MAIL BAG

‘Why are we paying more for goods within our own country or even our own province?’

September 1 2008
MAIL BAG

‘Why are we paying more for goods within our own country or even our own province?’

September 1 2008

‘Why are we paying more for goods within our own country or even our own province?’

MAIL BAG

OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!

COLIN CAMPBELL’S article about Canadians being overcharged despite the increased value of the loonie was both interesting and informative (“Why you’re still getting gouged,” Business, Aug. 18). A more interesting study still would look at the reasons why Canadians pay higher prices for goods within their own country or even their own province. For example, why should I, living in Trois-Rivières, pay 12 to 15 cents more for a litre of gas than someone living in Ottawa? And why should a person in Toronto pay more for a loaf of bread than someone living in Halifax? Economists should study these situations.

Keith Doyle, Trois-Rivières, Que.

I USED TO TELL people to buy Canadian. No more. When transiting recently through Maine to Canada’s East Coast, we priced a food processor. A Cuisinart Custom 14 was $350 in Toronto and $210 in Canadian dollars in Portland. We bought one on the spot, and my Johnny Canuck taste buds will be much richer for it. On arriving home, my new copy of Maclean’s awaited me with the confirmation that yes, unequivocally, we’re getting gouged.

John Marion, Toronto

THE MOST INFURIATING rip-off I’ve experienced was the 2008 calendar, CBC Radio Throughout the Years. Not only was it printed in Ontario and about our Canadian radio network, but it had the gall to charge $16.99 in Canada and $13.99 in the U.S. Can’t you just see them lining up to buy CBC calendars in the States? I contacted CBC about this, but never heard back.

Sarah Faerman, Toronto

IT IS TRUE THAT most items sold in Canada cost more than in the U.S., but the law of supply and demand plays a very important role in this difference. Not only that, but I would rather pay slightly higher prices here than have to fork over $5,000 or $6,000 a year for basic health care coverage for an individual, never mind an entire family, as my friends in the U.S. are required to do. Robert Campbell, Trenton, Ont.

STRONG ON CHINA

FINALLY, a knowledgeable, internationally renowned person, Maurice Strong, has spoken

up for China, contrary to all the negative stuff that has appeared in your magazine and other media (“Does China have it right?” World, Aug. 18). So far, China has done itself proud with the Olympics. The future looks great for this huge and visionary nation.

Walter A Hadden, Windsor, Ont.

BRAVO TO MAURICE Strong for clarifying the misconceptions that many Western media have about China. I am hopeful that an open invitation by such a Canadian to re-examine that country would encourage the goodwill that many well-meaning Chinese representa-

tives have clumsily failed to convey. Conversely, one should question whether Western skepticism stems from a disbelief that China is venturing into uncharted territory by blending politics and economics in a unprecedented manner to suit its own unique needs. Perhaps there is more than one right way to achieve progress? Certainly China will make mistakes that it needs to correct, but I doubt that harping on the negatives could ever be productive. Being Canadian Chinese, I have grown to love and respect Canada and so it is most heartwarming to see that Strong, being a Canadian, has also embraced China.

Wendy Kwong-Kitts, Vancouver

PRIOR TO THI8 fawning exercise, I thought Maurice Strong was an accomplished man. Perhaps he has become motivated by what personal economic gains his own interaction

with China can accomplish. And perhaps he should temper his rather gushing remarks with a quick look at some other realities. The government of China striving for “more democratic processes and respect for human rights”? Does this apply to the followers of Falun Gong now, or the victims of Tiananmen Square in 1989, to say nothing of the recent persecution in Tibet? How about the environmental folly that is the Three Gorges Dam project or China selling arms to that madman Mugabe, or supporting the butchery of Sudan in Darfur? That hardly sends a message of peace and reconciliation to the rest of the world.

As for the Beijing Olympics, what with faked digital images, lip-synching and goodness knows what else before it ends, China has done that for one reason—to present a rosy picture to the world.

Harold Sheehan, Ottawa

THANK YOU MAURICE Strong for setting me straight on that great socialist experiment known as China the good. Now I only have to ignore some pesky little facts and I’ll be properly indoctrinated, I mean educated. For example, I’ll have to forget that China builds its wealth by ignoring common health and labour standards, and floods our markets with cheaply made, often hazardous and tainted manufactured products and food items. Omar Welke, Kitchener, Ont.

AS A CHINESE-CANADIAN, I want to express my personal opinion. For the past two years, China has been constantly bashed by the Western world about its bad products, political oppression, human rights, Tibet, pollution and now the Olympics. These constant bombardments do have a unified effect on overseas Chinese. They see the attacks as against not only the Chinese government, but against them, the Chinese people.

I have been back to China and Hong Kong many times since I came to Canada 40 years ago. China has improved tremendously in economic power. Its human rights have also improved gradually, though slowly. Nothing can change overnight.

People from the Western world, please try to connect with China to get a better understanding of the country instead of bashing her. Chinese people do feel hurt by this constant bashing, whether they are in

mainland China or overseas, and whether they are Communists or not.

Edwin C.Y. Chan, Lindsay, Ont.

