MAIL BAG

March 31 2008

MAIL BAG

March 31 2008

MAIL BAG

‘Latimer may have felt justified, but I wonder whose pain he was really trying to kill’

SLEEPING SICKNESS

INSOMNIA: A CULTURAL HISTORY author Eluned Summers-Bremner is a prime example of a person drawing unwarranted conclusions from precious little data (Interview, March 17). In this article, Summers-Bremner spouts off about saints in the Middle Ages, Protestant sermons, and Calvinism in general as having a negative influence on people’s sleep patterns. I would bet that my rural Dutch Calvinistic forebears were generally too tired from hard physical labour to lay awake at night. If the common people couldn’t sleep, it was more likely because some of them had empty bellies or because of widespread social inequity. Blaming religion is a popular game but not a valid one.

Anne van Arragon Hutten, Kentville, N.S.

ELUNED SUMMERS-BREMNER notes that in the past, insomnia had some quite positive effects, such as, among other things, allowing time for prayer. Personally speaking, I would pray for a good night’s sleep.

David Maharaj, Etobicoke, Ont.

MY WIFE READ your article on insomnia and was so perturbed she could not sleep a wink that night. She insisted I read the article but I fell asleep halfway through.

Michael Kraml, Princeton Junction, N.J.

THE LATIMER CASE

FIRST OF ALL, I am not an advocate of mercy killing, but I certainly can understand the amount of anguish and love that it took for Robert Latimer to end the life of his daughter (“Robert Latimer’s angry crusade,” National, March 17). The act of mercy of an anguished family member is not a heinous crime. God bless Robert Latimer in his quest for justice.

Judy McLeod, N Ottawa, Ont.

FOR 10 LONG YEARS, my family and I watched as my mother deteriorated and suffered from a rare form of Parkinson’s disease. When Robert Latimer killed his daughter, I sympathized with his cause. But, in an ironic twist of fate, I have become permanently disabled with a genetic disorder. I am now one of the 1.3 million Canadians learning to live each day with chronic debilitating pain. Life is full of ironies and although it might not always seem fair, I’ve learned that a life is what each

one of us chooses to make of it. I’ve also learned that if I had been more understanding of my mother’s disease, I might have been more caring and sympathetic of her pain and suffering. Latimer may have felt justified in ending his daughter’s suffering, and at one time I might have agreed with him, but now I wonder whose pain he was—and is—really trying to kill.

Janice Frampton, Pickering, Ont.

LATIMER SET HIMSELF up as judge, jury, prosecutor and executioner. It does seem that Saskatchewan society let him and his

daughter down, but that is no excuse for what he did and I believe he got away very lightly. Compassion should be for the innocent, the weak, the helpless and the needy, and not for the perpetrators of crime and injustice, especially against the helpless and weak.

Brian Best, Saint John, N.B.

MEDICAL WOES

YOUR RECENT EDITORIAL concerning our medical situation struck home (“Fixing a doctor crisis,” From the Editors, March 17). My daughter recently had to go to the emergency department of a large northern Ontario hospital due to a very swollen knee. She waited seven hours to be seen. The doctor then made a requisition for an X-ray and ultrasound for the next day. When she showed up for the tests, the staff could not find the requisition. She had to wait another six hours

to see the doctor who finally did get the proper documents for her.

One of today’s current topics is a two-tiered health care system. We already have that. Can you imagine an MP’s daughter waiting a total of 13 hours to be seen and then tested? So we are now looking at a three-tier system: one for politicians and the like, one for people who can afford private care or are willing to spend their savings on going to the U.S. or private hospitals, and lastly, the unacceptable wait that we are now subjected to at hospitals. This crisis has been getting worse for years. It allows patients to suffer or die needlessly. It also causes a lot of stress on the doctors who still care about their patients. Politicians could have and should have done much more in previous years. The current situation is a disgrace.

Gerry Mack, Kagawong, Ont.

AMONG OTHER THINGS, your editorial calls for a bigger role for competing private sector delivery to improve health care. Internationally, private delivery has been linked to private payment and private insurance, which benefits a small proportion of high income earners, and investors, but makes wait times longer for the majority of the population. In its 2006 discussion paper, “It’s About Access,” the Canadian Medical Association found that private insurance does not improve access to publicly insured services, does not lower costs or improve quality of care, can increase wait times for those who are not privately insured, and could exacerbate human resource shortages in the public system.

In Australia, where 45 per cent of the population has private insurance, there has been no net benefit to the community. In a 2004 study, Leonie Segal of Monash University’s centre for health economics found evidence that Australia’s heavily subsidized private system has been “wasteful, inefficient and inequitable.” Despite challenges in the Canadian system, the evidence shows that a universal single-payer system is fairer and more cost-effective than other systems of providing care, and is overwhelmingly supported by Canadians.

There are many ways of delivering more efficient care for all Canadians within the public system. Last year, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a study showing how successful initiatives in team-based

care in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario have produced dramatic cuts in waiting times for surgery across the country. This is where the focus should be— on improving our universal system, not decimating it so that insurance companies and private hospitals can increase their profits at the expense of average Canadians. As for the shortage of physicians, it’s clear we need more. However, it’s important to note that net

migration of physicians in North America now favours Canada, perhaps because of the failures of market-based health care in the United States.

Dr. Danielle Martin, Board Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, Toronto

DOWN ON THE FARM

AS THE WIFE of an Ontario fruit farmer, I’m rather surprised to hear that buying local has become so very trendy (“Local schmocal,” Taste, March 17). Hard then to explain why, along with all others growing peaches and pears for the processing industry, my husband will soon be pulling out his peach trees, as the last processing facility in Canada closes its doors at the end of March.

