The Mail

December 21 1998

The Mail

December 21 1998

The Mail

If it ain't broken ...

The mistake made by the bankers was to present a solution before establishing a problem in the public’s mind (“How the banks blew it,” Cover, Dec. 7). To Canadians, including thousands of smalland mediumsized businesses, the banks are very big and seem not to lack resources. Their failure to precondition us to the threat of foreign competition from massive financial institutions and the long-term implications was a colossal blunder. Let’s hope our politicians and bureaucrats who must respond to the banks’ merger plans take a long and rational view of the issue, and not an emotional one.

Guy P. French, Toronto

Hurrah for Peter Godsoe, chairman of Scotiabank! How much profit does it take to keep Canada’s bankers happy? Gluttony is the word that springs to mind. Competition is good for the soul, guys. Teaches you tolerance for the little people!

Marion A. Hale, Toronto

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

should be addressed to:

Maclean’s Magazine Letters

777 Bay St.,Toronto, Ont. M5W IA7

Fax: (416) 596-7730

E-mail: letters@macleans.ca

Maclean’s welcomes readers’ views, but letters may

be edited for space and clarity. Please supply name,

address and daytime telephone number.

Submissions may appear in Maclean’s electronic sites.

I believe that bank mergers will be good for customers. Just think, we will have lots of local branches open six days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., telephones answered promptly by real people, easy-to-get business loans, credit cards at six-per-cent interest and cheap service charges. And for Christmas, the tooth fairy will bring me a chest of diamonds, a pony, a castle in Spain, and and and ...

Howard Janzen, Calgary

On behalf of many fellow bank employees, I would say that your article “Let’s hear it for m-e-r-g-e-r!” was not only insulting, but completely one-sided. The quote that we cringe at, when referring to our support for the merger, is: “But this is no ordinary underdog uprising; rather, it is one bound to please the bosses.” This paints a picture of everyday Bank of Montreal employees as brainwashed robots. I am most disappointed that Maclean’s took the time to meet with MasterCard employees, but failed to convey our enthusiasm for the proposed merger.

Matt Berry, Assistant manager, Bank of Montreal-MasterCard, Toronto

As a 24-year-old Bank of Montreal employee, I am extremely upset with your feature on banks. The banks are not seeking protection from the U.S. giants, but rather the ability to compete. Your magazine is fully aware of how large U.S. companies can destroy Canadian-owned businesses, otherwise you, as publishers, would not need the help you receive from government. Upper management at no time has said that we will lose our jobs if the merger does not go through. They don’t have to. Anyone who has an understanding of business knows that when under attack by the competition, you have to cut back. This is where the job losses will be, not in the merger.

Jason Werstuck, Technical administrator, Bank of Montreal, Toronto

Your banking story made me aware of two things: that my local MP, Sarmite Bulte, had signed the Liberal caucus report opposed to the proposed bank mergers, and that the Bank of Montreal had cancelled $1,500 worth of tickets to a fund-raiser as a result of her decision. My wife and I and a number of friends intend, over the next few years, to

attend as many of Bulte’s fund-raisers as we can; and none of us will do business again with the Bank of Montreal.

Aidan Manning, Toronto

Freedom of expression

As a former journalist who has drifted over to the dark side, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated Anthony Wilson-Smith’s description of the current state of affairs (“Beyond the Milewski affair,” Backstage, Dec. 7). He hit the nail right on the head. There are too many reporters who think, because 100-per-cent objectivity is impossible to achieve, that it’s OK to abandon any attempt at it. “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story” is the order of the day. It is chilling to review the litany of media scandals exposed in the past year—including bigname columnists who admit they made up their material. Terry Milewski’s nudgenudge, wink-wink relationship with his sources suggests what a lot of people have suspected all along—that reporters often take sides. What will the media do about it? Probably nothing—and that’s the tragedy.

Don Whiteley, North Vancouver

Anthony Wilson-Smith raises valid concerns about the amount of attention given to the Terry Milewski/APEC affair. But the suggestion that there are worse situations elsewhere that warrant more coverage and greater debate merely serves to demonstrate a decay of democratic process that we should all be concerned about. Because Milewski’s situation is less likely to lead to his death than that of a reporter in Nigeria does not mean that we do not have a problem here. Wilson-Smith implies that journalists have their biases. We all do. We all, also, have a right to express them in a private manner. That is freedom of speech. Journalists must balance their reporting and deal with the facts before them. That is how Milewski should have been judged. The fact that he was taken to task by his employer after his private e-mails became public, and in a process led by government officials whose first duty is to open democratic debate, is a cause for concern. Milewski defended himself in a newspaper column and was suspended even further for speaking out. What irony! Does Wilson-Smith want to see a few journalists hanged before freedom of expression becomes a valid issue?

