MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

December 17 2007
MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

December 17 2007

‘In his mid-70s, my father was pursued by wife No. 3 while wife No. 2 lay dying of cancer’

MAIL BAG

KING OF THE HILL

THERE IS NO doubt we have some hard-working, dedicated and selfless MPs like your winner of the second annual Parliamentarian of the Year award (“Bill Blaikie is Canada’s best MP,” National, Dec. 3), but do we need so many of them? We have 308 and counting, with Stephen Harper threatening to add another 22. Yikes! Where is all the money to come from? The country has health care issues, infrastructure problems, a growing population of poor people and underemployed new immigrants. And there never seems to be enough money to address those problems. I would rather see Harper cut the number of MPs by half. With modern transportation, email and text messaging, 154 of them could represent us and save us more than $30 million annually—money that can be more productively used on some of the above-mentioned problems.

Bruce Gates, Toronto

IN THIS AGE of political cynicism, it is important to occasionally focus on the contributions of individuals who are in public office for the right reasons. It is ironic that your Parliamentarian of the Year issue was published in the same week that our country’s very best MP, John Godfrey, announced his retirement. Godfrey is one of those rare politicians who never compromised moral principles for partisan gains. That he has consistently rallied MPs from all sides of the Commons behind nation-building projects relating to the environment, early childhood development, and the eradication of poverty is a testament to his talents, intellect and humility. And, as a former educator and long-term advocate for intergenerational responsibility, Godfrey inspired a love of politics in many young people. In his new role as headmaster for the Toronto French School, he will undoubtedly instill countless more with values of social justice and civic engagement. Mateusz Trybowski, Ottawa

GREAT ARTICLE and I am sure the members chosen are deserving. However, maybe you should add a “buffoon of the year” category. Then our illustrious members of Parliament would realize how juvenile, ludicrous and laughable they appear during question period and other times when they are trying to convey how clever and witty they are. They might even be shamed into maturity.

Doug Wellard, Stratford, Ont.

A WEEK’S WORTH

IN 7 DAYS you report on Barry Bonds being indicted on charges that he lied to a grand jury about his use of steroids (“Moving on,” Good News, Dec. 3). Then you say, “All that’s needed is for Lance Armstrong to come clean and we can finally close the books on 2001.” Lance Armstrong was clean. He never failed a drug test and he was the most tested athlete in the world during his reign as seventime Tour de France champion. Why can’t the media believe this?

Brian Booth, Toronto

ABOUT YOUR 7 Days item on lead-laden toys (“Killer toys,” Bad News, Nov. 26), I might be considered a grouchy old woman, but I’m always shocked when I visit friends with small children and am confronted in the entranceway and even outdoors with multicoloured plastic junk strewn all over. I was born in a well-to-do family. Every Christmas I was given a few books, a bag of dried fruits and nuts, and a naked baby doll (so that, together with my mother, I could sew clothes for her and learn to use a needle and thread). I considered myself very fortunate. Do today’s parents think they can replace quality time and love with a bunch of junk?

MaryMajka, Harvey, Albert County, N.B.

THE RCMP RESPONSE

WE WELCOME the public airing of some of the problems that members throughout the RCMP have been facing in the past few years

(“What’s really killing the Mounties,” National, Nov. 26). For clarification, the Mounted Police members’ legal fund is a not-for-profit private corporation set up in 1997 by the majority of staff-relations representatives to generally fund actions to bring a resolution of issues between regular and civilian members of the RCMP who belong to the legal fund and the government of Canada, and to fund actions taken collectively or individually with respect to matters that affect the dignity or welfare of a member or members of the legal fund who are not funded under benefit programs available within the RCMP or the government of Canada. We are concerned primarily with members’ pay, benefits and rights. The legal fund is not a part of, or under control of, the RCMP as an organization. The duties of the division representatives within the RCMP, as elected representatives of their membership, are entirely separate from their positions as directors of the legal fund. Participation in the legal fund by them, and all other members, is purely voluntary. Currently 14,901 regular and civilian members of the RCMP contribute.

