MAIL BAG

‘I think we know who’d win in a cage match; Dion’s athletic but Harper’s a scrapper’

November 10 2008
MAIL BAG

‘I think we know who’d win in a cage match; Dion’s athletic but Harper’s a scrapper’

November 10 2008

‘I think we know who’d win in a cage match; Dion’s athletic but Harper’s a scrapper’

MAIL BAG

A FIGHT TO THE END

PAUL WELLS’S breakdown of the election in your Special Edition was absolutely riveting (“What happened,” Election Special, Oct. 27). Supper went by the boards because I couldn’t put it down. There is so much detail it will take more than one read to get through it all. Fascinating.

Lela Irvine, Crestón, B.C.

NORMALLY, I read my Maclean’s cover to cover and was looking forward to the issue that came out after the election thinking there would be something new and refreshing to read now that it’s all over. But, no—nearly the entire issue was devoted to the election. Come on, people, that horse is dead.

Joyce Janzen, Nanaimo, B.C.

I’VE NEVER had such fun reading non-fiction as I did with “What happened.” It was a real page-turner. Then I started to think—wait!—it must be fiction. What country in its right mind would elect a leader this way, with such bumbling and bullying and maliciousness and lies? Judy McNeill, Etobicoke, Ont.

READING ABOUT Dion fighting to prove his leadership qualities while watching an ultimate fighting match on TV led to an interesting dream—can you say Harper vs. Dion cage match? I think we all know who would win that one. Dion may be more athletic, but Harper’s a scrapper.

Carlos Pimentel, Toronto

LOOKING FOR A FIX

ANDREW COYNE is correct: our electoral system is broken (“What if they gave an election and nobody won?” Election Special, Oct. 27). He writes, “We are trying to run five-party politics through a system that was designed for two parties.” The culprit in this failure of democracy is the voting system that we call first past the post, a system that no new democracy in the world has implemented in the last 100 years. Canada should implement the single transferable vote system, which would provide proportional representation and eliminate vote splitting and the need to merge parties, let the vote merge on the ballot, avoid strategic voting and vote swapping, and select a truly representative candidate with over 50 per cent support in each riding.

Tom Manley, Benvick, Ont.

ANDREW COYNE LAMENTS the fact that for the third election in a row Canadians have elected another minority Parliament and that, because of this, our democracy is in crisis. One infers that these supposedly awful election results are the fault of our winnertake-all electoral system. What bunk! On the contrary, the system works well and Canada has survived very well as a nation because of it. We’ve had similar electoral results before. In 1962, ’63 and ’65, we had three successive minority Parliaments, all consisting of four political parties. Eventually the system corrected itself, and in the next series of elec-

tions, from 1968 to 2000, Canadians elected majority Parliaments eight out of 10 times. What’s the alternative? Proportional representation? If people think our present system is broken, wait till they sees the dog’s breakfast we would have with that kind of electoral system. Minority Parliaments would become a constant fact of life. Just look at those other countries that have burdened themselves with that wacky system; stable, full-term parliaments are a rarity. I’ll take our present system any day over the permanent and unstable minority situations that would be created if we tried to move toward a proportional representation system. JaeEadie, Winnipeg

THE CURRENT DILEMMA of our electoral system is a splintering of the left. One solution would be to follow the Conservative approach to this problem, by uniting centre-

left and left-wing parties. It is possible that a well-thought-out environmental policy, with clear indications of the costs vs. net gains, economically speaking, might make a union with the Liberals attractive to many Green party supporters.

Gwen M. Milton, Deep River, Ont.

ANDREW COYNE IS even more correct than he knows when he writes that this election was not a victory for the Tories. It wasn’t a victory for anyone. Much is being made of the “effectiveness” of the Tory campaign. Indeed, if we are looking at the increases in the Tory seat count and popular vote percentage, the 2008 campaign could certainly be said to have been effective. However, these gains (especially the one per cent gain in the popular vote) are rather less impressive when one remembers that this election registered the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history. According to Elections Canada, the Conservative party took 37.6 per cent of the 13.8 million ballots cast in the recent election—for a grand total of 5.2 million votes. Two years ago, in the 2006 election, the Conservatives took only 36.3 per cent of the popular vote, but with over 14.8 million ballots cast, that resulted in a total of nearly 5.4 million votes, or nearly 200,000 more votes than in 2008. This means that the Conservatives actually lost nearly 200,000 votes between this election and the last. And we call this an effective campaign?

Grahame Renyk, Kingston, Ont.

HARPER’S INFLUENCE

IF I UNDERSTAND it correctly, Stephen Harper’s wife, Laureen, is commenting in Mitchel Raphael’s Capital Diary (Oct. 27) on the “bad influences” that her kids have been exposed to during the election campaign. Bad influences like Rick Mercer, for smoking, and the other political leaders, who, when asked to say something complimentary about the person on their left, punctuated their comments with a sarcastic jab, while their father did not. I guess then that this means the practices employed by their father while doing his job are okay: lying (setting fixed-date elections and then calling an election before the date anyway; saying he’d never tax income trusts and then taxing them); viciously attacking the patriotism of the opposition when they ask legitimate questions about possible

abuse of Taliban prisoners in the hands of Afghan authorities (“You support the Taliban more than you do our troops”); immature gutter responses to very serious policy questions (“The Green Shift will screw Canadians”); letting other countries kill Canadians because it is politically expedient to do so (claiming that seeking clemency for Ronald Allen Smith, on death row in the U.S., would “send the wrong message”). While I do not have children, I certainly know that I would not set the example for my children that the Prime Minister sets for his.

