenney’s important work is far from finished.

Paul Robinson, Dartmouth, N.S.

Democratic debate

You make some telling points about the potentially undemocratic consequences of one-member, one-vote leadership elections (“Sometimes too much democracy is a bad idea,” From the Editors, Feb. 11). I would go one further and say that the greatest threat to democracy is the parties as they have evolved in the modern era: your editorial illustrates they are gravitating toward centralizing power within a remote, unelected elite resembling monarchy. With the enhanced power and fundraising ability of parties, rather than that of individual delegates, leaders are becoming petty monarchs. Popular politics has devolved to rooting for the winning team, or even just the winning ruler.

Aubrey Fricker, Halifax

Your editorial should be required reading for some of the leaders who win these contests, namely those whose parties periodically trot out the misguided concept of compulsory voting (or lowering the voting age to 16). Just as letting the informed and dedicated representatives choose a party leader makes eminent sense, similarly, allowing only citizens with the interest and inclination to make the effort to vote bodes well for successful democracy. Artificially expanding the pool of voters by mandating voting will indeed diminish the value of each vote, by reducing the proportion of votes made after proper deliberation of the issues and the parties’ positions on them.

Wayne Howatt, Halifax

Your take that “most of us recognize the desirability of moderating the popular will through a mediating body of expert (or at least dedicated) representatives” to select, elect, or consecrate political party leaders brought back memories of the Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership convention of May 2003. Expert representatives were hard at work at that convention, and the mediating crown of their moderating influence on the popular will was the Orchard-MacKay agreement. I must admit that backroom dealing of the Orchard-MacKay kind provides valuable experience for the control-and-command style government we have to live with today, but if democracy is what we care about, the will of the people is not what is in urgent need of moderation in this country.

André Carrel, Terrace, B.C.

Leave the mushroom be

Your piece on the prized but threatened blue mushrooms (“Painting the countryside blue,” Taste, Feb. 4) presents the usual two simplistic views of what to do with a natural resource: either let the locals harvest these delicacies for profit or let heavy machinery come in to pillage the whole place. There is a third option, which is to harvest some of the wood in a sustainable way, with small crews and equipment—even horses—while leaving large pockets untouched, so the mushroom can flourish and spread once again. After all, we do need wood to build our houses. But not only is it shortsighted to adopt an adversarial approach to every instance of natural resource harvesting, it inevitably leaves losers in its wake.

Anne van Arragon Hutten, Kentville, N.S.

Painful

In your story on pediatric pain (“This won’t hurt a bit,” Society, Feb. 4), you state, incorrectly, that no hospital in Manitoba has a children’s-pain department. Since 2006, the province has had a pediatric pain and symptom management service for children living with life-limiting illness. Children and their families are supported in hospital and at home, maximizing comfort and quality of life at a very difficult time. Since 2009, Winnipeg Children’s Hospital has had an acute pain service, addressing pain in children following procedures such as surgeries, or in other acute-pain situations such as injuries. While relatively recent, these services are well-established and are providing excellent care to children in Manitoba.

Michael Harlos, medical director, Pediatric Pain and Symptom Management Service, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

I applaud Maclean’s for drawing attention to the serious issue of pain in children. Yet asserting that “the more painful procedures a child endures, the more brain development and behaviour problems it suffers” overstates the scientific evidence. Our collaborative work on premature newborns at the University of British Columbia and the Child and Family Research Institute has demonstrated that many aspects of prematurity contribute to altered brain development, including infections, early illnesses, and stress related to procedural pain. Yet I am not aware of any evidence that “babies soon behave like adults who have chronic pain and develop an infant form of depression.” Parents of babies born prematurely undergo tremendous stress as their babies are cared for in neonatal intensive care units across Canada. I would not like to see their worries augmented unnecessarily.

Ruth E. Grunau, Neonatology Division, department of pediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Truth’s champion

My compliments to the eloquent Paul Wells for his insightful analysis of Kevin Page’s stellar performance in his role as parliamentary budget officer (“Being hated means getting it right,” Opinion, Feb. 11). Sad to say his pending departure from that position signals yet another cause for celebration in the ranks of the assassins of democratic principles and common sense who populate the corridors of power in Ottawa. Page has been a true champion of the need to speak truth to power and, on that point, I am convinced that Albert Einstein knew what he was talking about when he opined, “A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.” Politicians of Page’s ilk are rare indeed and Canadians owe him a huge debt of gratitude for “telling it like it is” in the face of formidable opposition. Page will be missed.

P.H. (Phil) Etter, Belleville, Ont.

Lay down your arms

Regarding the interview with gun-control advocate Tom Diaz (“The former NRA man on his conversion to gun control, Newtown and the unnoticed carnage,” Interview, Feb. 11), are we not dancing around the obvious? It seems to me that, by whatever means necessary, the United States needs to repeal the Second Amendment, that is, the right to bear arms. This constitutional right was justifiable at a time when the U.S. had to fend off British redcoats in order to forge a nation. The founding fathers would be appalled; this legislation that was fundamental for its time has morphed into an economy of carte-blanche gun sales that has every gangbanger and sociopathic malcontent in the country armed to the teeth with military-class weaponry. Tinkering with the finer points of good-versus-bad guns has been an academic exercise, which plays into the hands of the NRA. Aside from the U.S., no developed nation in the world allows ordinary citizens such unfettered access to firearms.

Douglas Coggon, Toronto

Read at your own risk

Dear Mr. Feschuk, please consider this a cease-and-desist request. You are endangering my life. I read your “Requiem for five resolutions” (Feschuk, Feb. 4) as I was eating my dinner last night, a Nigerian dish called pepper soup. I think the name describes the dish, but in case it doesn’t, I will let you know that it is a mélange of different meats, cooked soft with the hottest spices imaginable. I have been away from Africa for almost 15 years, so I now have to eat my pepper soup with a glass of milk to keep my mouth from erupting into flames. Reading your column, I laughed so hard that the pepper soup went down the wrong way, causing me to cough pieces of soup and vegetables in all directions. I tried to cool things down with the milk, but that came out through every orifice on my face. Thanks to you, my ribs are cracked and I am off my favourite meal. This, I think, qualifies as you trying to kill me, n’est-ce pas? In all seriousness, though, I just wanted to say thank you. I am going through a very difficult time in my life, and anything that makes me laugh is a good thing.

Amaka Munonye, Surrey, B.C.

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