Letters: 'Give me a break, please. In Manitoba, -20 would seem like a warm day.'

Maclean's readers write in

Stephan Abraitis/Hydro One

Good point

Emma Teitel writes in depth about the massive ice storm that hit Toronto (“No easy shelter from the storm,” The Columnists, Jan. 13) but fails to mention that many other parts of eastern Canada were also hit by the same storm. She states that hydro workers even came into Toronto from the U.S. on Christmas, failing to mention that hydro workers from Manitoba also flew in and stayed there until New Year’s. I can hardly wait until she writes about when Toronto’s Pearson aiport was shut down due to -20º C temperatures and all flights were cancelled. Give me a break, please. In Manitoba, -20 would seem like a warm day. On Dec. 31, the temperature in Winnipeg was -36 with a wind chill in the mid-minus-40s.

Gordon Plunkett, Portage la Prairie, Man.

Manufacturing dissent

I am reading the gloom and doom about Canadian jobs in Maclean’s (“How safe is your job?” Economy, Jan. 13), while other articles are talking about the improving job situation in the U.S. Where do people think our jobs are going? For every manufacturing job lost in Canada, one opens in the south. U.S. protectionism is alive and well. All our chest-puffing and bragging about how our economy was booming despite the U.S. failing did not go unnoticed by the corporate honchos south of the border. It’s no surprise most of the companies closing are U.S.-owned. Our government is giving away the farm, while patting itself on the back for doing such a great job.

Gary Collins, New Hamburg, Ont.

With the closing of the Heinz factory in Leamington, Ont., the number 740 refers only to 740 direct factory layoffs. Where do you think all those tomatoes in Heinz ketchup come from? That’s right: a countless number of farmers and spinoff seasonal workers in and around Leamington and Essex county who depend on Heinz, who are all now out of luck—more than 100 years’ worth of farmers dedicated to growing what Heinz needed. It’s devastating. Just looking at that “pink-slip parade” list makes me realize just how bad our federal government really is. What is happening to our manufacturing and R&D in Canada?

Rick Gregory, Windsor, Ont.

There are a few things that are a little out of whack here. One, the corporate tax rate overall is the lowest of the G7 (as the Conservatives continually remind us), including the U.S., yet the Conservatives are still calling for lower taxes. Two: Lowering taxes did not result in the creation of jobs, but rather, filled the pockets of investors and created huge cash inventories that companies refused to reuse. Three: The Conservatives have been telling us that the unemployment rates are going down despite huge job losses and jobs gains restricted to part-time work. We have been conned by this regime for years. Please explain how a regime can lower taxes yet tell us there is not enough money to fund Old Age Security, obliging us to work for an extra two years. There are total disconnects between the facts and the myths the Conservatives are perpetuating.

G.M. Fournier, Cobourg, Ont.

Let JT be JT

Anne Kingston writes: “Justin Trudeau’s team understands the power of the sort of imagery that contributed to Pierre Trudeau’s mythology: his pirouette behind the Queen, wearing a red rose, paddling a canoe” (“Win a date with Justin,” National, Jan. 13). Even as a JT supporter, this marketing stuff irritates me. The important distinction with Pierre was that, while he rehearsed some of his stunts, they were authentically his: No handler or team ever suggested he go canoeing in the north in a buckskin jacket, or even pirouette behind the Queen, much less give protesters the finger out of a train window. The snarky characterization of a “date with Justin” is simply beside the point. The much more important issue is party financing. This is what you get when you boil everything down to limited individual-donor support for the parties. Harper’s no different; he’s just marketing fear of the other, fear of the elite and fear of big government. Now we have all the parties shilling for voters’ dollars instead of shilling for their votes. This current model of funding can surely only increase divisions and foster ever more partisanship in the system.

Ken Cunningham,

Hay River, N.W.T.

Whither Jim Flaherty?

Thank you so much for your article about Jim Flaherty (“A long and painful balancing act,” National, Jan. 13). You have had the courage to put into print what most Canadians are thinking when they see Flaherty on the news: He looks very unwell. And since the Conservatives want to brainwash us into thinking the economy is the most important thing in our lives, it seems like a huge contradiction to have them—and us—turn a blind eye to a finance minister whose health seems so halting.

Theresa Wallace, Ottawa

Downturn? What’s a downturn?

I have just read Jason Kirby’s article “Canada’s fatal attraction to debt” (Economy, Jan. 13) and I am in the idiot pool that has been predicting a burst in the real estate market for quite some time. There have been many rough spots in the last 40 years. However, the last 20 years have seen unprecedented growth with only one minor glitch, 2008-09, which only lasted about six to eight months. The scary thing about the Canadian situation is that the young people and newer immigrants buying houses now have never been through a downturn or period of high interest rates. Maybe even scarier is the fact that bureaucrats who make decisions that seriously affect the real estate market are also in their early 30s and collectively seem to think that there is no ceiling in the price of affordable homes. When the correction occurs, the aftermath could reach catastrophic proportions for our financial and mental health.