Don MacAlpine, Nipigon, Ont.

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Called for boarding

Serious injuries to hockey players smashed into the boards might be prevented by a simple rule change (“Thugs on ice,” Cover, Nov. 9). A few years ago, a member of the original Ottawa Senators in the 1920s, watching today’s game, commented when a player was checked “cleanly” into the boards that it would have been called as a penalty in his day. The rule was that bodychecking within one foot of the boards automatically resulted in a two-minute penalty for boarding. I don’t go as far back as the old Ottawa player, but I remember that at least until the 1950s, when Rocket Richard, Jean Béliveau and Gordie Howe were playing, the rule was still in effect. The result was that more of the play was out on open ice. Regardless of the NHL, it is crazy to allow young children and teenagers to bash each other into the boards.

Gordon K. Johnson, Mission, B. C.

I gave up watching the game more than 25 years ago, because of the fighting. I take exception, however, to your statement that “hockey has always been a fierce and violent sport.” When, as a McGill University student I discovered hockey in the late ’30s, I was thrilled. It was such a clean, fast game of skill compared with the football I had tried to watch. Let us hope your article will help inspire a turnaround, or at least encourage people to work towards it.

Forrest Johnson, Victoria

Hockey today is a case of overpaid and unskilled players encouraged and permitted to act in ways that would put the rest of us in jail, with game tickets that are outrageously costly and greedy owners with their atrocious payrolls and the audacity to request tax relief from the public purse. In time, I hope, they will self-destruct and the game will return to the skills of skating, stickhandling and shooting.

Dave Anderson, Victoria

Witt and Orser

After reading your article “Sex sells—to a point” (Sports, Nov. 30), I realized, unfortunately, that we have not come very far. It is now still acceptable for someone with a high profile like Katarina Witt to pose nude in Playboy and not acceptable for Brian Orser to live his life the way he so chooses. Witt has done the sport of figure skating a disgrace, while Brian Orser is human, like the rest of us, with real-life prob-

lems. And to the anonymous tour official who said “the pictures are very tasteful”— would he say the same thing if that was his daughter?

Connie Collette-Cole, Vancouver

Material girls

A lanis Morissette wants to be known for her spiritual enlightenment, but is compelled to stay in the music industry, which

she says she loathes (“Songs of redemption,” Music, Nov. 23). Hey Alanis, would you like a little cheese with that whine? As I recall, many mystics have given away their wealth and abandoned the world. Then again, I could be wrong. I mean after all, Madonna, a beacon for all spiritual wanna-bes, has mastered the kabala and Hindu mysticism in only a year. And look at what a font of truth and understanding she’s turned out to be.

Kate Purcell, Welland, Ont.

'Education proposals'

Greg W. Jack, an educational dinosaur, proposes to institute provincewide high-school standards, and to enforce an entrance requirement of 80 per cent for university admission (“University is not a uni-

versal right,” The Road Ahead, Nov. 23). Not only is this proposal politically as dead as the dodo, it also has a number of serious, and unconsidered, consequences. First of all, high-school marks are far from perfect predictors of university success, and university marks, as well, are not perfect predictors of occupational success. Second, no contemporary knowledge-based society can afford to let talent go to waste in the name of some arbitrary standard. Jack’s proposal would also force us to exclude various groups: mature students, recent immigrants, minorities, late bloomers and others. No high-school diploma or no 80? Thou shalt never enter the gates of king’s heaven. Universities are serious institutions with serious problems that require serious, well-documented and well-considered analysis. Jack has not contributed to that debate. I would not have accepted his proposal in a firstyear course.

Walter Schwager, Sudbury, Ont.

Tyrants' rights

The fact that former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet is a tyrant is no excuse for Britain and Spain to practise extraterritorial law (“Pinochet gets bail but little legal relief,” World Notes, Nov. 9). The world is crawling with degenerate creeps like Pinochet but until the United Nations can agree to set up an international tribunal with the power to arrest and prosecute all despots and terrorists, no country should have the right to practise extraterritoriality. Britain or Spain, who have skeletons of their own in their closets—Pinochet was a friend and ally of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher—have no

more right to detain the Chilean thug than they would have to arrest the perpetrators of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which we all know they wouldn’t dream of doing.

