Watch Brian Bethune reply to reader mail

Read our mailbag. Bethune responds to criticism of his latest cover story.

Highlights from this week’s mailbag


For months now, pundits have tried to make sense of “How Trump happened” (International, March 14). But perhaps Donald Trump offers some insight when he affectionately refers to the “poorly educated.” As Thomas Jefferson cautioned, “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.” With the continued devaluing of the kind of education that promotes political literacy, is it surprising that there is a growing lack of sophistication among a portion of the voting public?

Norman Vandenberg, Peterborough, Ont.

Well, of course Trump “happened.” What left-wing socialists like Maclean’s simply cannot understand is that the public is sick unto death of the corrupt politicians that you’re forever fawning over who have nothing other than the destruction of the so-called “order of things” in mind. You’re mentally incapable of grasping that people have just had it up to the proverbial “here.” You must be in an absolute panic.

Daryl Moad, Winnipeg

I cannot see myself ever voting for the likes of Donald Trump. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that we extol the virtues of democracy and abiding by the decision of the majority—except when that majority elects someone we cannot stand.

Wilfried Kaethler, Steinbach, Man.

Sour on sugar

It is not clear at all why it would be “pointless” to ban advertising on children’s food, as your March 21 editorial suggests. Most of this advertising is for highly processed, high-fat, high-calorie food and not healthy food at all. Parents have a hard time countering the seduction of this sophisticated advertising. The only beneficiary is big business, who would not spend a dime on advertising if it wasn’t successful. Government should get back to the task of protecting vulnerable children from corporate predation. Seeing how governments subsidize everything from the auto sector to transportation to oil, what could be so bad with making healthy food a little cheaper? These actions could also lead to lower costs for health care in the long run. “Government regulation” is not a dirty phrase.

Mark Christie, Indian River, Ont.

You see no connection between not taxing sugary foods and a young girl served “a half box of Lucky Charms” with whipping cream for breakfast who “got breast cancer in her twenties” (The End, March 21). While speculative for an individual, at a population level, the connections between poor nutrition and common diseases are real. In North America, we saw a transition from traditional to highly processed foods over six decades, but with the much faster transition in Latin America, scientists and policy-makers are connecting cause and effect more easily. The Pan American Health Organization and WHO state that “sales of ultra-processed products throughout the Americas needs to be checked by statutory regulations and the development of market opportunities to protect and strengthen local and national healthy food systems and thus healthy dietary patterns.” Shame on you for treating the issue of taxing sugary drinks as an issue of personal freedom when it is clearly an economic issue. Those who buy junk food should contribute toward the costs that governments bear in dealing with the resulting human misery.

Dan Prowse, Winnipeg

The seeds of a solution

It’s time we have a reasoned discussion “In praise of Frankenfoods” (Economy, March 21). The fearmongers ignore the fact that, after 20 years of production of GMO crops, there is not a single proven case of any harm to human or animal health. Accompanying the increases in production and quality is the significant reduction of the carbon footprint rendered by modern agriculture. Field work has been dramatically reduced—two to three trips on the field compared to six to eight as in the past—means less soil compaction, less consumption of fossil fuels, less erosion and better cover and feed for wildlife. The need to feed the projected global population of 10 billion by mid-century will need all science can bring in a future of a reduced land base created by population growth, reduced rainfall and the effects of global warming. More exposure to facts such as those in your piece are needed.

Martin C. Pick, Cavan, Ont.

If the self-perceived benevolent Frankenfood industry really does trust its products, then label them and let the public respond democratically. Offer an honest choice and live with the results. Trust the customers. Provide an open market and monitor the results as part of the research.

Peter Mogk, Brantford, Ont.

Ease the pain

Most of us do not understand the ethical importance of assisted death if we have never experienced the death of a suffering family member or a friend (“Debating the right to die,” Letters, March 21). We can only understand this predicament when the very best that medical science has to offer is not enough to ameliorate their pain. Dying with assistance will never be mandatory. We will never have lineups for this service, but when it is requested from someone who is suffering the ravages of end-stage disease, to not provide this care is exceedingly inhumane and cruel. As a retired community nurse who has witnessed many deaths, I speak from experience.

Catherine Hammill, Kincardine, Ont.

My husband was 87 years old. He had dementia and the severe pain he was experiencing, it was discovered, was from cancer. The decision was made that since he would probably only last a short while he should be on painkillers and kept comfortable. He would be allowed to starve to death. For two weeks I watched this once-healthy, robust man slowly turn to an unrecognizable skeleton. He was aware of what was happening to him and his eyes pleaded with me to do something. The grip of his hand was a daily plea. He finally died Christmas Eve, at one o’clock in the morning, alone. Because assisted suicide is against the law, I was denied the right to hold him in my arms, and comfort him while he died a dignified, peaceful death. I am left for the rest of my life with the agonizing memory of my loved one dying such a horrible death when it could have been so different. And we call ourselves “a civilized society.”

Greta Poole, Regina

Viva New Brunswick!

New Brunswick’s business community is alive and well (“A drive-through province,” National, March 21). There is no doubt people are feeling the weight of the economy, but it is not all doom and gloom. A recent survey conducted by the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce shows over half our members feel positively about the current economic conditions. The Bank of Montreal reported Greater Moncton as one of “Canada’s best cities to find a job,” rating us No. 4 on the list, ahead of Vancouver and Toronto. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well among our newcomers, young entrepreneurs and the established business community. There is a lot happening here. Being humble New Brunswickers, we are so busy building success stories we just don’t have time to stop and talk about it.

Carol O’Reilly, CEO, Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce, Moncton, N.B.

Concrete answers

So Canada will cripple the concrete industry because of carbon emissions emitted in the product’s manufacturing (“Rock and a hard place,” Economy, March 14). However, Canada will import concrete from China while pouring millions of dollars into China as a “developing country” to help fight global warming. In Canada, meanwhile, we will revert to massive logging and clear-cutting to use wood in future construction. This in turn would result in the destruction of a prime carbon sequester. Have I missed something here that may hint of sanity?

Mary Ann Hocquard, King, Ont.

The forest and wood products industry overall has significantly larger carbon emissions than concrete. Statistics Canada tracks forestry and logging separately from wood-product manufacturing. When combined, wood generated nearly 16,500 kilotonnes of GHG emissions in 2013 versus only about 10,000 kilotonnes generated by concrete and cement; the difference between those figures is equivalent to the average annual emissions of 1.38 million cars. As well, a recent study confirms that insurance costs for mid- and high-rise wood buildings are up to 7.5 times higher than concrete. The main reasons cited are: greater fire peril and significantly higher moisture risk. Fire resistance and safety are no small matter. In contrast, concrete is extremely fire resistant, is non-combustible and maintains load during a fire.

Chris Conway, Chair, Concrete Council of Canada, Mississauga, Ont.


“It takes a village” (Society, March 21) referred to the Toronto Zoo’s 2015 financial statement, which has not been released to the public, and speculated it would show impressive losses. On March 10, Jennifer Tracey, the senior director of marketing, communications and partnerships, said the zoo had a balanced budget for 2015, achieved through a “number of initiatives” as well as money from a reserve fund, which was bolstered after a profitable year in 2013 and continues to have a balance of more than $1 million.