Letters: On Canadian pride, female libido and Stephen Harper

Maclean's readers weigh in


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Cross-border comparison

The “99 reasons it’s better to be Canadian” (National, July 8) was not only inspiring but, indeed, educational. May I offer the 100th reason why we in Canada are very fortunate: Canada shares a 5,051-km undefended border with the second-best country in the world.

Mortimer Levy, Montreal

I thought I would read an article that would reaffirm why Canadian cities are constantly rated as some of the best places in the world to live (and being originally from Australia, reaffirm why I love this place). Instead, some of the facts were ridiculous. You claimed that the summer blockbusters have Canadian DNA, yet the evidence you provide is like me saying I’m related to the Queen merely because we both speak English. By the time you get to No. 96,“Our lobster tastes better,” that’s it? No statistical data, just an opinion? Well, in that case, my daughter is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PERSON IN THE WORLD! The whole article reeked of a country with an inferiority complex, not one that has been assessed by many legitimate organizations as a great place to live, holiday and do business. Next time, make a shorter list and use decent statistics.

Nathan Davis, Vernon, B.C.

Will we ever get over our juvenile and neurotic obsession with America? Why not a comparison with Spain, or Latvia, or Australia? Canada is a great country with much to be proud of, but it is time we celebrated that freely, not with this incessant and demeaning reference to the U.S.

Norman Quinn, Bancroft, Ont.

When people have to go on and on about how superior they are to their neighbours, it’s obvious they are feeling inferior. Similarly, when Maclean’s goes on and on (for eight full pages!) about how superior we Canadians are to our neighbours, it’s obvious Maclean’s feels there is a need to make us feel better about ourselves. Why?

Joan Forsey, Toronto

I moved to Ontario three years ago from California after marrying my Canadian husband. In my entire life, I have never heard an American say an unkind word about Canada. I didn’t know much about it myself because, until I met my husband, I was, of course, one of those “idiotic” Americans who had not possessed a passport! So I was shocked to move here and see so much mockery and envy of the U.S.: in conversation, in gossip at restaurant tables and especially in the national media. Can you imagine the venom with which the Canadian press would attack America if Time published an article like the one you did?

Jeannette Quinn Bisbee, Rockwood, Ont.

Kudos to Maclean’s for managing to come up with all those reasons why we should feel good about ourselves and our country relative to the United States. But surely it is now time to get working on four specific challenges, for which the bar should be set much higher. No. 1: Child poverty. In 2012, UNICEF placed us 24th of 35 industrialized countries. Our national average shows one child in seven living in conditions of poverty. No. 2: Child care. In 2008, UNICEF surveyed 25 countries on the basis of 10 benchmarks. We passed in one and finished last overall. No. 3: Access to information. In 2012, we trailed Angola, Niger, Colombia and many others, with a ranking of 55th out of 89 countries, according to the Halifax-based Centre for Law and Democracy.

Richard Ring, Grimsby, Ont.

The fact that Canadian filmmakers have produced movies about necrophilia, car-crash fetishism and father-daughter incest does not impress me as something to celebrate.

Heather Till, Sechelt, B.C.

Sounds like we are being compared to the bottom of the barrel!

Helen Eldstrom, Windermere, B.C.

Reason 100: We have Maclean’s to remind us how fortunate we are as citizens of this great country.

W.L. Jollimore, Lunenburg, N.S.

Enough to make you take a sick day

Thanks for alerting us to the chronic absenteeism rate of our workers in the public sector (“The sick day scam,” Business, July 8). Clearly, there is very little left of the servant mentality among our “public servants”! What was missing from your analysis is an evaluation of such absenteeism from a moral perspective. Surely calling in sick when you are perfectly healthy is immoral. It involves telling a lie. It reveals a lack of moral character, even laziness. And these are the same people who are teaching our children civic values in our schools. Children learn by example. God help us!

Elmer J. Thiessen, Waterloo, Ont.

Nancy Macdonald’s article is an attack on public workers and unions, while it completely neglects to discuss the issues of stress and depression and their effects on productivity. Presenteeism, where employees show up for the sake of showing up, costs us more than absenteeism, disability and medical benefits. Sick days are important, if not only to increase productivity, but also to reduce the spread of contagious viruses at the workplace.

Scott Beaton, Kelowna, B.C.

As a teacher, I’m disgusted when I read about unions justifying absenteeism: “By removing their ability to cash out unused sick leave, teachers have been ‘discouraged from showing up to work,’ says Terry Hamilton, president of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation.” I do not punish my students by not fulfilling my teaching duties and taking sick days because I believe, falsely, that I need and am entitled to them. Teachers who say they deserve sick days as bonus pay because they take courses and/or spend their evenings marking and planning should realize that most other professionals do comparable things, too. Teachers who are so desperate for time off should simply quit; there are more than enough unemployed or underemployed teachers to take their place.

Gary Kohl, Toronto

Unlike vacation leave, sick leave comes with a caveat: It relies on an honour system, and is based on genuine illness, with banking of sick leave intended to cover an eventuality such as long-term illness. Do self-inflicted ailments such as alcohol or drug hangovers, or stress caused by working at two jobs, or imagined sickness, rightly fall in the domain of proper sick leave? Was I a fool to forfeit more than 14 months of banked sick leave when I retired from the civil service? The monetary advantage and corresponding enhancement in pension was mine for the taking with a questionable medical certificate. But conscience can indeed prevail over chicanery.

