‘I’m reasonably sure I need less Céline and more Stompin’ Tom’

Letters to the editor, January 27, 2022: Readers weigh in on Céline Dion, a beetle-obsessed scientist, and the future of the Liberal party

Songs of solace

In December, contributor Katie Underwood wrote about the power of Céline Dion

I would like to express my appreciation for Katie Underwood’s article on Céline Dion (“Coming back to us now,” Torch Song, December 2021). It was beautifully written, funny and touching. Underwood mounts a compelling defence of Dion, and of the role singers play in sustaining our emotional lives. Musicians, poets and performers have always been the ones to get us through a crisis. Remember poet Anna Akhmatova and the siege of Stalingrad! While artists are often treated as trivial in our society, they are, in fact, vital to our survival.

–Gillian McCann, North Bay, Ont.

Your contributor writes that Canada has never needed Céline Dion more. I’m reasonably sure I need less Céline and more Stompin’ Tom—unless, of course, she knows all the words to Sudbury Saturday Night.

–Mel Simoneau, Gatineau, Que.

Indispensable insects

In December, Alanna Mitchell wrote about one man’s mission to catalogue every species of Coleoptera

The somewhat superficial depiction of the “obsession” of Pat Bouchard’s cataloguing of beetle species belies the seriousness of his work (“Beetlemania,” Obsessions, December 2021). Insects are the movers and shakers of terrestrial ecosystems—without them, nature as we know it would collapse. In Canada, we have about 39,000 species of insects with names and at least 20,000 without them. Although concerns about biodiversity generally centre around fish, caribou and other large vertebrates, the real crisis lies with these small creatures. “Ecologically based” forest practices and the like do not consider this biodiversity. There have been huge declines in virtually all insect populations throughout the globe over the past decades, with high extinction rates. We desperately need more information on all the species we have if we are to make sound decisions regarding how best to live with the nature we’re blessed with.

–Art Borkent, Salmon Arm, B.C.

Nation-building exercise

In January, Aaron Hutchins wrote about Canada’s decision to participate in the Beijing Olympics despite China’s human rights abuses

The Olympics are athletic events and should be free of political interference (“Why are we playing games in China?” January 2022). Choosing the site for any Olympic Games does involve political and many other concerns, but Beijing was chosen for this Olympic Games. Governments should be assisting athletes of all levels, genders and abilities. This requires a financial commitment, providing facilities and equipment and making available well-qualified coaches. People who have had the opportunity to be involved in sports and athletics always gain in physical health, mental focus and goal setting, and improved social attitudes. Tragically, peoples and cultures continue to be attacked. Those now opposed to the Beijing Olympics are focusing on the plight of the Uighurs, even calling this a form of genocide. Canada is still reconciling itself to the “treatment” of Indigenous people, who for centuries were isolated and deprived of their cultures. Call it assimilation or genocide or a softer reference, the impact was the same. Canada needs to clean its house first. Canadian athletes make us proud and bring our nation together. Go Canada Go.

–Denis Ottewell, Burnaby, B.C.

Crowded house

In January, Paul Wells wrote about what the Liberal Party will look like without Justin Trudeau. It featured images of Trudeau’s current (and very large) cabinet. 

The picture on pages 28 and 29 of the army of cabinet ministers (37) says a lot (“The life of the party,” January 2022). Our main G7 partners have the following number of cabinet posts, including prime minister and cabinet, or president and cabinet: U.K., 26; U.S., 24; Japan, 20; France, 17; and Germany, 16. All those nations have much larger populations than ours, especially the U.S., with 10 times as many citizens. Surely we do not need this many positions for an efficient government, and with all the staff and salaries, the cost must be enormous. A good trimming would go down well with Canadian taxpayers.

–Brian Davidson, Pincourt, Que.

The carbon question

In January, Stephen Maher wrote about the end of the battle over carbon taxes

In my 30 years serving with the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Military Engineers from Victoria to Goose Bay, N.L., and as far north as Alert, Nunavut, I have been an environmentalist as well as a consumer of hydrocarbons (“The last gasp,” January 2022). A world without carbon is beyond the dreams of even the most fervent environmentalists, who continue to use asphalt shingles, cellphones and fossil fuels. We would sooner buy cheap products produced in China or India and fuelled by coal-powered electrical plants than transmit by pipeline natural gas or other oil products from Canada. Let’s have a walk-to-work day in sub-zero temperatures and deep snow, or better still a swim-to-work day when we cannot use diesel-fuelled generators to pump out flood water. My question to Canadians and politicians is this: individually or collectively, what are you willing to give up forever in your life? Be honest and do it, or continue to lie to yourselves.

–Claude R. Lalonde, Edmonton

Amazing Agnes

In December, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Agnes Macphail’s landmark election to the House of Commons by republishing our 1933 profile of her. Macphail was the first woman to be elected as a Member of Parliament. 

Loved the archival profile about Agnes Macphail (“Miss Macphail,” From the Archive, December 2021)! It made me go to Google to find out more about her. Such an interesting woman—she founded the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada and championed pensions for seniors and workers’ rights, etc. Plus, she was a single working woman at a time when that was rare.

–Nina Everaert, Wallaceburg, Ont.

Premiers vs. science

In December, Jason Markusoff wrote about how Jason Kenney’s mishandling of COVID-19 has been his undoing

After reading Jason Markusoff’s article about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s atrocious handling of COVID-19, it has become even clearer to me that conservative provincial governments have not fared at all well (“The incredible sinking man,” December 2021). Right-wing thinking simply does not jibe with the available science and fails at the logic that’s needed for decision-making during this kind of crisis. Kenney, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Ontario’s Doug Ford have proven beyond a doubt that they are the wrong leaders during this pandemic. And unfortunately, we are not out of the woods yet.

–Dave Brown, Waterloo, Ont.

COVID on the slopes

In November, Michelle Cyca wrote about the re-opening of North America’s largest ski resort

Your article about Whistler Blackcomb’s reopening this fall/winter is misleading (“Openings,” Bearings, November 2021). It suggests that only the vaccinated are being welcomed back. Not so! Indoor restaurants, patios and bars will require proof of vaccination, but there is no such requirement to purchase ski tickets or, most irresponsibly, to board the closed gondolas. Despite its claim to the contrary, Whistler Blackcomb couldn’t care less about public safety unless it is mandated by the provincial health authorities.

–Martie Simon, Toronto

Bigger than politicians

In November, Paul Wells examined the hollowness of the Liberal election victory

I enjoyed Paul Wells’s piece on the Liberal election victory (“The triumph of Justin Trudeau,” November 2021). Why do we allow our political parties to write platforms that are all pie in the sky, so to speak? The NDP’s national pharmacare program? Great idea, but how? Meeting carbon emissions targets before the planet is unlivable? Awesome! How? Solving systemic racism that goes back to the birth of our Canada? Another superb idea! How? We cannot just leave it up to the politicians. We, as the citizens of this country, need to make some tough choices and do some difficult work in order to progress as a country and as a civilized society.

–Ben Perrier, Belleville, Ont.

These letters appear in print in the February 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine.