Keep it positive
Those of us who are concerned about increasing partisanship (“The partisan problem is spreading,” From the Editors, Dec. 23) need to
not vote for candidates who engage in it, and tell them why they lost their vote. We have to stop rewarding these people for lowering the tone of the discussion. In the last federal election I voted for the NDP candidate even though I saw her as a sacrificial lamb. She was never going to win, but she was upbeat, positive and engaging. The incumbent Liberal lost my vote during an all-candidates meeting when he made a partisan attack on the Conservative candidate (who was no slouch in the partisan department herself). He apologized later, but the apology didn’t make me forget what he had said.
Karen Chandler, Mississauga, Ont.
Digging out the dirt
It’s about time someone in a position to propose some kind of structural change to our political system steps forward and gives us all a chance to rethink our hopeless Parliament (“The unlikely revolutionary,” National, Dec. 23). As grateful as I am to Michael Chong for his Reform Act, it represents only a first step in democratizing the institution. Adversarial party politics is distracting us from developing intelligent, creative solutions to our problems. Too much time is spent trying to find dirt on opponents, and industry lobbying pressure is relentless. We need to institutionalize informed citizen participation in policy decisions.
Robert Beaulieu, Melbourne, Que.
In discussing squishing more people into an airplane (“Flying the cramped skies,” Business, Dec. 16), you don’t mention air quality. A full flight already has minimal fresh air, so I can’t imagine how awful another 100 people on a 777 would be. As a person who has worked in the industry for many years, here is a hint: Air Transat has rejigged their seats to give you more room. The airlines are expected to earn many billions this year due to “auxiliary charges,” so I don’t quite know why they want to make their passengers less comfortable.
Gloria Thompson, Wasaga Beach, Ont.
Living with loss
Immediately after I read about the tragic death of Jonathon David Wood (The End, Dec. 23), I felt that I had to respond. All too often I read news about a fatal accident in which a young driver is guilty of impaired driving, and my heart goes out to both the victims and the young offending drivers. I’m reminded of how many close calls I had as a young driver. I was lucky; some of my friends were not. It took me a long time to learn that I don’t have any right to risk the life of someone else. Jonathon, by his own behaviour, showed respect for others. Driving under the influence of alcohol is not socially acceptable, but the act is often tolerated. That’s the problem. Many wonderful young people commit a really stupid act that results in tragedy. They didn’t intend to behave like a criminal by committing a federal offence, but they did. The 18-year-old man charged with impaired driving causing death unfortunately ruined the lives of many. When will people learn that they don’t have the right to risk the life of someone else?
Gord Binnington, Kingston, Ont.
I hope Omar Khadr will soon be paroled and receive a substantial financial settlement for his disgraceful and inhuman treatment (“The $60-million man?” National, Dec. 16). The settlement should, but won’t be, from Conservative coffers. I’ve contributed to the “Free Omar Now” committee and when I write the codicil to my will next spring, near my 86th birthday, I will increase the bequest to Omar.
Jack Hallam, Saltspring Island, B.C.
If Khadr, the convicted terrorist, wins his case against the federal government and a judge decides the monetary value of his award, I am going to stop paying taxes.
Bogdan Kulik, Kincardine, Ont.
Don’t leave it to guesswork
As outlined in “What lies beneath” (Business, Dec. 23), Syncrude is testing disposal of its tailings through submergence in one of its mined-out pits, dubbed Base Mine Lake. According to a company spokesman, “We know it will work because we’ve tested it on a smaller scale.” A supposed cornerstone of the approvals process for natural-resource projects in Canada is “to anticipate and prevent degradation of environmental quality” (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, 2011). In essence, a plan for mining a natural resource like the oil sands has to be cradle-to-grave, returning the landscape to its natural state at the end of production. Experimentation, trying to figure out how you’re going to deal with the millions of tons of toxic tailings you’ll generate in the life of a mine while you are in the midst of mining it should never be required: your approval should have been contingent upon having a solution in the first place. As Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) pointed out in its own report on the performance of oil sands operators in managing their tailings, “In their project applications, operators had proposed to convert their tailings ponds into deposits suitable for reclamation. However, operators failed to meet their performance commitments” (ERCB, 2013). For all of our sakes, I hope the gamble works. But maybe we shouldn’t gamble on a scale of this magnitude, and actually insist that we meet the requirements of the environmental protection laws we have in the first place.
