MAIL BAG

'Amiel made a noble attempt to quantify that entity sitting in the corner of her life’

January 21 2008
MAIL BAG

'Amiel made a noble attempt to quantify that entity sitting in the corner of her life’

January 21 2008

'Amiel made a noble attempt to quantify that entity sitting in the corner of her life’

MAIL BAG

THE HOME STRETCH

YOUR ARTICLE on the real estate boom in areas like Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver did not touch on the positive effect big-city high prices are having on smaller areas (“Is it a bubble? Is it about to burst?” Business, Dec. 31). In towns such as Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Nipigon and Red Rock in northwestern Ontario, for example, retirees with fixed incomes or with small businesses and the ability to operate anywhere, are arriving in significant numbers to take advantage of low housing costs and a good quality of life. They are able to sell their $500,000 houses in big cities and purchase similar homes for $100,000-$200,000. They then live off the difference and are still able to travel. Who says you can’t use your house to finance your retirement?

Sean Irwin, Terrace Bay, Ont.

YOUR STORY PAINTS an overly optimistic picture of the challenges faced by Canadians in purchasing homes, partly because it ignores the way in which Canadian tax laws stack the deck. In the U.S., mortgage interest is tax deductible, while in many countries, personal tax rates are much lower. This should be taken into account in affordability comparisons based on gross personal income. Under Canadian law, it is speculators who are given the advantage. Investment loans used to buy real estate, other than principal residences, are fully deductible. But Revenue Canada’s rules that prohibit taking ongoing tax losses on rental properties, as well as those that might tax speculative gains as business income rather than capital gains, are only loosely enforced. As a result, in markets like Vancouver that are largely driven by speculation, housing prices reach levels that are simply not attainable for average Canadians.

Gary McCaig, Port Alberni, B.C.

I don’t believe it’s the little details like a sexy bathroom vanity that sell condos, but vanity itself (“A ‘hip’ lifestyle of one’s own,” Business, Dec. 31). An appeal to one’s vanity is rarely in vain. All vendors know this.

John Gatsis, Toronto

NOT-SO-GOOD FENCES

FOR MORE THAN 60 years as a tourist and a visitor, I have been going back and forth

between Canada and the U.S., and the thickening of the border can certainly be an inconvenience at times (“Why Santa Claus can’t get into the U.S.,” From the Editors, Dec. 31). I carry my passport and try to get lucky with the times and locations of my crossings. And I never forget that this is the U.S. government’s doing, not the will of most individual Americans. And on a greater scale, it’s sad to see such good neighbours riven by security measures that may well turn out to be excessive and ineffective. Sometimes I think the U.S. administration misses the point: when we suffer economic and social disruption, surely the terrorists are winning. Paul Le Fort, Orleans, Ont.

ELEPHANTINE HUMOUR

CONGRATULATIONS to Barbara Amiel for her noble attempt to quantify the previously immeasurable entity sitting in the corner of her life (“That big thing I won’t be talking about,” Opinion, Dec. 31). Her ability to capture both the magnitude of her husband’s ego and their disdain for we common people is truly inspiring. The impact of her plea for understanding is exceeded only by the musings of her (and Conrad’s) shill, Mark Steyn.

Mark Sefton, Brandon, Man.

I DON’T KNOW when I have enjoyed a column more. I giggled again and again and I found Amiel’s piece elegant and elevating. Dick Jones, Tillsonburg, Ont.

RIGHT-HAND MAN

IT WAS MOST SURPRISING to read the terrible attack on Christian conservative Craig Chandler, the man who will be running as an independent in the provincial riding of Calgary Egmont (“Preaching the spirit of the West,” National, Dec. 31). Yes, Chandler is against same-sex marriage, as are many others including me. It is an immoral union that degrades the true meaning of the Godordained marriage tradition. Chandler is not on the fringe by any means and his nomination proves that. People like him will soon make Alberta great. If your bureau chief Nicholas Köhler doesn’t like it, he can kindly leave Alberta and go back to Toronto, the capital of the liberal left. We won’t miss him by any means.

