MAIL BAG

October 15 2007

MAIL BAG

October 15 2007

MAIL BAG

‘The story on the oil sands will bring the rancour of 3.5 million Albertans—and Ralph Klein’

TAKING ON THE OIL PATCH

WHAT HAPPENED to the bland magazine of yore? Now you are a publication on steroids. First, you incur the wrath of the Law Society of Upper Canada with your Aug. 6 cover story “Lawyers Are Rats,” and then you engender the displeasure of U.S. Ambassador David H. Wilkins with your Oct. 1 cover “How Bush became the new Saddam.” That was well and good, but now you’ve really gone too far. Your story about the oil sands and environmental degradation (“Doomsday: Alberta Stands Accused,” National, Oct. 9) is going to bring the censure and rancour of 3.5 million Albertans and sundry oil companies, with Ralph Klein bringing up the rear. Who are you going to take on for an encore?

Sigmund Roseth, Mississauga, Ont.

TORMENT IN THE ARMY

AFTER READING Michael Friscolanti’s article about the tribulations of Pte. Glenn Brownhall (“A soldier becomes a target,” National, Oct. 8), I must admit to having little sympathy. In fact, I think the Canadian Forces needs to raise its recruiting standards. At any time, the army is a difficult place to be and more so when it is in a combat zone. If Pte. Brownhall was unable to cope with having his face pushed against the side of a tent and catching a few punches from his comrades, how on earth did he expect to cope with the rigours of facing an unforgiving enemy? As for asking to go home, that hardly put him in a unique position. No doubt, thousands of Canadians from earlier generations had the same desire but, unlike Pte. Brownhall, they did their duty. Brownhall is now enjoying a 60 per cent disability pension for “post-traumatic stress,” but is suing for more money. The surviving heroes of Dieppe and Normandy must be shaking their heads.

Ron Ross, Brampton, Ont.

ASBESTOS AND LIFE

NO ONE CELEBRATES the loss of jobs and a town’s demise; however, it is not easy to endorse the mining and exporting of asbestos from Canada (“The last gasps of asbestos,” Business, Oct. l). Sadly, many lives have been lost and more ruined due to exposure to asbestos, including that of my own father. Your interview subject, the vice-president of operations at the Black Lake mine, Tom Coleman, will soon retire. My father died at age

58 never knowing that privilege. Thousands of lives were changed forever due to the misuse and misrepresentation of harm from asbestos, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid to compensate the victims. Shutting down the source seems a small price to pay now for what may become a duplicate tragedy in developing countries that buy this product from us.

Kathleen Aslett, Victoria

WHAT IMAGE is your writer Colin Campbell trying to create of our town of Thetford Mines, Que., when he refers to its postwar-era bungalows and says that its best years seem well

behind it? While we cannot minimize the contribution of the asbestos industry in the past, how many other Canadian cities have had to face a major disruption to their economies and gone on to new heights in other domains? With a population of over 26,000, 500 people losing their jobs in the asbestos industry will not cripple the economy or put us into a tailspin. How about an article on the exodus of young retirees from urban centres moving to rural communities like ours where they can buy houses for half the price and get better access to health care?

James Barber, Thetford Mines, Que.

DION DIGS IN

TO YOUR EXCELLENT analysis of the leadership of Stéphane Dion ( “Dion of the living dead,” National, Oct. l) another element might be added. Dion has always been underestimated by his political adversaries. Even when Jean Chrétien first brought him into the cab-

inet (at his wife Aline’s suggestion), many Liberals were skeptical. Dion turned out to be an excellent minister, especially on the separatist file. When Paul Martin dumped him from cabinet, Dion dug in his heels, was re-elected in Montreal, and virtually forced Martin to take him back. Very few political pundits thought Dion would win the Liberal leadership. He proved them wrong. Dion has plenty of time before the next general election to prove his political adversaries wrong again. Neil McKenty, Montreal

A FAITH-BASED FUROR

CONGRATULATIONS for an honest and balanced editorial (“Equality in education,” From the editors, Oct. l). Our four children graduated from faith-based schools at sacrificial cost to our one-income family, which also supports public schools through taxation. If the McGuinty government does not like the words tolerance, pluralism and fairness, it could look up the meaning of justice. Don’t we live in multicultural Canada?

