'Canada should never have gotten involved with detaining Meng Wanzhou'

Letters to the editor, March 15, 2019: Readers weigh in on the Meng Wanzhou affair, Brian Mulroney, Nancy Pelosi and more

In February, a team of six Maclean’s writers told the story of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s high-profile arrest and detention, and the high-stakes diplomatic crisis that pit China, which arrested two Canadians and sentenced a third to death, against Canada and its Western allies.

At first, I thought Canada should never have gotten involved with detaining Meng Wanzhou. Now I’m sure, especially after Donald Trump suggested he might use her as a bargaining chip in trade talks with China. But we soon learned that China was no better, arresting Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and suddenly sentencing Robert Schellenberg to death. So much for the rule of law. The U.S. and China are as manipulative as each other, with Canada left holding the bag with at least three Canadians’ lives at stake.
—Al Yakimchuk, Winnipeg

I was an expat living in Shanghai for a time. The country was filled with expats from around the world; we moved about freely, but watching news on BBC and CNN meant sporadic blackouts, especially when they delved into anything concerning dissident politics. I was advised to be careful with my email messages and to not engage in political discussions with my driver; any discussion about Tiananmen Square was forbidden. There was no question that the welfare of the state superseded the welfare of the individual. In this article, Guy Saint-Jacques comments that “foreigners must keep in mind that they could be a target at some point.” Being aware of established protocol and acceptable verbal discourse, I never feared for my safety while living in China. I was respected as an aging white-haired lady from Canada and would often walk the streets of Shanghai alone. In Shanghai’s Century Park, there is a wonderful museum dedicated to Canada’s Dr. Norman Bethune. My guide explained how his medical care during the Chinese Revolution is legendary; all schoolchildren there learn about him. How unfortunate, despite our distinct differences in political ideology, to see Canada blacklisted in the eyes of China.
—Catherine Hammill, Kincardine, Ont.

In January, Shannon Gormley wrote an exhaustive insider account of the 2018 Thai cave rescue, featuring interviews with many of the cave divers who risked their lives to save 12 boys and their coach.

I want to thank you, Shannon Gormley, so very much for your article. I already knew the rescue was extraordinary. I already felt that it must have taken extraordinary people to execute it. But now, thanks to your warm, sensitive narrative, I see how much more wonderful it was than I could possibly have imagined. You made the rescuers real—frightened, tenacious, pragmatic, competent, heroic and humble. You also explained the caves so clearly that I was able to follow the divers’ progress—with the diagram, I confess. There were times, as I read, that my heart raced and my hands clenched as I held that line. It was such an incredible undertaking that it demanded to be chronicled. And you did just that, in the way it needed to be written, compassionately about the people as well as clearly about the process itself.
—Jane Alleslev, Kingston, Ont.

I read this story in its entirety and the facts of the story are moving. So many volunteers contributed and risked their lives to save others. It was a tremendous show of love and humanity at its best. In contrast to this was some base behaviour on the part of the reporter, Shannon Gormley, who felt she had to use profanity several times in the story. I am very disappointed and offended that Maclean’s did not edit this. I consider this magazine to be a family type of magazine. Where are you going, Maclean’s? I read your magazine regularly and do not want to see this type of obscene language in print.
—L. Soucy, Calgary

In February, senior writer Anne Kingston wrote about former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s decades-long political rehabilitation, which saw him return to the spotlight as, among other things, a top NAFTA advisor to Justin Trudeau.

I count myself among the survivors of Brian Mulroney’s first cabinet (“Renovating reputation,” Politics, April 2019). The occasion was the 1959 Maritime model Parliament held at St. Francis Xavier University. The Progressive Conservatives won the election and Brian was our PM. Why I was chosen as his minister of agriculture defies understanding given I would have had difficulty locating the source of the milk on Elsie the Borden cow. We were mostly leaderless—Brian was nowhere to be seen. He was terrifically busy courting anyone from Halifax, or an Ottawa stepping stone to further his career ambitions. We all knew where Brian was going and were awestruck at his brash impetuosity, not angry at being ignored. He was then, and subsequently, the ultimate hustler.
—Paul Robinson, Dartmouth, N.S.

