Farewell, Iron Lady

When Margaret Thatcher was elected PM (“ ‘She led, she didn’t follow’,” International, April 22), Britain was called the “old man of Europe.” Britain was dying. Thatcher turned Britain around economically. To accomplish this, though, Thatcher had to destroy entire ways of life that would disappear forever, never to return. Thatcher was no Churchill, but she was the right leader for the time. Desperate times called for desperate measures. There is no middle ground with Margaret Thatcher: she either saved the nation or she destroyed it.

Douglas Cornish, Ottawa

A British friend reminded me that “you can judge the character of a person by the enemies she makes.” How true of the inimitable Margaret Thatcher: witness the disgusting simpletons dancing in the streets at the news of her passing. Apparently, the lower the enemies, the higher the character. Rest in peace, Maggie. We’ve not seen a world leader with your wit or bollocks since, nor likely will we again.

Collin Sawatzky, Kelowna, B.C.

I have been a Maclean’s subscriber for over 40 years, and Barbara Amiel is one of the reasons I keep renewing my subscription. Her column on Margaret Thatcher (“True grit,” International, April 22) is one of her best. I so enjoyed reading her wonderful personal reminiscences of the times she crossed paths with the former British PM. I read the column numerous times, just to experience the joy of such wonderful writing.

Diane Stephenson, Keremeos, B.C.

Annette Funicello died of complications from multiple sclerosis the same day that Margaret Thatcher passed away. She was an inspirational activist and role model to the approximately 75,000 of Canadians who are afflicted with MS, as well as to our families, friends and communities. Surely you could have squeezed in a little blurb somewhere in this issue to acknowledge the Mouseketeer who endeared herself to so many of us.

Laura Etcovitch Gazen, Richmond Hill, Ont.

Budget optics

The budget speech is a political document that outlines general directions and changes, and therefore does not deal with statutory spending and the main business of government from year to year (“What Harper is hiding,” National, April 15). I was in the Commons benches for the so-called great Paul Martin budget years, and although he had charts and much verbosity in those documents, they turned out to be works of fiction. The Liberals from 1993 to 2006 relied a lot on the supplemental estimates. The only way to really know what happened was to carefully examine the very thick books of the public accounts to see where spending eventually materialized. Paul Wells talks of “government’s gradual retreat from Canadian public life.” Governments have been too weak for too long to say no to things we cannot afford. We should be thankful that what is needed to be done is slowly being done. That is no “retreat,” but courage to engage.

Paul Forseth, MP from 1993-2006, New Westminster, B.C.

Class war

How long do policemen and firefighters think taxpayers are going to stand for their excesses (“The new upper class,” Business, April 22)? Most towns are “overcopped,” where armed officers have time to run around ticketing people for the enormous crime of riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. And the firemen have jiggered their work schedules so they can have two jobs. Bad enough that they pick our pockets; they take away jobs from others, too. To those who argue their work is so dangerous, check the statistics for fishermen, miners, construction workers and truck drivers. But they don’t get parades when they get killed on the job. When you drop off your last dollar at city hall, please turn off the lights.

Robert Lawrence, North Bay, Ont.

The problem is not the salaries paid to public sector workers. The problem is the hollowing out of the private sector. Corporations outsource good jobs to make more money so they can presumably “compete” with global efforts. I do not want to live in a hollowed-out global country. If workers in the private sector could earn fair wages for fair work, they could pay the taxes to cover fair wages for our public workers who keep us safe and manage our affairs and build our infrastructure.

Susan Bracken, Barrie, Ont.

In referring to the teachers’ retirement pension, the author was more than a little misleading by combining two statements: a 70 per cent pension and the ability to claim it at 53. A 70 per cent pension is only earned after 35 years of teaching, something rather rare these days, considering when people actually start teaching. Anyone claiming a pension at 53 would do so at a substantial penalty, unless they met the “85 factor,” which is years teaching plus age. The pension is rich because of the excellent financial management of our funds: 77 per cent of the funding is from investments, 11 per cent is contributed by teachers and the government puts in 12 per cent. Other pension funds could only hope to be as well managed as the teachers’ fund.

Jeff Spooner, Kinburn, Ont.