Jim van der Voort, Orillia, Ont.

I DO NOT AGREE with the funding of any faith-based school. All children should be educated in the current publicly funded school system, while religious training should be left to parents and religious leaders. If we allow a further erosion of the public school system, our children will never learn tolerance, understanding, and the fact that all Canadians have equal rights.

Carol Yuli, Goderich, Ont.

YOUR EDITORIAL suggested that the public education system was somehow responsible for the alleged Islamic terrorists arrested last year in Toronto. Let’s be clear. Those men were the products of the mosques they attended on the weekends. A separate, religion-based education system will only further isolate children of different households, and increase this type of behaviour. If these men had paid attention to any of what they were taught in the public education system, they would be more likely to be peaceful atheists today.

Drew Shaw, Duncan, B.C.

YOUR EDITORIAL made me sit up and take notice. You presented the most unbiased opinion I have seen printed on the subject in

a national publication. The issue seems logical as you have presented it, and I hope you have helped to promote tolerance and strip bias, fear and exclusion from the thoughts of Ontario’s citizens. Most Canadians have already figured this out, but at least till now, Ontario has preferred its bias on this issue. Connie VanRooyen, Woodstock, Ont.

NOW I KNOW why I switched from Time to Maclean’s. Your editorial comment concerning equality in education is a balm for any promoter of not just religious, but educational diversity.

JindraK. Hrdlicka, Burlington, Ont.

‘TRIANGULATION’ OR THEFT?

SO, STEPHEN HARPER’S long-time political associate Tom Flanagan has a new book out endorsing Harper’s pragmatic approach to transforming Canada (“If you don’t like me, I can change!” National, Oct.l). Apparently, Flanagan calls Harper’s pragmatism “triangulation,” a term the American pollster Dick Morris used to describe Bill Clinton’s habit of “swiping his opponents’ policy stances so he could whup them at the polls,” and praises it as a “moral good.” Isn’t “triangulation” just a fancy name for what political leaders have always done: steal and implement their opponents’ ideas when it suited them? Even that would be fair enough if that’s all Harper and his government did and if their methods weren’t so anti-social and hostile. Think of their cuts to social and environmental programs—adult literacy, jobless youth, regional offices of Status of Women Canada, scientific research and protection of endangered species, to name a few. Add in their failure to honour international and national commitments, their failure to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, their bully tactics with the Canadian Wheat Board and their habit of blaming the previous government whenever something goes wrong. This is not a government by “triangulation.” More by strangulation, I’d say.

P.J. Robertson, Morrisburg, Ont.

LET ME GET this straight. Tom Flanagan has put forth the notion, which the Tories have adopted, that if a party is not in power because the Canadian people do not believe or support the values that party espouses, then the party should lie to the public, telling them that it does believe in those values. Having achieved power by this subterfuge, it should then manipulate the social system until the public values have sufficiently changed. In other words, the end always justifies the means and expediency trumps integrity. Brian Gilbertson, Plympton, N.S.

GRASS FOR THE NEEDY

GEE, WE WOULDN’T want cancer or AIDS patients getting the munchies, now would we (“Marijuana and the munchies,” Health, Sept. 24)? And we certainly don’t want sick and dying people to experience even the slightest bit of euphoria either. God no. As any doctor will tell you, suffering speeds up healing, right? With the kind of arrogance that it seems only doctors are able to display, researcher Mark Ware says, “These are extremely ill people who have failed conventional treatments. These aren’t the ones standing on Parliament Hill waving hemp flags.” I don’t know any of the guinea pigs in Ware’s study, but many of the people who go to those rallies on the Hill are actually sick and dying. At such rallies, people lobby for everyone’s right to make their own choices without the interference of a doctor-run nanny state.

