Letters: 'Democracy is alive and well in Canada'

Maclean's readers write in

Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister-elect and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, speaks to supporters on election night in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Trudeau's Liberal Party swept into office with a surprise majority, ousting Prime Minister Stephen Harper and capping the biggest comeback election victory in Canadian history. (Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister-elect and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, speaks to supporters on election night in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The results are in

If there is a lesson to be drawn from this election (“Unfinished business,” Election 2015, Oct. 26), it is that democracy is alive and well in Canada. The loss of a quarter of the Conservative vote from the previous election was mainly due to the perception that Stephen Harper’s majority government was a one-man show, that the cabinet and the caucus members were puppets and that the Chief Justice of the Supreme could be rebuked. The expectation now is that Justin Trudeau and his party will restore the democratic practices, i.e. consideration of parliamentarians’ views and respect shown for judges. It will be a Canadian government, not the Trudeau government, that enacts the laws for Canadians to live by.

— Sudhir Jain, Calgary

Congratulations, Justin Trudeau. It took you just one day as prime minister-designate to prove that election attack ads portraying you as not ready for high office were on target. Your panicky rush to cancel Canada’s combat mission against ISIS was horribly wrong. Not only did you break faith by abandoning our friends and allies in the midst of battle, but you have signalled to terrorists everywhere that no matter how revolting their conduct, they can count on Canada as a willing dupe for their export of violent jihad. Your action also shamefully left in the lurch the desperate Kurds, Christians, Iraqis, and their defenceless civilian communities, who once trusted us for guidance and protection. It is one thing to show support for the overwhelming number of loyal Canadian Muslims but this should not have blinded you to the fact that murderous jihadi extremism is by far the West’s greatest and growing peril that can only be stopped by force of arms—better in their land than ours. Leading a diverse nation in troubled times is a serious full-time job and not just a pot-smoking, Woodstock love-in. The sooner you learn this, the better for us all.

—Donald McKay, Calgary

After living in Canada for more than two decades, I have never taken an election as seriously as this one. I never appreciated what it really means to cast your ballot. It meant a lot, to me, especially as a Canadian from an immigrant background, or a non-“old stock” Canadian. I took this election as a chance to express my overall feelings about the current hardline government. I made a special prayer before leaving my home. I said: Anyone but Harper. He was the only leader who used the politics of fear, fear of the other, fear of a minority group that is already marginalized, in order to score points and win an election.

—Abubakar N. Kasim, Toronto

To understand Justin Trudeau’s unstoppable landslide, you should have taken a look at 18th-century Britain, where William Pitt the Younger, following in the footsteps of his famous father, William Pitt the Elder, became Great Britain’s youngest prime minister, at the tender age of 24. He was ridiculed for his lack of experience (sound familiar?). A popular ditty commented that it was “a sight to make all nations stand and stare: a kingdom trusted to a schoolboy’s care.” But he proved to be highly successful. He reformed the Indian government, worked to abolish the slave trade, fought the French, and paid down the debt. In 1791, he passed the Constitutional Act of British Canada, dividing the English-speaking Upper Canada and French-speaking Lower Canada into Ontario and Quebec, thus laying the foundation for the future Confederation. Like Pitt the Younger, Justin Trudeau is the son of a great prime minister. He is also very charismatic. At 43, he is young enough to satisfy the public yearning for a fresh leader after a decade of Stephen Harper’s rule. This explains why Harper’s attack ads ridiculing Trudeau as “a celebrity with a famous name” failed to dent his popularity.

—Mahmood Elahi, Ottawa

We, the taxpayers, get royally screwed, irrespective of which party holds the reins. Why don’t we just grant each party a four-year turn at messing things up? It would be a lot simpler and just as efficient.

—Hank Bangild, Port Colborne, Ont.

To sir with love

I’m tired of hearing Justin Trudeau’s background as a teacher criticized as being a career that ill-prepares someone for leadership (“Not for turning, it turns out,” Election 2015, Oct. 12). I would rather have someone with Trudeau’s background as leader than that of Vladimir Putin (KGB) or George W. Bush (a string of corporate failures). Like Trudeau, I’m a teacher. A teacher spends his days listening to different people’s opinions, works with ideas and is forever adapting to new situations and government initiatives. Why was Stephen Harper’s past as a professional backroom political operative with an economics degree preferable? Those are usually the people who don’t understand the average Joe and make decisions solely based on winning elections. Stop bashing teachers and stop seeing it as a reason to dismiss Trudeau. Thank the teachers you had as a child for your literacy skills.

