MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

October 13 2008
MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

October 13 2008

MAIL BAG

‘I didn’t notice Elizabeth May’s sweater. I was busy listening to what she was saying. ’

PICK-A-PECK OF LEADERS

THE SPECIAL Campaign Edition (Sept. 29) with its three covers devoted to Stephen Harper, Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton arrived in the mail yesterday and I wanted to say thank you for the fine series of articles on the party leaders. I enjoy the time I spend reading your magazine. Various Internet sites are employed in the art of journalism, but I still like the exercise of reading, thinking and then writing a response. Kudos to all at Maclean’s. Patricia Branigan-Kilner, Hamilton

WITH YOUR Special Campaign Edition, I trusted that Maclean’s would give me what I’ve learned to expect—a fair and unbiased view that I’m unlikely to find anywhere else. Your article on Green Leader Elizabeth May disappointed me (“Make or break time for greens,” National, Sept. 29). In your profile, I read that May was “wearing the same paleyellow sweater set she wore in Guelph.” I was aghast. I wasn’t even aware Elizabeth May owned a sweater set, let alone a yellow one, because I was paying way too much attention to what she has been trying to say. I don’t remember the suits of any of the party leaders, and I doubt anyone else does either. Yvonne Zyma, New Hamburg, Ont.

ALTHOUGH I appreciated the latest edition ofMaclean’s and its three covers, each featuring a party leader, it became much more acceptable to me after I tore off and discarded the cover with the picture of the current meanspirited Prime Minister.

Sue Barr, Bowen Island, B.C.

I RECEIVED my Sept. 29 issue today and I was incensed that you have already written off Green Leader Elizabeth May and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe by not giving them their own cover too. Images are often more powerful than the written word. It seems that Maclean’s considers May and Duceppe to be nobodies.

Gerry Green, Winnipeg

THE MEDIA SCOURGE

I ALWAYS READ Andrew Coyne’s columns and though I often disagree with his point of view, he is bang on with his story about how the media do more harm than good in the way they cover elections (“How journalists get in the way of the election,” Opinion, Sept.

29). In elections, the media are peripheral parasites swirling around the outskirts but never getting inside. They all sound so superior explaining why the politicians were so wrong in what they did or said, or how they did or said it. There are many hard-working members of the media, but perhaps they should work harder to report the news without editorializing. It is a rare treat to read a story that is well-thought-out and well-written. Clem Neiman, Shanty Bay, Ont.

I’M 25 AND ONLY really started paying attention to politics during the last election.

Since then, I have watched with great interest and even greater depression as I realize Andrew Coyne is absolutely correct: journalists get in the way of the election. I only want to hear about the parties and what they plan to do. Give me ideals, ideas, promises, objectives and their platforms for governing Canada. If journalists were to focus on these important things then we would have a much more accountable government because the people would know who stands for what and what was promised by whom. That way, we would have less chance of putting someone in power and later wondering, “How did he ever get elected?”

Eric Jardin, Waterloo, Ont.

DANCING ALONE

AS ONE OF THE women among those who might decide the election, I don’t know whether to be more put off by the seemingly lose-lose

choices I have or your cover (“Who women want: How Harper found his groove, and Dion lost his mojo,” Cover, Sept. 22). I can’t speak for other women, but this one is not looking for a dance partner. I suspect I’m not alone in comprehending that appearances and slick marketing campaigns are just that. I also doubt that I’m the only one frustrated by excessive attention to the candidates’ warm and fuzzy performance in photo ops. I vote for more press attention to the economy, the environment, domestic and foreign policy, poverty, the track record on the arts, health care, education and all the rest of the real issues. Lynda Grace Philippsen, Surrey, B.C.

ROAD WARRIORS

I AGREE WITH the experts Barbara Righton interviewed in her story when they say that compact cars may not be as green as bigger cars because they don’t last as long (“The small car conundrum,” Business, Sept. 22). My mid-sized 1970 Pontiac LeMans ran for more than 20 years. My 1989 Chevrolet Caprice survived a hailstorm last June without a scratch, while the Hyundai Elantra parked beside it suffered 322 dents and $5,300 in damage. If we get such a storm every three years (what with the unstable weather), it may add the $5,300 plus car rental jï expenses plus insurance company J administration costs to my insurance bill. This represents energy, wasted materials, pollution and a consuming population growth that generates greenhouse gases and so on. The earth could do without all that for the next few years. Perhaps it’s time for a thicker steel option on all cars to save the environment.

Nick Bird, Richmond Hill, Ont.

I THINK THERE is a reason the Big Three are losing money whereas companies like Honda are selling more cars than ever. Not only are Honda cars fuel-efficient, they are of better quality. Every Honda model made the Consumer Reports recommended buy list this year. Every model. I think if GM and other car companies want to attract more buyers, they need to up the quality of their vehicles, not just the fuel efficiency. To tell people to buy larger cars is irresponsible. Telling them to buy better quality cars will certainly be better for everyone.

Eric Millward, Morrisburg, Ont.