Russell Barth, Patients Against Ignorance and Discrimination on Cannabis, Federal Medical Marijuana License Holder, Ottawa

YOUR STORY may have left readers confused about the status of the cannabinoid-blocker drug rimonabant and how it interacts with marijuana. Rimonabant blocks the CBl receptor through which marijuana’s active components (cannabinoids) exert many of their effects and through which the body’s natural, marijuana-like chemicals also work. Those effects include not only appetite stimulation, but many other important functions including regulation of mood and memory. It’s increasingly clear that the endocannabinoid system is a crucial part of the body’s mechanism for keeping itself in balance and that

we have more to learn about how it works. There is good reason to fear that blocking CBl may be dangerous. Indeed, studies of rimonabant have found that patients taking it have increased rates of depression. In June, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee reviewed the data and unanimously urged that the drug not be approved for sale because of these safety concerns. As a result, the manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis has put its U.S. plans on hold and European regulators are reviewing the safety data. Research with drugs like rimonabant has indeed taught us much about the endocannabinoid system, and indirectly about the potential benefits of marijuana for certain patients. That does not mean that blocking this system is a good

IN PASSING

Lois Maxwell, 80, actress. The Canadian-born performer most famously played Miss Moneypenny in 14 James Bond films between 1962 and 1985. She began her career in the Canadian Army Show in Britain and later appeared in films such as Lolita and The Haunting. She also wrote a popular newspaper column.

George Rieveschl, 91, chemical engineer. He invented a compound originally intended to improve muscle-relaxant medications, but found that it dramatically reduced histamines, chemicals that can damage capillaries and cause swelling and itching. The compound, named Benadryl, was marketed in the late 1940s as one of the first antihistamines.

‘Sheryl Crow was speaking with her tongue in her cheek when she advocated using one square of toilet paper each. Had he checked, Mark Steyn would have known this.’

or safe idea. While the jury is still out, the data thus far suggests that rimonabant and similar drugs should be approached with some caution.

Bruce Mirken, Director of Communications, Marijuana Policy Project, Washington

A PLACE TO STAND

IS ANDREW POTTER just trying to make us mad or what (“What’s best for Ontario? Newsflash: who cares?” Opinion, Oct. l)? His reference to Quebec Culture Minister Diane Lemieux and her comment that “Ontario has no culture” makes my blood boil. After living 72 years in this province I’ll take our so-called non-culture any day over the constant in-your-face culture of the folks in Quebec. Potter seems to admire the independent thinking of Alberta and B.C. Well sure. Alberta is wallowing in oil and doesn’t care a fig for the rest of the country. Meanwhile, B.C.’s mindset lies with the coastal U.S. states, and that’s understandable. Here in Ontario, we

will survive our current problems, lack of culture and all. Believe me, we do exist, and most of us happily. Now I think I’ll go take my blood pressure medication.

Diane Knoop, Goderich, Ont.

KEEPING IT CLEAN

YOUR COLUMNIST Mark Steyn makes some excellent points about hygiene and its importance to our society—take a look at the problem of C. difficile killing so many patients in our hospitals due to a lack of handwashing, for instance (“Hygiene’s uncool? Tell the dying,” Steyn, Oct. l). Then he loses all credibility when he somehow, bizarrely, ties it into his favourite old dead horse to flog— low birth rates. Seems it doesn’t matter if Steyn is discussing sanitation, Fidel Castro or yesterday’s baseball scores, with him it all comes around to bemoaning low birth rates in Canada and Europe. If Steyn advocates against going back to the Middle Ages in our cleanliness, why does he want us to return

to the Middle Ages by breeding like rabbits? Dave Ruch, Oshawa, Ont.

SHERYL CROW was speaking with her tongue in her cheek when she advocated using one square of toilet paper per person. Had he checked, Steyn would have known this, but it is better to poke fun at celebrities and hope your readers don’t know the difference.

Sue Homcastle, Dartmouth, N.S.

CORRECTION: A story in our Sept. 24 edition (“Power politics comes to France,” Business) reported a rumour that Paul Desmarais had paid for a dinner given for the president of France on the night of his election. The event in question was, in fact, a large reception held for the president at which many people were in attendance including Mr. and Mrs. Paul Desmarais. Neither Mr. Desmarais, nor Power Corporation of Canada, was involved in organizing or paying for the reception.