Readers weigh in on senate reform, gender equality and why dogs are the best

The Senate—who needs it?

Both your editorial (“Why the Senate should be abolished,” From the Editors, March 18) and John Geddes’s article (“ ‘Contempt for the whole institution,’ ” National, March 18) laid out the pitfalls of trying to reform the Senate. You then observe, “The dramatic centralization of power in Ottawa into the hands of the Prime Minister’s Office means the Senate can no longer play any significant role in the mechanics of Canada’s political system.” Forget the Senate: our whole parliamentary system needs fixing, starting with the PMO.

Robert Millar, Toronto

I spent seven years as the Senate’s first ethics officer (2005-12), and I find it terribly unfair that the reputations of all members of the upper house are being thrashed in the wake of allegations involving just a few members. The senators I know have entered public life to serve their fellow Canadians and would not knowingly conduct themselves in a manner that would contravene Senate rules. I was impressed with the range of knowledge they demonstrate, the enthusiasm they bring to their job, their commitment to public service. With clearer and stronger rules in the making and the possibility of real reform on the horizon, the Senate is on the right path.

Jean Fournier, Qualicum Beach, B.C.

Your assertion that the Senate should be abolished is welcomed; however, don’t forget about the 2010 climate-change bill they overturned after it was passed by the House of Commons, or the sports-gambling bill they plan on defeating after it was unanimously passed by MPs. If constitutional amendments are too arduous, then the upper chamber must be starved financially. Reduce their pay and allowances and let’s end this $106-million-a-year boondoggle.

Vince Cifani, Toronto

There is a simple way to abolish the Senate. All our Prime Minister has to do is no longer appoint senators for the remainder of his term. In less than a decade, Canadian taxpayers will be free of the responsibility of financing a patronage-filled, powerless Senate with its never-ending string of improprieties that cause taxpayers continual consternation.

Earl Toner, Grand Falls, N.B.

The Senate needs to reassert itself. As a political entity, it can still be of critical importance to the equitable administration of governance in this country. A more powerful centralized federal Parliament is not in our best interest. A government that is scrutinized and corrected before anyone has to go to court and force reluctant compliance would be preferable. Stephen Harper’s current ploy of referring proposed legislation to the Supreme Court is yet another path toward sidelining the Senate and ensuring its demise, to his and his party’s gain. This kind of backdoor assimilation of power is only slightly more sophisticated than the means used in Third World countries to entrench the authority of the ruling parties and to sideline valid debate or alternative proposals.

Paul Mundy, Kitchener, Ont.

As long as Canada has a bicameral Parliament in which only one house is elected by the people, this country is at best a semi-democracy. Another compelling reason to bring the current ridiculous arrangement to an end.

Brian Hanley, Southampton, Ont.

Woman up!

In reading “Time to man up” (Society, March 18), I wonder whether “making it to the top of the corporate ladder” or “holding a board seat” is the ultimate goal or measure of success in life. Perhaps there are other reasons so many women “who graduate top of their class from Harvard Business School” and “have their choice of careers and the salaries to afford housekeepers and personal shoppers” are “choosing to opt out.” I would suggest that many women are considering work, community, family and hobbies—those things that give us satisfaction and joy in life—and deciding they do not want to be trapped climbing the corporate ladder.

Sharon Paisley, Elmira, Ont.

It never occurred to me that my academic pedigree and experiential learning should be measured by title and earning potential. Whatever happened to the intrinsic value of knowledge itself? Every day I am privileged to live, breathe and work around savvy, intuitive, caring, brilliant females—and not one of us measures success in the context of material achievement or in comparison to others. That would be a male thing to do.

Kathryn Edwards, Calgary

Shame on Maclean’s for selecting a cover image that turned Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s nuanced and thoughtful message about gender equality and professional advancement into a ridiculous caricature about ambitious women. Why didn’t you pick a photograph that showed a woman smoking a cigar and pretending to play with her genitals? It might have sold even more copies and most certainly would have provided even more crudely misogynistic fodder for successful women to contend with.

Bipasha Baruah, Asssociate Professor, Department of Women’s Studies, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.