Roy Hill, Chairperson, Mounted Police Members’ Legal Fund Executive Committee, Orleans, Ont.

AH, SENIOR LOVE

THE ARTICLE about the so-called “casserole brigade” and their aggressive pursuit of senior males is so astonishing because it is so true (“The sexiest men alive,” Society, Dec. 3)! In his mid-70s, my father was pursued by wife No. 3 while his second wife was in hospital dying of cancer. When this woman turned up at my late stepmother’s funeral, ostensibly to pay her respects, my sibs and I discovered that she was a real estate agent as well as a fortysomething divorcee. She wanted my father and the house. She got ’em both. My father, once an intelligent thinker if not a moral example, now runs behind this woman in queer gratitude for having a wife about the age of his eldest daughter—much to the exclusion of being a father and grandfather. It’s ridiculous. I wish dear old dad’s younger bride’s father were still living. I would date him in revenge.

Suzanne O’Callaghan,

Mount Stewart, P.E.I.

SKIP SEXY, PICK FUNNY

I NEED TO KNOW where to vote for Scott Feschuk as the “Funniest Man Alive” (“What Matt will do in his First 100 Days in office,” Comment, Dec. 3). Fve been meaning to do this for quite awhile now, but this latest column musing about his “Sexcellency” Matt Damon has pushed me to action! I also know that I have Scott to blame as I will now be laughing—or snickering—at quite inappropriate or unusual times, especially when checking out groceries or just passing magazine stands, leaving me quite vulnerable to judgmental people not quite as enlightened as myself, but that’s really nothing new anyway! Never let Scott go. Canada must protect itself against the brain drain and this man is a real national treasure.

Karen Devolin, Tillsonburg, Ont.

THANKS FOR the Feschuk funnies and cheers for the penetrating journalism in Maclean’sl Barbara Kingscote, Innisfail, Alta.

R.I.P. IAN SMITH

AS AN ex-Rhodesian and now proud Canadian, I must say that I found your short obituary on the death of Ian Smith, former prime minister of Rhodesia, quite offensive (In Passing, Dec. 3). Smith was a charismatic and principled leader who challenged Britain for the right to bring his country out of its colonial past toward full democracy in a peaceful and pragmatic manner most appropriate to its history and culture. Particularly irresponsible was your use of that onerous word “apartheid” in connection with Rhodesia, a term originally coined to describe South Africa’s abhorrent racial policies. Rhodesia was not South Africa. YA, Rhodesians white and black fought against the “guerrilla war waged by black nationalists.” So would any country threatened by Communist-inspired

Chineseand Russian-trained and armed terrorists, which is what we called them because that is exactly what they were.

One product of this war was Robert Mugabe, a terrorist leader whose policies of selfenrichment and aggrandizement since coming to power have harmed the people of the renamed Zimbabwe and ruined the country’s agricultural base and economic independence. I wonder how you will choose to write his obituary?

Bert Stakenborg, Ipperwash, Ont

LET’S MAKE A DEAL

YOUR STORY about car brokers importing U.S. cars into Canada (“Car buyers make a run for the border,” Business, Nov. 26) just confirms what we Canucks have known for a long time—we are being gouged by the car companies in this country. And restricting U.S. dealers to selling to a certain citizenry or negating warranties to Canadians is a slap in the face to the open-market system. Well, the jig is up.

Allison Phillips, Penticton, B.C.

GETTING DEFENSIVE

THE CONFERENCE of Defence Associations makes no apologies for the fact that it receives some of its funding from the Department of National Defence, as it has done for much of the past 75 years (“This op-ed is brought to you by...” National, Nov. 26). The current conditions for CDA’s annual grant were originally formulated under the previous Liberal government. This grant is contingent upon us meeting conditions set by the Treasury Board, which in part are meant to keep the CDA at arm’s-length from the government. Specifically, we have to contribute to improved government and public understanding of Canadian defence and security issues and more balanced exploration and

‘How insulting to say the pipes sound like cats caught in a wringer washer. The pipes are the music of the gods. You should have your mouth washed out with Johnnie Walker Red.’

discussion of issues of nadonal security.

