What is the great mystery about the Franklin expedition (“Finding Franklin,” Society, Sept. 22)? We already knew 99 per cent of the story of what happened to the ships and crew. In an earlier expedition to the Coppermine River, Franklin proved that he was a stubborn, bullheaded leader who knew better than the local Natives about how to travel and survive in the North—which led to many deaths and the gruesome spectre of cannibalism among his party, 23 years before his fatal expedition. The Franklin expedition was not significant Canadian history; it was just another British attempt to get around that huge landmass that got in the way of reaching the real prize: the Orient. For true Canadian explorers of the North, we should be celebrating the exploits of men such as Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Robert Bartlett.
Fraser Forrest, Dundas, Ont.
While it is necessary that we expand the knowledge of our heritage, and it is inspiring to learn about the Franklin expedition, it is unfortunate that this initiative was undertaken as the government is closing archives, shuttering collections, sealing heritage places, reducing museum hours and dismissing researchers for the sake of Stephen Harper’s pet project.
L.B. Moore, Brantford, Ont.
If it is anti-Semitic to criticize Israel, no matter what—as Barbara Amiel suggests (“There’s only one villain at the UN,” Sept. 22)—is it not racist to criticize African heads of state? Is the condescension involved in ignoring and/or rationalizing Israeli or African crimes better or worse than having higher expectations? Israel, after all, promotes itself as the only “democracy” in the Middle East and its military as “the most moral in the world.” Israel is propped up by more than US$3 billion every year, and thoroughly morally supported by Canada’s government. This support presupposes standards not asked of others. Amiel cites various terrible examples of Muslim crimes, but would she admit there are documented Israeli crimes of a serious nature that we tacitly support if we don’t condemn them?
Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert, Alta.
MP Brent Rathberger’s writing about the decline of parliamentary democracy and the uselessness of our individual MPs (“Questioning question period,” National, Sept. 22) is a call to action. I used to be politically quite active in the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia. I left in disgust at the internal machinations I witnessed, and joined the NDP. I worked in the campaign that got the NDP elected in Nova Scotia, but disillusion set in. Parties are the enemies of democracy. I despair that people vote based on party, not by choosing a trusted member of their community. I shall support any Independent candidate in future, content that even if I disagree with some of their views, they will at least have the courage to speak their mind on behalf of the constituency. I would like no tax allowance for donations other than to individual candidates. The parties are on their way to being as undemocratic as absolute rulers in history.
Aubrey Fricker, Halifax
In “Old and loaded” (Economy, Sept. 15), you neglect to mention the ultimate discount the government is blessing young people with today: low interest rates. As seniors, during our many years of home ownership, we have had mortgage rates as high as 12 per cent. My husband and I were the lucky ones. We watched some of our friends lose everything when their mortgages came due in the 1980s and interest rates were over 20 per cent. This discount the young have been given has made it hard for seniors, as our investments languish in the safe investments we require. I don’t begrudge that at all. But when youngsters buy a home, they should ignore what the bank says they can afford. They should look at their income and buy something they can actually afford.
Dee Bailey, Calgary
The conclusions of your article on seniors are at odds with the data you present. Every age category is better off than they were in 1999. Even if you assume no one under 65 will save a cent between now and retirement, investment returns will make the 45- to 54-year-old group the wealthiest when they hit age 65. The data also suggest that every group actually saved money between 1999 and 2012. The 35-year-olds in 2012 with a median net worth of $378,300 were the under-35 group worth only $23,300 just 12 years ago. They increased their net worth well beyond the gains of any other age group. The demographic imbalance does need to be addressed, but the answer might be for wages to rise and seniors to work. Instead, we discourage the hiring of seniors and import low-cost labour to avoid increasing salaries for younger people.
David McQueen, Toronto
This was a very sexist article. All the people interviewed were men. Statistically, many senior men do have substantial pension incomes. But what about the senior women who are single, widowed or divorced? There’s no mention of the senior women who discover their husbands’ pensions die with them. Which then makes one wonder: Why a picture of a senior woman on the cover?
Mary McKinnon, Newmarket, Ont.
When I see an older person serving me coffee at Tim Hortons alongside younger servers, I know that both are not there to alleviate boredom. Both are working to pay the rent. I agree that tax breaks and subsidies should not automatically be given to seniors. Financial breaks should be dispensed to all age groups if they have a low income; many who need this help are seniors.
Marcia Redmond, Kitchener, Ont.
I am 35. I have a university degree. I earn just over $25,000 (before taxes). I have worked mostly part-time since I graduated in 2003. I live on my own and I don’t have any debts, which makes me luckier than some of my peers. People argue that seniors paid into the pot, so they should be able to collect. Well, I’ve been paying into the pot, as well, but I’m not sure there will even be a pot if I reach old age. Many seniors today did not have to spend time and money getting a post-secondary degree. Those who did paid lower tuition fees and were able to secure well-paid, full-time jobs for the length of their careers. This is not the case for the younger generations.
Kelly Bucci, Hamilton
In your Sept. 15 issue, I loved the juxtaposition of articles about rich seniors and drug-addled twentysomethings in the EDM culture (“Driven to ecstasy,” Society). As a true Gen Xer (born in1970), I can relate neither to the privileges afforded seniors nor the excesses of Gen Y. I also encourage seniors who are outraged by the article about themselves to carefully consider what is really at work in the story of Sophia and her YOLO (you only live once) peers. They live in the world that was created when previous generations focused on financial gain rather than some sense of social responsibility regarding the future.
Shaun Rust, Port Alberni, B.C.
On behalf of the Almond Board of California, I would like to respond to “Big, bad almonds” (Taste, Sept. 22) to provide some context about almond growers’ dedicated and ongoing efforts to be responsible stewards of our environment and natural resources. The article portrays the almond industry’s impact on the health of bees in California as harmful, but honeybee health is important to almond growers and is crucial to the success of almond crops. It’s crucial to the success of almond crops. Here in California, almonds are the earliest-blooming natural food source for commercial bees following winter, when commercial bees are sustained on a diet of supplements provided by beekeepers. Bees arriving in California’s almond orchards face an abundance of natural forage, while those not involved with almond pollination remain on their wintertime supplements for a longer period of time. Regarding the water footprint of almonds, the article cites a figure that refers to the years 1996-2005. It is not specific to California today, when almond growers have widely adopted micro-irrigation and other practices that have led to a 33 per cent reduction in water use per pound in the last 20 years. These are important issues for our almond growers, as well as for anyone who loves almonds.
Julie Adams, Almond Board of California, Modesto, Calif.