REAL LIFE AND DOCTORS

I READ WITH INTEREST your feature on Canada’s Best Professional Schools, specifically the story about studying science and getting into medical school (“So, you want to be a doctor?” Universities, Sept. 22). As a professional engineer and a medical doctor, I would like to emphasize the fact that, like science, applied science (a.k.a. engineering) provides potential medical school applicants with the fundamental education necessary to score well on the Medical College Admission Test. But looking beyond the mastery of the MCAT exam, unlike science, studying engineering provides students with an extremely valuable foundation in applying scientific principles to solve real-life problems—a skill that will serve them well throughout their careers in medicine. Yes, planning ahead and taking the necessary prerequisites for a solid foundation in math and science are essential, but I would like to encourage young people to consider engineering as an equally valid course of undergraduate study leading to medical school, just as many of us engineers have succeeded in becoming physicians.

Dr. Ezra Kwok, Director, Biomedical Engineering Program, Faculty of Applied Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

ANY VOLUNTEERS?

I WAS DISAPPOINTED with Rachel Mendleson’s article about young Canadians volunteering abroad (“Helping the world. And me,” Society, Sept. 29). I was hired by Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) to work in Namibia in 2006.1 went to Namibia at the same time that Sara Minogue, mentioned in your article, travelled to Tanzania, and we both trained

together. I think Minogue’s assault on JHR has been overplayed and her bad experience has been used to question programs that thousands of other Canadians successfully complete. During my time with JHR, I witnessed an incredible transformation of the media in Sierra Leone especially, where JHR has a large presence. During several months over the election campaign last year, local

‘European fire ants might soon present your biased article to a sympathetic “rights” tribunal’

human rights coverage doubled because of the effort of a small group of us who daily worked in local newsrooms with local journalists. We saw human rights issues become front and centre in most of the Freetown mainstream media.

Canadians have a good name internationally because we have a history of programs

that place educated people in all parts of the world, and they do good work. Of course every volunteer isn’t travelling halfway around the world for altruistic reasons (and why should they?), but the majority of volunteers I’ve met abroad aren’t just there for a padded resumé. If you ask me, that wouldn’t be very Canadian.

Danny Glenwright, Communication and Public Relations Officer, Right to Education Campaign Coordinator, University of Bethlehem, Palestine

STINGING CRITICISMS

YOUR ARTICLE on European fire ants was completely out of touch with current Canadian values (“Red, red whine,” Nature, Sept. 29). These are clearly new Canadians trying their best to blend in with a new and different culture. It is only a matter of time before they form their own spokesgroup and present your clearly biased article to a sympathetic “rights” tribunal. Haven’t you people learned anything from your recent experiences?

Bob Appel, Thornhill, Ont.

AS A FORMER beekeeper, I used to get asked if my bees ever bit me. I would answer by saying that, no matter how hard I tried, I could stick my hand into a hive, and not one would bite me—though quite a few did sting me. Your writer should be made aware that some insects bite, and some insects sting. Fire ants bite.

Marc Patry, Meudon, France

IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE that European fire ants do not pose a serious threat to people and that they are only found in some areas of Richmond Hill. Residents are encouraged to continue to enjoy our parks and green spaces and are advised to stay on the pathways in areas where there are known populations of these ants. The Town of Richmond Hill has developed a management plan to help minimize the spread of this invasive species to other natural areas and promote public and staff awareness. It is our hope that a non-chemical solution will be found to address the growing populations of European fire ants while supporting a balanced ecosystem.

Audrey Hollasch, Director of Parks Development and Design, Town of Richmond Hill, Ont.

A MATTER OF PRINCIPALS

DOES ANYONE actually believe that paying school principals more money will improve the quality of Canadian schools (“Are Canada’s principals underpaid?” National, Sept. 22). The only basis for such a claim seems to be that the U.S. pays them more, but that’s because they hire executives to run schools and not educators. And, not wholly incidentally, they have one of the poorest education systems of the developed world. If we really want to improve Canadian schools, we should eliminate school boards and the legions of trustees, consultants, directors, deputy directors and superintendents, anyone who has virtually no contact with students. We should also dramatically reduce all the policy and curriculum rhetoric constantly spewing out of provincial ministries of education and subsequently reduce the size of the ministries. We could then take the copious amount of money saved as a result of the above two measures and actually invest it in our classrooms. There will also likely still be surplus money that can be used to increase the pay for principals and teachers alike, both of whom are underpaid and underappreciated in this country.

Michael Ernest Sweet, Montreal

IN PASSING

Paul Newman, 83, actor. He epitomized cool, rising to stardom in the theatre and film versions of Sweet Bird of Youth. Newman also starred in Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Exodus and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In recent years he appeared in Road to Perdition and provided one of the voices to the animated feature Cars. As a philanthropist Newman raised more than US$200 million for charities through personally branded consumer products such as his salad dressings and popcorn.

Ralph Sazio, 86, football coach. Long associated with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as player, coach, general manager and team president, as head coach he led the team to three Grey Cup championships between 1963 and 1967 and later served as team president for the Toronto Argonauts in the 1980s.