In February, Maclean’s contributor Allen Abel profiled U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a daughter of Baltimore who grew into one of the fiercest politicians in Washington.

In your praise of Pelosi (“The Nancy walking all over Trump,” United States, April 2019), you left out one of the best quotes I’ve heard for a while. From the lips of her daughter the day of her swearing in: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t know you’re bleeding.”
—Craig Waite, Carley, Ont.

In the duelling cover stories featured in our February 2019 issue, associate editor Shannon Proudfoot and Ottawa bureau chief John Geddes delved into the angry, closed-minded, petty world of both the Left and the Right of Canadian politics. 

Thanks so much for the right-left issue. It’s always good to hear things from the other side, especially in the increasingly polarized echo chamber that our media has become for the average citizen. I must say that the almost universal complaint the right has with the infuriating stance of moral superiority the left presents to them resonates with me. My right-leaning friends all sing the same song. However, what I say to them is: “Well, if the shoe fits . . .” If right and left can’t share progressive values and differ on solutions, then these two solitudes will never meet. Some of the interviewees cited the progressive agendas of past great conservatives, and these should be a guide to today’s right, which I believe has lost its way, and as a result invites that moral superiority from the left. How can even the centre-left not look down its nose at the right when it spawns leaders like Doug Ford, who is no better than a bull in a china shop. Or Jason Kenney, who professes to believe in climate change yet when asked for his party’s policy on a matter of utmost importance to the continuation of civilization as we know it, indicates they don’t have a plan, just a lot of criticism of those who do. These people and their policies would be an embarrassment to the conservative greats of yesteryear. The right needs to stop whinging about not being taken seriously and do the heavy lifting associated with cleaning up their act and taking on a responsible conservative viewpoint on a progressive platform. It also means giving up political reliance on the far right and tackling the issues of concern today, including climate, environment, human rights and minority rights, and formulating conservative solutions that are based on facts, not ideology and spin. The shoe does fit.
—Scarrow, Toronto

I am a long-time Maclean’s subscriber and have always enjoyed the balanced coverage on the issues of the day. The February 2019 issue, which calls out the left and the right, is timely in light of the upcoming Alberta and federal elections. However, there appears to be a recurring theme. Generally, it is suggesting that what’s wrong with the left is they are not doing enough to change the world in a more progressive way, and what’s wrong with the right is that they are racist, anti-immigration, have economic policies that appeal only to the rich, etc. This would suggest a left-leaning bias in Maclean’s. The article by Rick Smith, in my view, shows exactly why society has become so divided between left and right. He states that the left is the only side that’s trying to solve problems. This is a typical leftist-elitist statement and is suggesting the left is smarter than the right. If the concerns of the right (which, by the way, are not all extremist, racist or anti-immigration) were taken more seriously by the left, we might have a much larger middle of the political spectrum, where everyone listens to each other for the greater good of all.
—Donato Pasquini, Calgary

Great February issue. Andrew MacDougall was so right when he said, “Scheer should make competence the issue” for the upcoming election. And in light of the recent SNC-Lavalin Wilson-Raybould revelations, I would add the issue of integrity. The party that can deliver on these two qualities will win the election. As Canadians, we deserve no less and we are so ready for it.
—Angie Marquez, Mississauga, Ont.