William Bedford, Toronto

Sacrifice remembered

This past summer, my father and I took the trip we had been planning for a lifetime. We travelled to Europe to visit the Canadian battlefields of the First and Second World Wars and find the graves of an uncle at Vimy and a brother in Ortona, Italy (“Keeping faith with the past,” Canada Notes, Nov. 23). Never had we felt such pride to be Canadian as when we stood in front of the Vimy memorial—or such frustration that most Canadians are unaware of the existence or the reasons behind this

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stark memorial. I am 26 years old and have never felt the brush of war, but I will never forget the sacrifices that were made to allow my peaceful life.

Robert Barter, Campbellford, Ont.

Medical funding

As one who has worked for a large, nonprofit medical organization with a research centre, I am aware that some drug companies try to influence outcomes in order to reap large profits. For that reason, the organization I worked for was careful in accepting funding. I would have thought Toronto’s prestigious Hospital for Sick Children (where my children were cared for) would be the same. The one who should be castigated is the hospital administrator, whose attitude seems to indicate that, in his view, dollars take precedence over avoiding damage to patients. I believe Dr. Nancy Olivieri is a dedicated, courageous physician who did the right thing, and ought to be applauded (“Whistleblower,” Cover, Nov. 16).

Jean Bradley, Portland, Ore.

Blue Grits, red Tories

Lisa Sansom, in her letter to the editor, blames Reform party Leader Preston Manning for the fragmentation of the political right in Canada (“Irony on the right,” Nov. 23). Gee, I hate to rain on her parade, but where was she during the 1980s when the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives swerved so far to the left that you couldn’t distinguish them from the Liberals? What is the difference between a blue Liberal and a red Tory anyway? And the fact that Joe Clark and Hugh Segal, both Liberals in blue clothing, were the top contenders for the vacant PC throne proves that the PC party hasn’t changed in the 1990s. The leaders and the policies of the federal Conservative party are responsible for the breakup of the political right in Canada. I voted for them for 20 years before 1993, but I’ll vote for the Rhino party before I’ll ever vote for them again.

Ian Allen, Cranbrook, B. C.

The B.C. economy

Diane Francis’s closing sentence, “Good work, boys,” fails to credit the role played by the women in the B.C. NDP government (“The B.C. route to economic disaster,” Nov. 23). They deserve their share of recognition, as the B.C. road to disaster

could not have been paved without their help. The increasing role of women in the political process was to bring a fresh approach to a failing political system—or so I hoped. Instead, the NDP women are as obedient as any of the boys. This is a shame. If only two of them listened to their conscience and walked away from Clark’s rapidly shrinking workers’ paradise, then—with Clark’s government in a minority—this nightmare would come to a blessedly premature end. Who knows, they might be the only two NDPers to be re-elected when the time comes.

Bill Verbürgt, Courtenay, B. C.

Writing a critique of the NDP using mainly quotations and statistics from the Fraser Institute makes about as much sense (and exhibits the same cavalier attitude towards fairness) as writing a critique of Catholicism using only quotations and statistics from the Orange Lodge of Belfast.

Dan Mooney, Salt Spring Island, B.C.

Lower U.S. taxes

I am a physical therapist who moved to the United States in 1996 to have a working holiday for a year. What I found is significantly higher salaries and lower taxes. I’m currently working 40 to 50 hours per week and making $80,000 (U.S.) per year, with the opportunity to earn more than $100,000. My best year in Canada was $45,000, working approximately 60 hours per week. I put myself through school, paid my student loan off and paid taxes in Canada for more than two years before leaving for the United States (“Graduate defections,” The Mail, Nov. 9). We love Canada and miss our country and family, but work the numbers and honestly ask yourself what you would do in my position.

Trevor D. Bardarson, Houma, La.

Despite having worked overseas as an English as a Second Language teacher for seven of the past 10 years, I would love to work in Canada. Unfortunately, the reason many of us in various professions don’t is that no one will hire us. I was recently sounded out by a a major Canadian university about a job, and the best it could offer was a 13-week contract. Until things change, I’m afraid I and others will remain overseas. It has nothing to do with taxes. Give me a job and I’ll come home.