Merle Terlesky, Calgary

CRAIG CHANDLER MUST be from Backwards, Alta. Hasn’t he heard? The same-sex marriage debate is over. It’s the law of the land that gays and lesbians can marry and promise to care for their partners even as heterosexual people do. Some church people are still gagging on single verses that are recorded in a book they may or may not have read in its entirety. Some cling to Leviticus 20:13 (“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death”), not realizing that this also requires them to participate in the stoning of those individuals. Others talk about “one man, one woman” (loosely based on Genesis 2:24), also forgetting that Solomon, a man said to be very wise, had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Russell A Plumley, St. Catharines, Ont.

LATIMER AND THE LAW

ANDREW COYNE’S ARTICLE about Robert Latimer (“Justice means having to say you’re sorry,” Opinion, Dec. 31) should help people who have had a difficult time accepting the National Parole Board’s decision to reject Latimer’s application for parole. He lays out clearly that Latimer taking the life of his daughter is wrong. No one has the right to take the life of another. However, all of us have the right, as well as the duty, to avail ourselves of the assistance that is available when life hands us a difficult burden.

Louise Bums, Saskatoon

Being admirers of Andrew Coyne we were all the more distressed to read his opinion piece on Robert Latimer. The only duty of the parole board toward Latimer was to grant him day parole if it felt assured he would not reoffend. The justice system knew Latimer would not reoffend the day it put him in jail. Euthanasia is a decision of the heart and mind and no amount of exegetical gymnastics and

law will persuade someone to refrain from fulfilling this act if he is convinced it is the only option. We feel that Coyne’s impressive intellect and essential humanity failed him when he wrote this piece.

Peggy Nixon Gualtieri, Ottawa

THE LATIMER FAMILY’S lifelong suffering caused by their daughter’s condition and demise should be enough without our imposing even more. I look forward to a future when compassion-inspired euthanasia is removed from the domain of vengeful jurisprudence. J.M. Weber, Sherbrooke, Que.

IT SEEMS that almost daily in this country, those accused or convicted of horrendous, random crimes are free to walk the streets at the risk of you and I. Whether Latimer is sorry or not has no bearing on the fact that I am 100 per cent confident that I do not need to fear him. I wish I could say as much for the repeat offenders who share my sidewalk.

Shawna Brataschuk, Edmonton

ANDREW COYNE MUST have a golden life. What does he know about chronic, hopeless pain? I can tell him that mercy killing goes on all across this country, quietly, every day. And Coyne must be a great political spin-artist to twist the realities of the Latimer case so

out of shape. How can he compare a devastated father/caregiver to Conrad Black, a man who used public funds to support an outrageous lifestyle? Furthermore, if Coyne has any knowledge of the prison system, which I doubt, he would know that all convicted felons learn that it is mandatory to mouth regrets at a parole hearing.

Gloria Thompson, Wasaga Beach, Ont.

COYNE’S JUDGMENT of Robert Latimer’s case shows his exaggerated self-esteem. A fair judge would take into consideration Latimer’s state of mind, the effect of his prolonged imprisonment on his family and, of course, his love for his daughter.

Werner Wuigk, Fort Langley, B.C.

AS KILLING a person is against the law, I am sure that Robert Latimer would admit that killing his daughter was a crime. For him, killing his daughter did her great service by stopping her pain. For that he will not feel remorse. Under his particular circumstances, he has paid his debt to society more than adequately and should be released.

Judith Simpson, Willow dale, Ont.

PLEASE HAVE Andrew Coyne get a new photograph. I’ve seen better pictures on “wanted” posters.

Ted Macdonald, Belleville, Ont.

BACKING OFF BLACK

I PUT OFF reading the most recent Maclean’s because I knew it would be infuriating. Finally finishing the issue today, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the almost comically one-sided coverage of the Conrad Black trial (“Goodbye to Chicago,” Justice, Dec. 31). I’m so glad the trial is over. Perhaps now I can stop seeking Black apologists in the magazine and

across your website. It’s a truly bizarre thing that Black has received more compassion and good coverage than has Robert Latimer or any other of the real Canadians hurt by a flawed system. Now, can we move on? Brenna Clarke Gray, Fredericton

WHILE I APPRECIATE the effort to set the record straight, theft is theft. Is Mark Steyn suggesting that it’s okay for departing CEOs to pilfer half a per cent of annual sales just because they think they deserve it? Still, it’s sobering to think that had Conrad Black not been so universally loathed, he might actually have succeeded in getting away with it.

