Samuel King Jr./U.S. Air Force/AP

A thousand words

When I picked up my copy of Maclean’s Year in Pictures (Dec. 24) and saw that little boy’s beaming face on the front cover, my heart jumped with delight. It put a big, happy smile on my face to see how the heart of a child at play cannot be held down by the imposing and sombre world around him. Thank you for reminding me that in the heart of child lives hope and wonder and joy.

Marjonneke Grech, Burlington, Ont.

There and everywhere

Martin Patriquin’s report on the Quebec construction industry (“The foundation of corruption,” National, Jan. 7) is one of the best-written and -researched articles I have ever read. I worked in the construction industry for most of my career across Canada, including Quebec. All that Patriquin described can easily happen if you have a system, and people, who are so readily prepared to line their pockets.

Mike Ryan, Summerside, P.E.I.

Give it a royal rest

I very much look forward to receiving my Maclean’s every week. I know that I will be educated, infuriated, entertained and confused. With so many important issues facing Canada and the world today, I find it laughable and annoying that 17 or so pages have been allocated to nothing more than a glorified gossip section displaying rehashed paparazzi photos of the British royals’ baby pictures throughout the decades (“The royal baby album,” Royal Baby, Dec. 24). Please, get back to the formula that makes Maclean’s so great: thought-provoking articles on relevant topics, not a picture show of a barely pregnant princess.

David Cuviello, Welland, Ont.

I love it when Maclean’s features those gigantic spreads on the royal family, 25 pages this time. By omitting this section it gives me more time to spend with my own family—something that really matters.

John Gatsis, Toronto

Winners and losers

As a hockey fan, I too have a tremendous amount of dislike for Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. But to include them in your list of “newsmaker villains” (“Rogues’ Gallery,” Newsmakers, Dec. 17)—with a pedophile, several murderers and two insane presidents of war-torn countries—is surely excessive!

Patrick Nelson, Toronto

The behaviour of Paul Watson, the founder of animal rights group Sea Shepherd, who was arrested for an attack on shark hunters, is the nautical equivalent of a vegan driving on the wrong side of the road to force a truck carrying beef into a ditch. Not all the lives he risks are his to risk.

Stuart Mills, Fredericton, N.B.

You included transgendered beauty pageant contestant Jenna Talackova in the “defeated” category of your Newsmakers issue (“Down and out,” Newsmakers, Dec. 17). But that was no defeat: she was allowed to compete and, as you point out, she went on to win Miss Congeniality. That seems to be a great victory for Talackova and for the transgender community as a whole.

Logan Burris, Calgary

The sound and the glory

Thank you for the intelligent and interesting article on the rise of young, charismatic pipe organists (“The key to survival,” Music, Jan. 7). However, I was disappointed that the story gave such short shrift to the beautiful music still offered in thousands of churches every Sunday by “blue-haired church marms” and greybeards like myself. Good church organ-playing and the community singing that it supports so well are a lot like hockey on natural ice: not as common as it used to be, but a joyful relief from our passive, dollar-driven, star-obsessed society. They take us somewhere different, and good.

David Berry, Victoria

It’s a wild world

While I heartily applaud Ken MacQueen’s interview with Jim Sterba, author of Nature Wars (Interview, Dec. 24), it still makes me want to tear my hair that so many people need to be told that Bambi is not real. The wild is not a “warm and fuzzy” place. Predators who are not hunted by humans lose their fear of us. Problems with marauding predators are not caused by “human encroachment on their territory,” as many like to claim. The cougars and bears are multiplying to the point where they are encroaching on territory we settled long ago. Here on Vancouver Island we have the densest populations of wolves and cougars in the world; attacks on livestock are, unfortunately, not rare (often the predator doesn’t even eat what it killed) and every few years a cougar pounces on a human. Yes, wolves, bears and cougars are beautiful and magnificent. We have plenty of them. Hunters are stewards of the wild. We need more hunters. Ask any farmer!

Willi Boepple, Saanich Peninsula, B.C.

Drug report

I thought Anne Kingston’s article “ ‘A national embarrassment’ ” (National, Nov. 26) was the best I have ever read concerning the prescription drug problem. And it was just another example of your excellent magazine, which I have subscribed to for over 20 years. Please keep up the good reporting.