Joe Lanno, Bradford, Ont.

Mercury rising

In writing about the Conservatives’ decision to phase out the incandescent light bulb (The End, Jan. 6), Kate Lunau mentions that CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury that usually ends up in the environment. However, it’s just too awkward to keep a burned-out bulb around until the dangerous-waste-disposal facility is open. So, figuring on 13 million households in Canada generating at least a million burned-out CFLs in 10 years, tens of kilograms of mercury would be released into the environment. Mercury, being an element, does not disintegrate into a harmless substance, but remains poisonous for millions of years. Uranium or plutonium seems less harmful, because its dangerousness is finite. Furthermore, the phosphorous coating inside the tubes is also a danger to health. Finally, the bulbs are enormously overpriced. Politicians, in general, are technically ignorant, so what do we expect?

Rainer Broll, Gore’s Landing, Ont.

Learn to like the bike

There’s something kind of cool about Montreal’s reckless approach to living life and building things like the Bixi bike system (“Broken spokes,” Economy, Dec. 23). It may lose money and be badly run and, even if it was sold on a lie, the system is pretty damn cool. And it actually exists, as opposed to being bogged down in feasibility studies for 20 years, which would be the Toronto way. I ride the London “Boris bikes” at least twice a day. Usage has dropped a bit since they doubled the introductory annual membership rate, but they’re an essential urban amenity, cutting two-thirds of the overcrowded and inconvenient public transit trips out of my life, and also keeping me fit without having to worry my bicycle will get stolen. Plus, it’s cool for tourists. One could argue that Bixi is not good in Toronto, because they didn’t go far enough to cover the downtown area. It’s pathetically small, not going much west or east of the subway loop. Bixi would work better if it were a serviceable alternative to the god-awful streetcars.

K.D.R. Campbell, London, England

Not just a European problem

My compliments to Katie Engelhart for her self-restraint on writing an article about European ethnocentric nationalism (“Rise of the far right,” International, Dec. 16)—without once mentioning Quebec.

Steve Higgins, Kitchener, Ont.

Technology leads to therapy

I am not at all surprised by your article about kids in therapy (“Tell me about your bestie,” Help, Jan. 13). No wonder these kids are showing all those insecurities, fears, incompatibilities, etc., most of which ultimately translate into a severe lack of self-esteem. Parents of those kids should realize the potential for technology at early ages to transform a mentally healthy, growing human being into one lacking social and soft skills. Kudos for being the best at video games or for having the nicest Facebook page with lots of “friends,” but at what cost? No wonder those kids don’t have the wisdom to know they can’t control everything that will happen in life if they are being stupefied by the technology that their parents have willingly and proudly introduced to them when their brains were not ready for it, depriving them instead of the opportunity to develop much more important skills necessary to strive in life. The mere fact that a kid is more comfortable confiding in a complete stranger than in his or her own parents should indicate where the problems might be coming from to begin with.

Miguel Flores, Mississauga, Ont.

Commissioning Canadian opera

I absolutely agree with Bramwell Tovey’s rant about Alexander Neef of the Canadian Opera Company and his poor record of commissioning Canadian works (“Bramwell Tovey on opera,” The Year Ahead, Jan. 6). Neef is obviously trying to attract new audiences with new types of productions and composers. His collaboration with Rufus Wainwright is a perfect storm. Neef is buddies with the already-famous Wainwright, who will attract new fans and seasoned but critical operagoers, all out of curiosity. Artists need to reach outside the typical communities and find and adopt new methods of growing their audiences. Once this is figured out, Neef will be knocking on your doors.

Carla Chambers-Jeffreys, St. Catharines, Ont.

Alexander Neef has failed miserably on many fronts. If he were truly interested in getting some pop musicians into the opera house, he should have asked Drake to write the words, Avril Lavigne to write the tunes, then asked Norman Jewison to direct it. This would be Canadian and international at the same time and at a level of success Herr cannot even imagine. If Neef doesn’t want to do nationalistic things like find out which Canadian composers are capable of writing quite wonderful operas, he shouldn’t be getting money from such sources as the Canada Council. There is no doubt that new operas for the main stage are expensive and risky; any large-scale opera requires all the pieces of the machine to work. But it should be the job of the Canadian Opera Company to have the vision and nerve, and to find the resources needed to take the chance to win or fail.

Victor Davies, Toronto

So much love

Love your new format: better sections, titles and pictures. Much more inviting. I’ve read Maclean’s for many years and it remains my favourite magazine.

Marilyn A. Brown, Airdrie, Alta.

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