John Tonus, North York, Ont.

SIMPLY UN-BEARABLE

MACLEAN’S MAY BE Canada’s best and most readable newsmagazine. Congratulations. But why would you do a story on a trigger-happy five-year-old and his deranged grandfather who glory in shooting a 200-kg bear (“Tre Merritt: Like a chip off the old Crockett,” Newsmakers, Dec. 31)? Next time you do that kind of story, please insert a compost bag.

Helmut Mayer, Meaford, Ont.

FEWER PEOPLE, PERIOD

THE IDEA of a baby tax as proposed by the Medical Journal of Australia is far from preposterous (“The heat is on,” Bad news, Dec. 31). Your editors should take off the blinders and assess the ongoing global catastrophe for what it really is—consumption by too many people. Short of reducing population, there is probably no answer to problems like climate change because tiny incremental increases in efficiency are overbalanced by steady increases in population.

Harold Welch, Clandeboye, Man.

TAXING HEALTH CARE

IN JOHN GEDDES’s article on health care (“Waiting for a revolution,” National, Dec. 31) there is no mention of an idea that might make a significant contribution to controlling health care costs in this country. It is to make health care a taxable benefit. The first step, of course, would be to send each of us a statement at the end of each year telling us how much we cost the system during the year. Next, we should be instructed to include the amount in our taxable income. Low income people would be taxed on a small portion and high income folks would pay tax on a higher percentage. There would be many benefits from such a scheme. First, we would know how much we each cost the system, leading us to think about the necessary treatment for our ills. For example, if I had a cold, I could consider the implications of going to the emergency ward at the hospital, a walk-

‘Canada sure has an interesting way of achieving capital punishment for petty criminals: let someone else do it and pretend you are horrified’

in clinic, my family doctor or home to a bowl of chicken soup. Second, unlike a two-tier system, it would allow discrimination on the basis of income. Third, it could garner more money for health care than our current tax regime. Lastly, people who have chronic illnesses requiring long-term care with expensive drugs could have some or all of the costs covered through tax rebates.

Andrew Grindlay, Westbank, B.C.

WORTH 1,000 WORDS

LET ME GET this straight. You choose scores of photos from the billions of newsworthy people on the planet and you pick three shots of George W. Bush, one of Britney Spears’s butt and yet another of Robin Williams attempting to grope Halle Berry (“The year in pictures,” Dec. 31). Some compelling. Don Crewe, Port aux Basques, Nfld.

A CERTAIN DEATH?

I AM WRITING about your story on the demise of former refugee Hussein “L.J.” Jilaow, who was deported to his homeland of Somalia after the Canada Border Services Agency overruled a decision by a federal judge to let him stay, and then was murdered (The End, Dec. 31). Canada sure has an interesting way of achieving capital punishment for petty criminals: let someone else do it, and then pretend you are horrified.

Anne vanArragon Hutten, Lakeville, N.S.

WHAT A WASTE of space. Are we to feel sorry for someone who was given a chance to live

in a country with a great educational system and plenty of business opportunities? All he had to do was to learn the English language, go to school and decide what business opportunities he would like to pursue. Instead, he chose to quit school and become a criminal. Many immigrants have become successful in this country by putting in an effort. He, on the other hand, probably expected that the streets were lined with gold. Was his killing in Somalia because of his clan status or was it because he was doing the same criminal activities there that he did here?

Platon Werbicky, Calgary

IN PASSING

Milt Dunnell, 102, sports writer. His 52year career spanned much of modern pro sports history, from the retirement of Joe DiMaggio to the Mike Tyson-Michael Spinks boxing match in 1988. In 1970, he retired from running the sports desk at his home paper, the Toronto Star, but continued to write regular columns until 1994. He was honoured in 1997 with the Liebling Award for boxing writing.

Gerald Le Dain, 83, Supreme Court justice. As dean of Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law School, he headed a federal inquiry into non-medical drug use that in 1972 called for decriminalizing marijuana possession. He served on the highest court from 1984 to 1988.