I am a teacher who will retire in three years, and I will pick up close to 52 per cent of my current salary because I changed careers and came to teaching later than the stereotypical person who will retire at 53. My “eye-popping wealth” will be about $40,000, which is not really all that eye-popping—unless you and the Fraser Institute want more people to retire into poverty and cost the welfare and health systems more because they can’t afford to live well. Teachers pay into their pensions and pay experts to manage it. The vast majority of “teachers” on Ontario’s “sunshine list” are not the rank and file. They are superintendents who oversee the education system. Most teachers at the top salary on the grid are in the $90,000 range, true, but whom do you want preparing your children for their futures? Teachers are reasonably well paid for doing a difficult job: you try dealing with 50 15-year-olds every afternoon for three hours. I give this story and the quality of research that went into it a C-.

Eleanor Abra, history and English teacher, Ottawa

Arbitration in wage disputes for civic employees is the ultimate manifestation of failure in our elected leadership. By choosing an arbitrator, elected leaders fail to lead and carry out the wishes of the electorate in protecting us from pillage, the extreme—but not isolated—case now playing out in Quebec. An arbitrator has no vested interest in the budgetary limitations of the taxpayer. Regardless, his decision relieves the elected official of any responsibility.

Don Keys, Port Alberni, B.C.

You claim the average firefighter’s salary in Owen Sound, Ont., is over $100,000. But this was an anomaly in 2012 due to a one-time retroactive pay increase that covered three years. Retroactive wages are why many firefighters in Belleville, Ont., and no doubt many other emergency-services workers across Canada, made so-called “sunshine lists” in 2012. In other cases, firefighters make sunshine lists due to overtime triggered by understaffed fire departments. Is it a “win” for workers when they are able to receive a fair wage after the employer has paid a discounted rate for many years? All workers deserve fair compensation for their skills and their contributions, but without the context of one-time lump sums and overtime, the article’s conclusions are misleading.

Scott Marks, Assistant to the General President for Canadian Operations, International Association of Fire Fighters, Ottawa

According to Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, during recent contract negotiations the Windsor Police Association wouldn’t “even sit down at the bargaining table,” knowing that “an arbitrator will award them a far more generous settlement than council.” During the last two rounds of bargaining, the association was quite prepared to negotiate; the Windsor Police Services Board, led by the mayor, pointedly refused to even begin discussions unless certain key issues were agreed to in advance. That unwillingness to negotiate in good faith forced the subsequent arbitration proceedings—not strategic manoeuvring, as the mayor alleges. The story echoes Mayor Francis’s habitual refrain that the municipality is unable to afford police wages paid elsewhere in Ontario. But even as he says this, the mayor and the city’s chief administrative officer are among the top paid in the province. This was not lost on the independent arbitrators who, in their recent rulings, rejected Windsor’s argued inability to pay. As for the Windsor police on Ontario’s “sunshine list” of public sector earners, many of our members achieved that status only through one-time back-pay settlements or by working voluntary off-duty assignments on their own time—work that, while funnelled through the police service, is paid for by private interests, not by taxpayers.

Jason DeJong, President, Windsor Police Association, Windsor, Ont.

Terrorist identity

What is it about the doctrine of Islam specifically that produces a significant transnational pool of recruits for extremism and terrorism done in its name (“Why terrorism can grow in any soil—including our own,” From the Editors, April 22)? By refusing to believe what terrorists themselves tell you about their religious motivation, you ensure ongoing confusion and failure to identify who is at risk to be radicalized for Islamic terrorism—Muslim youth—and what methods can be used by the Muslim community, with our support and dedication, to effectively intervene in a timely manner before the intelligence services must be utilized to respond to the product of such radicalization.

Brad Belchamber, London, Ont.

This Justin

I like Justin Trudeau (“Centre stage,” National, April 22). I like what he has said and done during the Liberal leadership convention. I hope that he will lead his party out of the darkness that has befallen them. To do so, he must distance himself from the bozos who mired the Liberals so deep in the mud. Any formal allegiance or alliance with Chrétien, Martin, Dion or Ignatieff would only signal a return to the old Liberal ways of entitlement, scandal and incompetence. If young Trudeau can rise above the old ways and old establishment and create a new vision for a better Canada, then he will get my vote.

Ken Whitehead, Dartmouth, N.S.

It stays in Vegas

Tell Scott Feschuk that he didn’t lose his money in Vegas (“Let’s go to Vegas, you said,” Feschuk, April 22). They’re just holding it for him—it’ll still be there waiting for him when he goes back.

Carol McGregor, Toronto

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