David Wilson, Rockland, Ont.
Including Miley Cyrus in your Newsmakers was hardly a surprise given the headlines she made this past year (“Think unsexy thoughts,” Newsmakers, Dec. 16). What angers me is how Emma Teitel portrays her in a positive light, someone to be admired for her originality. Miley is an immature, completely narcissistic performer who now revels in being obscene and an open drug user. The best thing we can do as a society is ignore people like this and hope they go away. Her behaviour is repulsive and not even mildly entertaining.
L.M. Soucy, Edmonton
(Among the) first in flight
In the interesting article on Chris Hadfield in your Newsmakers 2013 issue (“Our man in space,” Newsmakers, Dec. 16) it was stated that when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969 “Canada didn’t even have a space program.” In fact, we did: we were the fourth nation “in space” with the launch of Alouette-1 in 1962. We did not have a space agency, but we did have a strong space program, including the early activity of what would become the world-renowned Canada Centre for Remote Sensing under the leadership of the late Larry Morley. His vision led to our very successful RADARSAT series of satellites.
Bob Ryerson, Director General (retired), Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Manotick, Ont.
Not built for bikes
As a Montrealer, I appreciated your evaluation of the Montreal-originated Bixi bicycle rental system (“Broken spokes,” National, Dec. 23) as it relates to Toronto and other North American cities. “Financial success” is definitely not a term that can be applied to our attempt to stretch public transportation from train, bus and subway systems to bicycle paths. Bixi may increase the physical activities of our cyclists, but many of our bicycle paths are right next to clogged traffic, where exhaust systems spew fumes. Bixi is modelled on many European cities, where roads were indeed designed with bicycles in mind, while Montreal’s streets were and are not. As of September 2013, our city’s auditor general had not even been able to obtain Bixi’s financial statement for the 2012 bicycle season, which may be an omen of even more negative news as to its current financial status.
Robert Marcogliese, Montreal
Pants on fire
Letter writer Tahir Yahya Yousuf Zai implies he may vote for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford again because Ford doesn’t take money out of Zai’s pocket (“Where is the line for Rob Ford?” Letters, Dec. 16). But Ford has proven himself to be a compulsive liar. He has lied to us again and again and he hasn’t stopped even when he has been caught on numerous lies about his illegal drug use. Recently he lied to us again on the Conrad Black TV show, about the actions of a Toronto Star reporter, and only admitted his lying when threatened with a libel suit. So how can we trust Ford “not to take money out of our pockets”? I don’t think we can trust a single thing that Ford says to us.
Nick Stowell, Toronto
You browse it, you buy it
Brian Bethune’s timely commentary on the rather rude misuse of retail outlets as a free showroom for online shoppers, and the continued decline of the bookstore (“Thanks for the tip, I’ll get it on Amazon,” Books, Dec. 16), points out a design flaw in the so-called “information age,” when anyone can summon information both quickly and freely. What is real knowledge worth? As someone who has worked in and written on independent retail, I can attest to the service chasm created by discount stores and online retailers. People like to deal with knowledgeable and trustworthy staff and know what they’re buying and from whom. This “showroom” phenomenon is not unique to bookstores. My wife regularly gets customers in the jewellery store where she works who expect her to fix items bought at warehouse wholesalers and provide hours of free education on buying diamonds (with the intent of then purchasing online). The generation of customers raised on free downloads and no-questions-asked returns sees knowledge and service as a freebie. It isn’t, and it’s time to set them straight. If you expect to buy at wholesale prices, do not expect retail service.
William Greenways, Edmonton
Harper’s travel plans
So Stephen Harper is “Israel’s best friend” (National, Dec. 23). What ever happened to the division of church and state in Canada? To see the countries around Israel as “a region of darkness” and Israel as “light of freedom and democracy” is indeed a juxtaposition that is not new to the right wing. For the PM to base his position on “his father’s own fervent belief” in Israel is an insult to thinking Canadians. Can he not think for himself? One can only hope he spends some time in the West Bank and Gaza for a reality check as he travels there next year.
Art Hildebrand, Crystal City, Man.
The Continent bites back
You might want to rename your “Letter from Europe” as “Letter from the U.K.,” because most articles under this heading are about the United Kingdom, such as “The U.K.’s slave shame” (International, Dec. 23) which, I would like to note, unduly names Albania as an EU member state. Please revise your European geography!
Mayken Brünings, Paris, France