Darvin Babiuk, Sanaa, Yemen

Your recent articles on college and university education in Canada, as well as the accompanying editorials on the number of graduates who leave the country for greener pastures every year, serve only to underscore a major problem that has plagued our

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nation for some time. Canada produces a disproportionately large number of the world’s talent, yet that talent seems to trickle away to other countries in an ever-increasing flow. There are a variety of reasons for this. Constant government cutbacks have resulted in the climbing cost of a basic degree in the past few years. Young people graduate from school deeply in debt only to find limited job prospects, low wages and a ferocious level of taxation. And there is an ever-freer movement of intellectual capital around the world. As long as Canada’s business establishment maintains its vested interest in high unemployment and its attendant low wages, then

the talent is going to go elsewhere. Our young people have to eat as well, and if we don’t hire them at home, at wages they can live on, someone else will.

Wayne Vaincourt, Portland, Ore.

Sexual maturity

In your Nov. 9 Passages, you write: “Elected: the first openly gay mayor of a major Canadian city. [Glen] Murray’s sexual orientation never became an issue during the race.” As a young Canadian, and someone who is not gay but is interested in this country, I am impressed with the voters in Winnipeg. Apparently, and finally, some people in this country have grown up and left this is-

sue where it belongs: in the bedroom, in private and out of the public eye. Maybe our counterparts to the south will take notice, and apply this to President Bill Clinton and realize that what he did with Monica Lewinsky is a private matter. Then they can focus on the real issue, that he lied under oath.

Geannie Jensen, Prince George, B. C.

Pamela's admirers

Your review of Pamela Wallin’s autobiography spotlighted her 1995 firing from a CBC news program as if it were the most devastating setback a Canadian journalist has ever endured (“Persevering Pamela,” Books, Nov. 16). Hardly. Wallin hosts Maclean’s TV every week on rival CTV, as well as her nightly program, Pamela Wallin Live, on CBC Newsworld. You also fail to point out that the Newsworld show is rebroadcast the next afternoon on the waste-not-want-not CBC network, which had, you’ll recall, fired her. By the time Allan Fotheringham’s column elevated her to Mother Courage (“In search of the real Pamela Wallin,” Nov. 23), I wonder how many of her admirers (and I am one) thought to themselves: “Oh, God, not her again.” What with the book and the inevitable publicity tour, Wallin risks the much bigger danger faced by a Canadian TV personality who makes good (and doesn’t go south): overexposure.

Colin Doyle, Enfield, N.S.

Ï The death penalty

I rT'he death sentence is vicious and S i. immoral, but it is not quite arbi£ trary: often, the chance of its use is increased by discrimination based on class and race. Joseph Stanley Faulder’s case is a good example of the former (“Death closing in,” World/Special Report, Nov. 30). An example of the latter is the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist and black activist convicted of murdering a police officer, who has been on Pennsylvania’s death row for 17 years. Amnesty International, the European Parliament, Nelson Mandela and others have called for a review of his trial, which, like Faulder’s, was highly suspect. Nonetheless, on Oct. 30, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously denied his appeal and cleared the way for his eventual execution. We must all express our outrage to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, and help bring an end to the death penalty for Mumia, Faulder and all others.

Jonathan Culp, Vineland Station, Ont.

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An American view

Some five or six years ago, as an ignorant, if interested, tourist, I barged into the offices of the liberal Party of New Brunswick, demanding intelligent conversation on the future of Canada and what role the New Brunswick Liberals might play therein. At a moment’s notice and with characteristic Canadian courtesy, Andy Scott (then a policy planner) gave me an hour of his time and a great many shrewd observations. He struck me as a young man of uncommon good sense and vision: a political partisan to be sure, but one with the greater good of his country always in mind. Now, he has become the victim of a (quasi-American) media feeding frenzy (“Slim pickings,” Canada, Dec. 7). Without taking sides in Canadian politics, I regret this. I do hope that this worthy and public-spirited person will be able in future to contribute to the policy of Canada and the good of our continent.

Frederick W. Gerstell, Lawrenceville, N.J.

Future medicare

Michael Decter’s thoughtful essay on the needed revolution in Canada’s approach to health care is the best discussion of our health-care system that I have read in recent years (“The road to better health,” Essays on the 2000 Millennium, Dec. 7). He focused his discussion on the real issues— the changes that must be accommodated, rather than on the shibboleths that you hear from most politicians and many of the selfserving critics of our system. What’s more, he has done this with a superb writing style. And the two references to the lessons his children taught him were a delightful touch.

Michael Decter’s essay is just another leftwing “pie in the sky” dissertation. Canadian health care is getting much worse, and is not

Remembering when

As a sportswriter for the Toronto Telegram in the late ’40s, I covered Toronto Maple Leafs games on the road.