SURELY A MAN of reputed reason and experience such as Maurice Strong can express his opinions without his story being published along with a forewarning by the magazine (“The modern-day enigma of China,” From the Editors, Aug. 18). It is inspirational and comforting to readers that Maclean’s displays its admirable and self-proclaimed open-mindedness with an editorial reassuring them that, despite printing such an article as Strong’s, it is still highly critical of China.

Lucy Li, Richmond Hill, Ont.

MORE FROM LITTLE WOMEN

HI, IT’S ME, ALAINA. I am the founder of Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan. I just wanted to thank Maclean’s and all the readers who have donated to my cause (“A school of one’s own,” Profile, June 9). I was so happy to get the chance to tell my story. My goal is to give girls in Afghanistan a chance to live a peaceful life with the choice to go to school and become anything they dream of. I believe each day girls in Afghanistan are getting privileges that they did not have before and that is because we are creating a strong force toward making that country a safer place for all Afghan people. My belief is that if everyone is educated, peace will follow.

I am so grateful to live in a country where we are allowed to have many freedoms and rights. I am also very grateful that I can follow my dream of making a difference in the lives of Afghan girls and feel so supported by my country! I am so proud of all the kids my age in my community, province and country who have started Little Women chapters or have held fundraisers. They have raised lots of money and really care about what is going on in Afghanistan. Since the Madearis article, there have been many donations. With the government matching this money, we now have $20,000. Wow! That’s going to make a big difference in educating Afghanistan! I also got lots of letters from readers that said how they supported Little Women.

Thank you all for making a difference and helping to build a bridge of peace.

Alaina Podmorow, Kelowna, B.C.

THE GOLD STANDARD

IN HIS Q & A with Ken MacQueen, Olympic swimming champion Alex Baumann (Interview, Aug.l8) has it right: success in sports is important to Canadians. Corporate Canada and the various levels of government must be prepared to increase their financial support to the level of other countries. I read today

that the Canadian diving coach is prepared to study and learn from the Chinese programs. I hope that other sports programs will follow suit. 2012 is not far off. It is essential that Canada gets started now, not in 2011.

Ron Strange, Bowen Island, B.C.

I WAS DISAPPOINTED to read Alex Baumann’s thoughts on the Olympic Games. In equating sport with business, he misses the true spirit of these games. He would do well to revisit the Olympic Charter, which states that the Olympic movement is “a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.” The incentive program Baumann endorses is antithetical to this ethos, as it implies that joy resides not in effort, but in fiscal reward. A good example and respect are nowhere to be found in his Olympic paradigm. This former athlete may have material gold he can wear around his neck, but it hangs next to a heart of lesser material.

Jeffrey Schaeffer, Richmond Hill, Ont.

CLUMSY AT THE COTTAGE

YOUR SHOT AT cottage do-it-yourselfers really missed the mark (“I can do it, honey,” Home, Aug. 18). First, writer Rachel Mendleson’s statistics did not support the fact that do-it-yourselfers injure themselves more than average weekend warriors. She reported that Georgian Bay, Ont., nearly triples in population from 55,000 to 150,000 during cottage season, yet the region’s emergency room patients increased by only 40 per cent. Seems to me that stat shows that cottagers go to the hospital less often than the normal population. Secondly, people like to do things that they probably should not at the cottage because it is something fun and different to do: it’s an adventure and it’s building a dream. It is also being busy and active when you are in time-out mode. And, no

matter how the project turns out, there will always be a great story to tell.

Jan dAilly, Waterloo, Ont.

THE END, A POSTSCRIPT

IT WAS WITH SURPRISE and sorrow that we read Barbara Righton’s article about the life of Sidney Paine (The End, Aug. 18). Both of us were there at the Dunnville Autodrome that day. I’m sure you can imagine the shock as, a little more than an hour into the day, our attention was drawn to a car several hundred metres away that had gone off the track and hit a hangar. After the ambulance and fire trucks arrived, the doctor who was there to enjoy the day with his car like the rest of us furiously applied CPR, then walked directly to Sid’s wife and could be heard saying, “It’s a no-go.” She burst into tears.

As we drove home, the silver lining in that dark cloud became apparent. Sid ran into the very end of the building—another five feet to the left and the car would have travelled toward a parking lot, possibly hitting people. Had he gone off later in the corner, he would have been travelling straight toward all the spectators and drivers waiting for their turn on the track. But before hitting them, he would have surely hit two children playing in the grass. Did Sid steer his car to avoid a greater catastrophe? After we read the article, we could easily see him doing that. But whether he did or not, I’ll bet there’s an Austin in Heaven’s driveway with his name on it.

Blair and Sanchia Melton, Toronto

MACLEAN’S BESTSELLERS LIST will

return to our magazine pages next week.

To check out this week’s list, please visit macleans.ca/bestsellers.

IN PASSING

Jerry Wexler, 91, music producer. He was responsible for coining the term “rhythm and blues,” while working as a writer for Billboard magazine. He became an important promoter of the music in the 1950s and ’60s, signing Aretha Franklin and producing hits for the likes of Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett and Bigjoe Turner. Later he worked with rock acts, including Led Zeppelin and the B-52s.

Geoff Ballard, 75, inventor. He was the force behind Vancouver’s Ballard Power Systems, which worked for years to create economically viable hydrogen fuel cells. He unveiled a hydrogen-powered test bus in 1993 and attracted investments from automakers.