—Colin MacEachern, Cole Harbour, N.S.

Face to face

I respect the right of people to wear what they want (within the bounds of decency) while walking down the street, getting groceries, swearing a citizenship oath, etc., without being hassled (“A single niqab eclipses all,” Election 2015, Nov. 2). But please pay me the respect of showing who you are when we are engaged in conversation. I do not see the niqab debate as a women’s issue or an issue of religious freedom. The holy books merely suggest modesty in dress, for both men and women. The niqab is a cultural practice, not a religious one. What this issue is to me is one of communication, respect and trust. We receive 80 per cent or more of our communication cues from non-verbal language. I want to know who I’m talking to. I can’t have an open and honest conversation when communication cues are missing. Accommodation is a two-way street and citizenship involves responsibilities as well as rights.

—Valerie Pruegger, Calgary

Say no to snitching

How can I say I’m not comfortable with the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act without sounding as if I’m comfortable with barbaric cultural practices? However, the fact that Stephen Harper’s government wanted to establish a snitch line for citizens brings to mind Stalin and Beria and children being lionized by the Communist party for reporting their parents for having “bourgeois tendencies.” “Snitching” on “barbaric cultural practices,” per se, may be a good thing. But what might be next? An official, government-operated “snitch line” for any issue has “slippery slope” written all over it.

—Fraser Petrick, Kingston, Ont.

Don’t just vote

Scott Gilmore wants us to “Pick a reason—any reason—and vote” (Oct. 26). Shouldn’t the democratic voting process be based on something better than “just hold your nose and vote, damn it”? Wouldn’t people be much more motivated to vote if they were presented with legitimate options in a credible system? Perhaps this would be a good time to begin the process of improving our system. A good place to start would be to find answers for questions such as: Why can’t we vote directly for our Prime Minister? Why can’t we vote for the best person in our riding to represent us in Parliament, and not have some partisan puppet shoved our way? Would the best interests of the country and its citizens be better served without a “party” system? If the United States (perhaps a poor example), with a population of 320 million spread over 50 states, can attempt to be governed by 435 representatives and 100 elected senators, why does Canada—with 35 million people and 13 provinces and territories—need 338 MPs and 105 unelected senators? What about term limits for all elected individuals, including MPs and senators? In our current system, it seems the only people excited about elections in this country are the ones fighting to make their way to the public trough. No wonder people don’t vote!

—Bill Jarrett, Cambridge Ont.

Good dog

I want to thank Maclean’s for producing the daily Bulldog edition of the magazine (for smartphones and tablets) during the lead-up to the recent federal election. I read these editions eagerly each morning and feel that they contributed to the most educated vote I have cast in my 40 years of voting. My hat goes off to your hard-working reporters and writers who must have pulled a lot of all-nighters to accomplish this wonderful task. Kudos to Maclean’s!

—Donald Koval, Picton, Ont.

Less than zero

Jason Kirby closes his interview with former U.S. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke (“Into the abyss,” Economy, Oct. 19) with this comment: “The U.S. is already at zero [interest rate], though; it can’t go any lower.” Bernanke seems to agree by replying that the Fed could postpone any rate increases as a way of helping the economy recover. However, as Bernanke knows, negative interest rates are already creeping across the world’s financial landscape. Switzerland’s is minus 0.75 per cent. Sweden, Denmark and the European Central Bank have also gone negative. I believe negative interest rates will come to Canada. People will accept them as a kind of fee to guarantee (but only theoretically, in my opinion) the security of their capital.

—Dave Adeney, Burlington, Ont.

No one is that bad

Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford may be guilty of many sins, but to imply that he worked his staff so hard that two of them developed cancer is beyond the pale (“2:39 a.m. Blocked number. Uh-oh—Rob,” National, Oct. 26). Considering Ford’s own battle with cancer, this accusation was also in poor taste.

—Ezra Franken, Montreal

Ban the brawl

I have been a hockey fan for over 75 years, and my first reaction to “Last days of the brawler” (Society, Oct. 12) was “at last!” I have always considered fighting in hockey to be a waste of my time, akin to the time taken to clean the ice after disgruntled fans, who were not content with booing, littered the ice with programs. I have heard it said, ad nauseam, that the fans want fighting, but I know many people who do not attend the games, simply because they deplore the brawling.

—Art Davison, Edmonton

The story “Hitting where it hurts, below the border” (Economy Oct. 19) incorrectly stated the amount of money Canadian visitors spent in the U.S. in 2013. The correct number is $23.4 billion.

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