One day on a Leaf layover, I was in the Montreal Forum watching a light workout following which a crew started taking pictures for what was to be a Maclean's cover painted by Franklin Arbuckle. It depicted archrivals Bill Ezinicki and Maurice Richard in the penalty box separated by a penalty timekeeper with an usher in the background and a screaming crowd behind that. While

I watched, they were setting up with stand-ins and one of the crew put a Forum usher’s cap on my head, told me where to stand and instructed me to look apprehensive, anticipating a further outbreak of hostilities in the penalty box (this being, of course, in the days when there was only one to accommodate offenders from both teams). It is a pleasant surprise to note that the cover is being used on Maclean's just-published book, Canada on Ice: 50 Years of Great Hockey, and that, after nearly five decades and the addition of several pounds, the usher is vaguely recognizable. So I can tell my grandchildren that I have been on a Maclean's cover twice in the last half century.

Bob Hesketh, Toronto

simply changing. We now have a critical shortage of doctors, nurses and oncology technicians; lineups everywhere, i.e. for emergency departments and long-term care beds; CT scan and MRI waits of up to 10 months. And hospitals are closing everywhere with no real home-care alternatives in place. The bureaucrats and politicians have destroyed a once-great health-care system.

Dr. E. F. Dobkin, Toronto

On the record

Adding his mischievous spin to Peter C.

Newman’s depiction of the Business Council on National Issues and of my role as its CEO in his book Titans, Allan Fotheringham paints a distasteful picture of a heavyhanded and boastful BCNI claiming credit for some of Canada’s most significant public policy achievements of the recent past (“How Ottawa gave big business the keys to power,” Dec. 7). Absent Fotheringham’s

cheap shots and Newman’s coloratura, the facts are these. First, the idea of a BCNI policy coup d’état—a wholesale takeover of Canada’s political agenda during the Mulroney/Chrétien prime ministerships—is fanciful in the extreme, the pap usually proferred by a small but highly vocal group of leftist blowhorns. Yes, we have had some influence, but the common sense of the BCNI positions in fighting inflation and soaring deficits and in advocating trade and investment liberalization mercifully found resonance in the body politic, which is where the real credit for Canada’s economic revolution lies. Second, at no time have I claimed that a chance encounter with prime ministerdesignate Brian Mulroney on an Ottawa street led to his reversing his anti-free-trade stance. Yes, we did speak briefly about the BCNI’s position on free trade—but Mulroney’s metamorphosis was undoubtedly influenced by many factors. As for the BCNI spending $20 million in the “largest, most powerful lobby in Canadian history,” the assertion is ludicrous. In fact, the BCNI and

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the Canadian Alliance for Trade and Job Opportunities combined spent less than $5 million on the campaign! The portrait that appears in Titans has far too much varnish on it for my liking. Pity that Fotheringham did not offer me the courtesy of a call in advance of writing. I would have set him straight. But that would have spoiled his story.

Thomas d’Aquino, President and chief executive, Business Council on National Issues, Ottawa

'Balanced articles'

You state that “the island of Montreal, with almost 2.5 million people, holds about a third of Quebec’s population—but fewer than a quarter of the national assembly’s seats” (“The patriot game,” Cover, Nov. 30). In fact, the island of Montreal has nearly 1.8 million people, about a quarter of the population of Quebec, in line with its national assembly representation. While your coverage of international events is generally unbiased, I am dismayed that almost any article about the independence movement in Quebec is tainted with a federalist bias. And while I understand the strong feelings that Quebecers and Canadians have on the issue of “national unity,” a magazine of Maclean’s standing should be careful to publish more balanced and accurate articles about Quebec.

Kristopher Kinch, Taipei, Taiwan

Shopping Canadian

In “In search of the hot toy” (Special Report, Dec. 14), you list, among others, the Barbie software and camera, the Microsoft Actimates Interactive series, and the Nintendo computer games. These products are, indeed, hot items this Christmas. But you fail to list Canadian-owned outlets, other than the Bay companies, for these goods. As an 18-year owner/franchisee in Toronto’s Eaton Centre, it annoys me to see you leading your list of suggested resellers with large American bigbox operations. Companies such as Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart are prime examples of U.S. firms that take their revenues and profits south of the border. There are many independent Canadian companies that also offer these items at competitive prices, and these owner/operators work long hours to keep their businesses going and their revenues and profits invested in Canada. I fight like crazy to balance the Canadian dollar’s purchasing power against profitability, while I continue to employ 25 of Canada’s finest young people. Perhaps a little credit where it is due would help us all.

Baird Heide, Toronto