Performance standards have been essentially the same under both Liberal and Conservative governments, and we strive rigorously to meet them through our various activities, including appearances as expert witnesses to provide testimony before the House of Commons defence, foreign, and finance committees, and the Senate defence and foreign affairs committees. Significantly, our experts have been called upon hundreds of times in the past year to provide informed commentary on defence issues on TV, radio and in print media.

Since 1932, the CDA has both agreed and disagreed with the government of the day, always taking a non-partisan and independent stance. For instance, we supported ballistic missile defence and the mission in Afghanistan (both endorsed by Liberal governments at the time), and we continue to support the Afghanistan mission under the Conservative government. We criticized the Liberal government in the 1990s for not doing enough for the Canadian Forces, and we now applaud the Conservative government for wanting to address the neglect of the previous decades. The fact that our opinions often dovetail with current or past government policies does not imply that we are their mouthpiece.

Retired Col. Alain Pellerin, Executive Director, Conference of Defence Associations, Ottawa

CANADA FROM THE INSIDE

I HAVE JUST read Ken MacQueen’s article describing Maclean ’s annual How the World Sees Canada poll (“Everybody loves us,” Special Report, Dec. 3) and I feel compelled to voice a comment regarding the quote by Citizenship Judge Shinder Purewal. MacQueen writes that the judge, addressing a room full of 94 immigrants taking the citizenship oath, told them, “What makes this country great is your presence.” I would disagree. I believe that what makes this country great is not an immigrant’s presence, but rather the vast opportunity with which he or she is presented. My parents arrived here in 1926 from a middle European country. They felt intensely grateful for the rest of their lives that Canada had allowed them to make a new and better life for themselves and their children. They tried to learn the Canadian way as

quickly as possible and to fit in. They spoke their native language in our home while my sister and I were young, picking up enough rudimentary English to get by, and when we started school, they were eager to learn English, asking us to help them read the newspaper and explain the meanings of words, and by listening to radio programs. They never felt that their country of origin was “home”; their hearts and minds and spirits were committed to being Canadian, and they remained very proud of being Canadian throughout their lives.

It hurts to witness the behaviour of some immigrants who have the attitude that they are doing Canada a tremendous favour by coming here, that only their presence is required to “make this country great.” I am 80 years old now, and my sister and I still talk about how thankful we are that our parents came to Canada, the land of opportunity.

Ruth Craig, Mississauga, Ont.

HIGHLAND LAMENT

WHAT A DISGUSTING bit to put in Maclean’s, that insulting piece on the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, saying they sound like cats caught in a wringer washer (“Performance of the Week: Bagpipers,” Dec. 3). The pipes, THE PIPES, my dear chap, are the music of the gods. You should be forced to have your mouth washed out with Johnnie Walker (eight-year-old) Red Label.

E.G. Wallace, Parry Sound, Ont.

A DISGRUNTLED FAN

WAY TO TRIVIALIZE an otherwise worthy column by writing about the demise of the goal judge in the NHL (The End, Nov. 19). Who cares? Between the greed of players and owners, and the uninspiring quality of play in this talent-diluted league, it might be best if the NHL takes this a step further and abolishes itself. In any event, it is a disservice to the memory of the lives that have been memorialized in past editions of this column to publish this nonsense about a game that fewer and fewer Canadians even recognize anymore.

Jim Potts, Fredericton

IN PASSING

Roger Smith, 82, auto executive. As chairman and chief executive of General Motors in the 1980s, he presided over a period of massive change. Under his management, General Motors introduced the Saturn brand, but it also laid off thousands of workers, which documentary maker Michael Moore made the focus of his film Roger & Me.

James Barber, 84, cooking-show host. Born in England and long a resident of Canada, he was the genial host of The Urban Peasant, a cooking show seen in more than 80 countries. He favoured simple comfort foods and was the author of numerous cooking-related books, including Fear of Frying.