As a small-town transplant who now lives in downtown Toronto, I read your right-left issue eagerly. Having lived in both right- and left-dominated environments, I’ve seen the problems of both. I think you did a good job diagnosing the right’s role in our current tribal mindset and polarization, but I’m afraid that for the left, you got only the symptoms and missed the root problem. Arrogant, elitist, sure; but in my experience, beneath it all there often lies a deeply rooted contempt for the very concept of conservatism. Put simply, genuine progressive advancements in the past have led some leftists to believe they alone are on the moral side of history. Their identity is wrapped up in this notion; they choose to define themselves in constant opposition to those they find less enlightened. It’s routine among a certain class of Torontonian for rural Canada to be alternately dismissed as “white trash” or “regressive,” and for conservatives to simply be written off as idiots at best and outright evil at worst. For as long as I’ve lived here, as someone with rural origins, I have been forced to listen to all manner of slander about right-leaning people, as though it’s impossible for any thinking human to have a world view that deviates from current left-wing orthodoxy. When I moved to the city, I left behind experiences of right-wing bigotry and closed-mindedness; sadly I appear to have traded them in for left-wing hatred of a very different sort. Our current polarization is very much a two-way street.
—Brennan Curtis, Toronto

A funny thing happened to me at the drugstore yesterday. Picked up a Maclean’s  from the rack entitled “What’s wrong with the Right?” (it had a blue cover page, naturally). I rejoiced that these righties were finally going to be exposed. Went home, quickly unpacked it, put it on the counter and did something else. Came back and, knowing it had a blue cover, couldn’t see it anywhere, so I asked my wife, Linda, what she did with it. “NOTHING!” was her answer. Looked again and noticed the magazine on the counter had a red cover that read “What’s wrong with the Left?” I thought, holy shoot, they printed both and let the buyer pick which one they wanted, but how could I have picked the wrong one? I was annoyed with myself. I happened to turn the magazine over and there, lo and behold, was the blue cover. Needless to say, I laughed at myself. It might well be enlightening for future debates with friends.
—Bob Baker, Toronto

In November, senior writer Paul Wells wrote about a united front of provincial conservative politicians who joined federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in fighting a national price on carbon.

Mr. Wells, I read your cover story about the provincial resistance to carbon tax when it first came out. It bothered me. I wanted to let you know that it bothered me, but I got busy and time went by, and I wasn’t quite sure what to say so I didn’t let you know. I did reread the article, however, and went through the same gyrations, and again I did not send you my comments. But today is different. I just finished reading another article in Canadian Geographic by undoubtedly another very smart person. It’s about some very rare and mysterious bears that live in the very far northwest corner of B.C. and adjoining Yukon and Alaska and are called glacier bears and the magazine was the Canadian Geographic January/February 2019 edition. In the articles about these very rare and hard to find bears, the author mentions that not enough is known yet about them yet to determine if there should be a hunting ban in place to protect them. Amazing, I thought: it just seemed so obvious to me that if they are so elusive, rare and hard to find, you need to protect them until you have enough information to say yes, we can hunt them! This author could have very easily and gently stuck a pointy stick in the story to suggest that very thought. And that reminded me of your story. Now I knew why it bothered me. So I read it again and here is my concern. Climate change is real. It is happening as I write this. It is not going away anytime soon. Sadly, it is going to keep getting worse and worse with more and more dramatic bad effects on us. Now, if you do not believe in climate change then fair enough. But if you do believe in it then don’t you agree that you could have easily stuck a pointy stick in the article to remind all those fine conservatives that lip service about climate change solutions does not cut it? They are either part of the solution or they are part of the problem. And if conservative leaders want to be part of the solution to climate change, they need to be public now about what they propose to do about it. Let us have a public debate about the best solutions. I believe you had an opportunity to be part of that debate and part of the solution. So, next time?
—David Leroy, Delta, B.C.

In February, associate editor Nick Taylor-Vaisey wrote about how Canada’s top NAFTA negotiator, a frugal bureaucrat named Steve Verheul, renegotiated the most important trade deal of his career.

Nice to know Steve Verheul met 68 times with dairy producers during NAFTA renegotiations (“The Tao of Steve,” National Notes, April 2019). But I wonder how many times he met with low-income Canadians paying twice the American price for milk, cheese and butter.
—Bruce Annan, Ottawa