Stephen Neale, Ottawa

GROW UP!

I HAVE RARELY been as taken aback as I was by the story on the mathematical system for determining when is the right time for a woman to have a child (“At what age should I get pregnant?” Help, Oct. 20). It wasn’t simply the cold objectivity and absurdity of this approach, but most of all it was the totally self-absorbed attitudes of the women interviewed. It is so sadly typical of the desire for instant gratification pervading current thinking that one young woman commented that she wouldn’t mind having the companionship of adult children, but would prefer

to skip the process of getting to that point, since all infants do is “sit there and cry.” This points out the stark simplicity of the answer as to when the time is right—when they are genuinely able to put the needs of another human being ahead of their own and to take responsibility for another person’s life. In other words, when they grow up. And that looks to be a long time coming.

Maggie Mamen, Ottawa

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT

IN HER INTERVIEW about her relationship with MP Maxime Bernier, Julie Couillard revealed that Bernier was at least honest if not moral (Interview, Oct. 20). When, as Couillard admitted, Bernier asked her to date him, but only on certain conditions, he was surely making it clear that his career came before their relationship. Couillard excuses her own consent by saying that the conditions would be those of any politician. No considerate and moral politician would consider such an arrangement. Couillard just didn’t clue in.

Jonathan Usher, Toronto

A BEASTLY DEBATE

IT WAS WITH great interest that I read your review of Randell Hansen’s new book, Fire and Fury, about the Allied bombing campaign in the Second World War (“Are we beasts? asked Churchill,” Books, Oct. 27). The achievements of the Canadians in this campaign are nothing short of miraculous. These men flew off into the sunset with primitive radar and navigational aids, crossing hundreds of kilometres in the dark, only to be attacked by night fighters, searchlights and deadly flak. Although the results of area bombing are questionable, there is no question that valuable resources were used by the Germans that could have been used against us in Normandy. The 100,000 Canadian volunteers had the highest casualty ratio of all our armed forces, with 10,000 killed. I recently visited the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum in Nanton, Alta. It was a moving experience to look at all the names of those killed, including my greatuncle. Lest we forget.

Richard F. Mack, Edmonton

IT SEEMS THAT the morality of the bombing of Nazi Germany has become an issue that annually, or oftener, pits surviving veterans and citizens like me against academics. Historical judgment, like so much of life, is about emotions, opinions, politics, etc., all of which are dependent on time, place and the eye of the beholder. Whose judgment is sound? That of Bomber Harris acting in real time with limited resources to do all in his

power to achieve the only important objective: to win the war against Hitler? Or do we go with Hansen and other historians, who now at a very safe distance write unfavourable accounts of the actions of those persons who saved our butts and our freedom? I find it especially offensive that some of those Hansen criticizes are no longer here to defend their actions and reputations. All bombing of Germany contributed to the Allied victory. To assert otherwise with revisionist history is divisive and hurtful.

Jim McEwan, Ottawa

THE HAMBURG AND DRESDEN firestorms, the atomic bombs, the Holocaust, the rape of Nanking—all are proof that we can tragically answer “yes” to Churchill’s question “Are we beasts?” The fact is that we do have this

bestial component in our human makeup, and war gives both cause and opportunity for it to burst forth.

1Frank Gue, Burlington, Ont.

IN THE PAST few years, it has been heartening to see Remembrance Day attendance at local war memorials swell in numbers. Kudos to those who take the time from their busy lives to honour our war heroes, but once there, they may be unsure of the correct

protocol. Perhaps these tips will help: l) There are times during the service when all gentlemen will want to show their proper respects by removing their hats, Tilley Endurables, baseball and other assorted caps. If you are unsure of when to do so, follow the lead of those in the Canadian forces. If you are so unwell that having an uncovered head is imprudent, then you should probably be home in bed. 2) Save all cellphone conversations and text messaging for later; they will keep. 3) During the service it would behoove you to forego coffee and other drinks. Surely you can make it through the ceremony, knowing that as soon as it comes to a close you may repair to the café, juice bar or saloon of your choice. At this time you may wish to invite a veteran, and if you are very lucky, he might even share a story or two. 4) Young love is wonderful, but this ceremony is neither the time nor place for groping, fondling or necking.

If after this you are still unsure of how to

behave, and you do not wish to embarrass your mother (who really did do her best), ask yourself, “Would I act this way at a funeral?” Remember, this is a memorial service to honour those whose sacrifices are unknowable by anyone lucky enough not to have experienced the horror of war first-hand. Catherine Jones, Halifax

IN PASSING

Charles Dubin, 87, jurist. A former chief justice of Ontario, he became famous in the late 1980s for his commission of inquiry into the use of banned substances in sport. Sparked by the Ben Johnson case, it revealed the breadth of performance drugs in organized sport. He served as chief justice between 1990 and 1996.

TonyHillerman, 83, author. Best known as a mystery novelist who set his tales among the Navajo Indians of the U.S. Southwest, he penned bestsellers such as Skinwalkers, Dance Hall of the Dead and Coyote Waits. For the authenticity of his books, which featured Indian protagonists, the Navajo Nation conferred its Special Friend of the Deneh award in 19S7.