Those handy fruit cups parents put in school lunch bags will soon be made with peaches and pears grown and processed offshore. Now, parents may not know that because, quite legally, companies can label their cans as a “product of Canada” as long as 51 per cent of the costs of getting the product to the grocery shelf were incurred in Canada. I don’t know where your writer Pamela Cuthbert shops, but, although I live in southwestern Ontario, I am hard-pressed to buy Canadian, let alone local, fruits or vegetables in the large supermarket chains, even

during the peak of our growing season.

Cuthbert wonders if buying organic and imported is better than buying local. That answer is as elusive as knowing how “organic” is defined in other jurisdictions. What I do know is that the vast majority of fruit growers employ the integrated pest management system, applying the bare minimum of chemicals to their crops. Conventionally grown Canadian fruit is not “bathed” in chemicals.

And for the record, organic does not mean chemical-free; it only means that synthetic pesticides were not used or that antibiotics were only used as a last resort in livestock production.

As for the concern that Canadian apples are maintained in refrigeration systems, does Cuthbert not think that imported apples just might be refrigerated on the many-thousandmile voyage to Canada?

Diane McGuigan, Cedar Springs, Ont.

CUTHBERT DISSED conventional agriculture without asking mainstream farmers for their side of the issue. She pulled out all the shopworn inflammatory lines like “chemical bath” without doing research into their validity. In the interest of fairness, I would suggest that research, balanced opinions and knowledge of the issue would attract more readers.

C.L. Hunter, Simcoe, Ont.

BUY LOCAL BECAUSE it’s fresher. Buy local because virtually all of Canada’s farms are family-owned, so it helps our rural economy. Buy local because our farmers are good environmental stewards. Most of all, buy local because of its quality.

Derek Roberts, chef and owner ofFraberts Fresh Food store, Fergus, Ont.

‘We show a property with absolutely no guarantee of making a cent unless it sells’

THE CULTURE CLUB

I WISH ANDREW COYNE would check his facts before he goes off the deep end with his sarcasm (“Man the barricades! Film tax credits are taking fire,” Opinion, March 17). For one thing, the Writers’ Union of Canada is against the current human rights chill in Canada. For another, Coyne might reconsider his comment that filmmakers shouldn’t mind the withdrawal of tax credits because cultural grants are scrutinized to see if they are Canadian enough. Ain’t the same thing, Mr. Coyne. And for the record, Canadian writers and artists work hard for our money, just like Maclean’s columnists, and we happen to be one of Canada’s most successful exports.

Susan Swan, chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada,

Toronto

WHAT REALTORS REALLY DO

I COULD NOT AGREE more with Steve Maich in his column about real estate agents and how they don’t make economic sense (“Why we really hire real estate agents,” Business, March 17). It has been my experience that the real estate agent tells you to put on a new roof and change the windows, then pressures you to lower the price for a quick sale. In other words, he works for the buyer, not for you. And for that you pay him a commission of between five and seven per cent. Did you know that in some places in Europe the buyer pays the commission? After the death of our parents, we, the children, went over to Frankfurt, Germany, to sell their home, which we inherited, for a good price, and the buyer paid the “courtage,” as they call it there. Hans Pahl, Pointe-Claire, Que.

ANOTHER ARTICLE that slams real estate agents. I can assure you that if you chose to be a real estate agent and worked at it for two or three years, you would not be writing this. I have been a real estate salesperson for 18 years and I truly love the business. However, there is not a month that goes by that I don’t wish I had chosen a profession that offered

benefits, a pension, vacation time and a guaranteed paycheque. In our world, we incur all the costs to market and show a property with absolutely no guarantee of making a cent unless it sells. Articles like this make people think that we plunk a sign on a lawn and

instantly make $20,000 or more. It would be like me saying, “I would like to be a teacher because they have a great pension, great salary and look at all that vacation time!” Can you imagine the backlash your writer would get if he wrote an article with that slant about the teaching profession?

Gail Burton, sales representative, Royal LePage Frank Real Estate, Lakefield, Ont.

IT IS IMPORTANT to perhaps walk in the shoes of not only the realtor, but also the realtor’s family and friends, to witness what can happen in a real estate transaction. There are so many nuances in selling a property that the vendor or seller are not aware of, because a qualified agent will deal with them before they become a problem. Examples would be ensuring that a property is zoned correctly, or that the issues revealed in an inspection are addressed to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. A professional realtor is there at all hours of the day or night to deal with the panicked calls that could mean the deal is about to disappear for one reason or another.

By using a professional realtor, the consumer has someone to turn to. Selling privately, did you get the most money? Did you

really enjoy having all those unqualified strangers going through your home? And by the way, where is that little ornament that mother gave us?

Chris Berington, Associate, Royal Lepage Patrician, Red Deer, Alta.

OBAMA FANS

I SEE Maclean’s has chosen a candidate on whom they wish to dote on for the rest of the campaign, and have published another (the second) article expounding on his policies and personal history (“How Obama would govern,” World, March 17). It is sad to see that even your most intelligent journalists have been deluded into thinking that this man somehow has the ability to foster bipartisanship when he has consistently followed his party on every issue. If America wants to elect a true moderate who can bring the country together then they will choose John McCain, a man who has stood up to his party on Bush’s tax cuts, campaign finance and immigration reforms, as well as a variety of other important issues.

Farooq Jahan, Saskatoon

IN PASSING

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 90, author. A radar specialist in the Second World War, he later proposed the concept of now-standard geostationary satellites. But his writing gave him greater fame, especially a story that formed the basis of a collaboration with Stanley Kubrick, leading to 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. He later wrote a sequel, 2010: Odyssey Two.

Anthony Minghella, 54, director, following surgery. His 1996 film of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient won a Best Director Oscar. Among his other films were The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain. He served as chairman of the British Film Institute and had just completed production of The No. l Ladies Detective Agency.