Ronald Kittiel, Toronto

Fighting the fighter jets

There is a great deal of misinformation making the rounds on the F-35 costs as a potential acquisition by Canada (“There’s a silver lining in the cloudy F-35 fiasco,” From the Editors, Jan. 7). What appear to be huge cost escalations are really discrepancies of not comparing apples to apples. The initial cost to buy 65 F-35 airplanes was $9 billion. With minor escalations, that is still the case. Initially, the lifespan of the airplanes was considered to be 20 years. The total operating cost over that period was estimated to be about $11 billion, added to the $9 billion for the hardware came to $20 billion. Some considered a 20-year lifespan too short. It was extended to 30 years, adding another $10 billion. KPMG noted that the CF-18 has been in service for 40 years. They expanded the estimated lifespan for the F-35 to 42 years, adding another $15 billion for a total of $45 billion. This is not a case of a huge cost overrun. It costs about $9 billion to buy 65 airplanes and about $36 billion to run an air force for the next 42 years to operate the airplanes.

Peter Scholz, Georgetown, Ont.

There is no silver lining in the F-35 fiasco! You comment that “only $335 million has been spent” so far on the F-35 program, and admit it is a lot of money but a paltry sum compared with the $45 billion for the entire F-35 purchase. Yet $335 million is an exorbitant, inexcusable amount, especially during this recessionary period. And does that include the cost that KPMG billed Stephen Harper for their services, which simply verified what the opposition parties, the parliamentary committees, the parliamentary budget officer and the federal auditor general have been warning us about all along?

Vasco Piccinin, Sudbury, Ont.

While the government clearly “stonewalled and obfuscated” in the F-35 fiasco, the parliamentary budget officer has been equally less than straightforward in trying to blue-sky the aircraft’s costs over 40 years. To try to determine—guess, really—these total costs, including inflation, one would have to include everything necessary for the lifetime combat effectiveness of each aircraft, including total maintenance, all required tools and equipment, the price of fuel and fees for total aircrew and ground crew costs. Not only are the long-term estimates ridiculous, they would be about the same for any competitive aircraft. All that is really required is the combat-ready initial purchase price of each aircraft, including special equipment unique to each model and to the maintenance of such special equipment. All else is just pie in the sky.

Alexander McKay, Calgary

The world inventory of weaponry can already kill the Earth’s population many times over. Where is the proof of need for more? What countries are we “defending” against that 65 jets and a few warships could stop? Why not instead arm our forces with all that is necessary to heal the wounded, to help those displaced by war? If we need an excuse to do this necessary work, think of the many friends we would cultivate worldwide as a defence against our imagined enemies.

Terry Patten, North Vancouver, B.C.

No sex in the mosque, please

A mosque is a place of worship for all local Muslims to come together and pray together (“Rise of gay mosques,” International, Jan. 7). The purpose of a mosque, and any place of worship, is to unite mankind in faith. It is not a place to discuss sexuality. To build separate mosques based upon one’s sexuality defeats the purpose of a mosque, which is to negate one’s own self and instead focus upon the omnipotent Creator.

Maidah Ahmad, Barrie, Ont.

If only it were that easy

While I too admire Steven Spielberg’s latest cinematic feat, I cannot agree with Preston Manning’s interpretation of the lessons Lincoln offers sitting politicians (“Lessons from Lincoln,” International, Dec. 24). Our politicians would be hard-pressed to find inspiration in the post-Civil War period. The surrender at Appomattox, Va., did not signal the start of reunification as Manning claims. When the Northern troops were withdrawn in 1877, recently readmitted Southern states were free to impose segregation, and they did so with impunity into the 1960s—when (again) the National Guard was sent in to oversee desegregation. Lastly, readers of Manning’s commentary should be mindful that between the Civil War and 1960, some 5,000 (a conservative estimate) African-Americans died at the hands of vigilantes who resisted the imposition of the three amendments to the constitution granting African-Americans their freedom and rights as citizens.

Debra Lindsay, Saint John, N.B.

A copy of Preston Manning’s article should be sent to each member of the U.S. Congress and to President Barack Obama himself!

Walter Somerville, Lakefield, Ont.


In the Newsmakers section of our Dec. 17 issue, Alberta Premier Alison Redford was referred to as a single mom. This is incorrect. Maclean’s regrets the error.

A photo accompanying “In the lobby” (Power List, Dec. 3) showed a woman holding a sign for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) next to an item about the World Society for the Protection of Animals Canada, which has no relationship with PETA.

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