Perhaps the question isn’t why more women aren’t reaching the top rung of the corporate ladder, but rather if the sacrifice is worth it. For men as well as women, a comfortable seat on a private plane or another meal at a Thursday-night business meeting doesn’t compare to a cold seat at your kids’ hockey game or a weekly game of shinny with your buddies. Maybe it’s not so much the perch that’s at issue, and maybe it’s not gender-specific.

Greg Enright, Dundas, Ont.

While women like Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg are of course incredibly impressive, regardless of gender, it’s time for this discussion to move beyond the current focus on the corporate one per cent, and instead showcase working-mom role models that are both more accessible and realistic to the majority of women. Career success comes in many forms that go beyond the conventional climb up the corporate ladder, itself an increasingly archaic structure for working. It’s time the media’s discussion of professional success, family and work-life issues better reflected that.

Reva Seth, Toronto

I am a mother of two school-aged children, a professional with a master’s degree and a full-time career. I have watched the careers of my male and female colleagues without children skyrocket, while mine seems to have flatlined. I could get frustrated and upset, but I have chosen to replace the belief that “you can have it all” with “you can have it all, but not all at once.” It’s about time we start admitting the truth: men and women are not the same. My life might not be a success to some, but it provides me with the balance I need to succeed in the various seasons of my life. I hope to instill the same into my daughter as she finds her own path in life.

Allison Killins, Lakefield, Ont.

Where should I start? Perhaps with the fact that this cover story came out in the same week as International Women’s Day? Or with the fact that women in Canada still earn only 77 cents for every dollar men make? Or maybe with the fact that women were beaten in the streets not even 100 years ago for the right to vote? Expressions like “man up” not only suggest that women should be more like men, who in contrast are seen as strong and capable, but damage men as well if they feel they don’t meet those standards. This cover headline is then harmful to both sexes.

Michelle Moore, Montreal

Quit your grousing

I believe we Canadians are overreacting to how Hollywood depicted our ambassador’s courageous actions during the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran (“What really happened,” International, March 4). On a recent trip to Atlanta, a cashier asked for my zip code. I said I didn’t think her computer would accept it, since I am Canadian. She stopped, smiled and said she had just seen Argo and wanted to thank all Canadians for what we did for Americans. The movie was not perfect, but I believe it gave credit to our country, especially the ambassador and his wife for their extraordinary actions. I think we need to quit grousing and instead celebrate what our country stands for.

Jayne Hudson, Saskatoon

I have sat back for several months, amused at the criticism lobbed at Argo director Ben Affleck for his depiction of the circumstances surrounding the Canadian hostage caper. We have had 32 years to make a film of this calibre, yet when the Americans finally tell our story (based on events), we go up in arms. This wouldn’t happen if we told our own stories. We only have ourselves to blame.

Barbara Mitchell, Burlington, Ont.

Dogs, the nicer species

Barbara Amiel’s insane commitment to her dogs is anything but insane, as any dog lover or owner will attest to (“I’m insanely committed to my dogs, but . . . ,” Opinion, March 18). Dogs are simply nicer and more interesting than people. The supreme hubris that puts the extension of life and cure of disease above the monumental suffering of animals also manifests itself in the degradation of the environment and loss of animal habitat, an issue not disconnected to the the prevalence of certain once-rare diseases.

Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert, Alta.

All’s well

In Peter Shawn Taylor’s review of the book With Charity for All: Why Charities are Failing and a Better Way to Give (Books, March 18), he mentions the Ryan’s Well Foundation. In the 12 years since our foundation has been delivering access to clean water and sanitation in developing countries, we have continued to improve sustainability. We acknowledge some older wells have not been maintained as anticipated, and we have embarked on an effort to assess those situations. Supporting longer-term monitoring of well projects, in collaboration with local partners and communities, can help to identify maintenance problems and find local solutions. There will always be risk in communal and local ownership; some communities will fail to maintain the facilities, for a variety of reasons. But many others succeed, and reap the benefits of access to clean water and sanitation: lower incidences of cholera, malaria and stomach problems; increased school attendance, especially among girls; and the development of income-generating projects.

Jane A. Baird, Executive Director, Ryan’s Well Foundation, Kemptville, Ont.