Armand Rodrigues, Toronto

I always knew it was bad, but this article blew me away. As a non-unionized, private-sector worker in a skilled trade, why is it okay for me to have zero paid sick days per year and no benefits, while I’m forced to pay for other people’s extravagant perks? It’s one thing to have unions in the private sector, where they are needed but might ruin a business if they get greedy. It’s another thing entirely to give them access to my money, and the potential to ruin an entire country.

R.F. Smith, Oshawa, Ont.

The issue here isn’t sick days; it’s how important the particular civil servant’s job is in the first place. If an employee is able to take two to three weeks of sick days, combined with three or four vacation weeks, without being replaced (teachers excepted, due to supply teachers), then, really, how much work are they doing in the first place?

Ron VanderVecht, Cottam, Ont.

Freaky business

Paul Wells thinks that if Stephen Harper were to retire this summer, his Conservatives would have little to show for their eight years in power, beyond simply keeping themselves in government for this period (“How the control freak lost control,” National, July 8). Wake up, Paul! The libertarian, revolutionary Harper has cunningly shrunk and undermined the ability of the federal government to govern, and sharply turned Canada and widely treasured Canadian institutions to the hard right. This revolutionary has remade us, and we will be a long time undoing the damage of the Harper years.

Mike Bryan, Stittsville, Ont.

If Paul Wells wanted to do a true service to Canadian voters approaching the next election, then why doesn’t he take on the task of breaking down and explaining what has actually been accomplished legislatively (or not) by our Prime Minister during his tenure (even if buried in omnibus bills)? We might be surprised to find out that Harper’s style of leadership actually had something to do with the 99 reasons why we are better than Americans—starting with economic management during the second-worst financial crisis in recent history.

L.P. Camozzi, Montreal

I have been a subscriber and a fan of Maclean’s for many years. But when I saw the July 8 cover headline, my respect and support for Maclean’s dropped to zero. There, in bold print, you infer that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a freak: “How the control freak lost control.” Your disrespect of our PM certainly reached a new low. As an honourable Canadian institution and a voice for Canada, common courtesy would dictate a retraction and an apology on your part to our Prime Minister.

Michael R. Radi, Penticton, B.C.

Mother’s nature

More women may choose to become mothers if the societal environment were favourable for raising children (“Whatever happened to maternal instinct?” Opinion, July 8). As it stands, most families need two incomes to survive. Add to that a maternity leave of only one year, pricey daycares with long waiting lists, high unemployment, low wages, etc., and the environment for breeding is less than kind. And what about men? Many choose to mate and not breed, and divorce and breakup rates are high. Legal battles for child support are long and unpleasant. We can’t point only to women for low birth rates. We also have to ask what happened to paternal instinct and society’s interest in constructing healthy environments that will allow families to develop and flourish.

Meng Simone Si, Toronto

Barbara Amiel writes of natural order but fails to adhere to that same nature’s logical—and moral—order. In the same breath, she calls abortion “murder” and stands up for “legal abortion.” If you’re going to stand for abortion, it horrifies me to think that you do so while believing it’s murder.

Frank Perruccio, Oshawa, Ont.

It was like a heavy shower in an arid desert to read Barbara Amiel’s observations on maternal instinct. Barbara has echoed what I often proclaim, from the pulpit as a Catholic priest, that the only stupid thing God has ever done is to create humans with freedom, which is the privilege of only humans, of all creatures. Finally, man will not have an excuse to blame God for destroying humans on Earth. Man’s freedom, or better, women’s choice, coupled with human greed for the conquest and consequent destruction of nature and other human beings, will finally pave the way to the extinction of humans. Good that a woman herself dared to blurt it out.

Rev. George Palamattam, Hamilton

Whatever happened to maternal instinct? Barbara Amiel points out many reasons, but never mentions our overpopulation. Global warming, the depletion of natural resources, high costs of living, immense poverty and war: These all have to do with too many people who can’t get along and don’t have enough space and resources. She writes, “The choice not to pass on our genes seems against nature.” A lot of things we do are against nature. We make things that don’t last, so people have to buy more, creating waste. We dig deep into the earth, constantly taking. We fill the air with pollutants that are causing irreversible damage to this sacred place, the only place we have to live. Yet we still get our kids the newest phones, new back-to-school clothes and help them buy their first cars. Maybe for the sake of Mother Nature, the death of this “maternal instinct” is for the greater good.

Sabrina Tsang, Winnipeg

Don’t scratch the two-year itch

The two-year itch” (Books, July 8), referring to female sexual satisfaction, is a sad development in the supposed evolution of so-called equality. Sexuality is a lovely part of the human relationship, but going the distance to long-term satisfaction is about growth, tolerance, companionship and trust. Those are the qualities at the foundation of social and personal stability. In getting that itch scratched, the woman who finds the considerate and tender partner boring may have a great deal of her life left to regret abandoning ideals another woman may recognize as pure gold.

Trish Findlay, Vernon, B.C.

Bead it

Seriously, an article on Mila Mulroney’s beads (“Designing woman,” National, July 8)? Who cares about the wife of a disgraced PM’s silly bead necklaces? Six-year-olds do things like that. And Mila took apart gifts that were given to her, as a representative of Canada, to make them. That’s an insult to so many people on so many levels.The person who made the item, the gift-giver and the Canadian people have been wronged by this. The giver chose the gift with some thought about what it meant and Mila was travelling on official Canadian business so, ethically, those gifts belong to all Canadians.

Brian Elliot, Vancouver

Look who’s not talking

I see that the Senate has suspended an invitation to two motivational speakers (“Seeing red,” This Week, July 8). Does this mean that Justin Trudeau has lost a contract?

Ted Whicker, Ottawa

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