The Mail

November 11 1996

The Mail

November 11 1996

The Mail

Downshifting

I identified strongly with your cover story (“Cashing out,” Oct. 28). Seven years ago, I reduced my teaching load, choosing to work part time. Like many individuals in your article, a seemingly isolated event spurred me to make this change: I discovered that my then-seven-year-old daughter was unable to read. She didn’t know it. Her school didn’t know it. And I, her mother, the English teacher, was almost too busy to notice. You see, I had been serving on school committees, taking university courses, nurturing other people’s children, but neglecting my own. Interestingly, my reduced level of income hasn’t really damaged my family’s lifestyle. We still live in the same house, drive the same (albeit aging) car, take a vacation now and then. We just don’t do any impulse shopping and we never carry credit card balances.

Lisa Spano, Kingston, Ont.

I found it intriguing that most of the downshifters you interviewed owned oceanfront or lakefront property, wrote books or edited magazines. Judging by your article, apparently one first needs to attain a certain level of wealth before one can even consider the luxury of downshifting. If you had managed to find even one average Canadian family who was considering changing its lifestyle to a simpler one, then your article would have had more credibility. As it was, it was another obnoxious look at a small percentage of Canadians who are, or were, not wise enough to realize that working 19 hours a day is folly.

Peter van Geest, London, Ont.

What utter trash. Here you go again setting so-called trends through the perspective of the baby boomers. A decade ago, you reported on their lavish lifestyles. Now, out of necessity, or choice, these same people are accepting a simpler lifestyle. But once again, by the baby boomers’ standard, this downsizing has become a trend. What about my younger generation? We are the highly educated and underemployed class of people living quite similarly to those individuals in your article. We are forced to be frugal in order to just survive. For us, this is hardly a trend.

Jonathan Spivak, Toronto III

I am very cynical about the more fortunate Canadians who can “cash out.” Many in Nova Scotia would enjoy the opportunity to be stressed out because of the opportunities that these people choose to leave behind.

Joan D. Kirby, Halifax SI

Rural living is a culture in its own regard. You state that “downshifters are decamping to the country, where the living is cheaper and they can set up their own businesses. They are remaking not only the workplace, but even the landscape itself.” Severing of farmland to make rural, non-farm lots has become an issue to the rural community. Not all the changes are physical. The mixing of ex-urbanites can cause tensions when individuals have different perspectives, values and knowledge. But there are also opportunities for both groups to share perspectives and for bringing business to small communities. We

welcome our urban brothers and sisters, but we ask them to be sensitive to the processes around them: the production of food, the neighborly relationships and the strong community ties. We invite them to bring their strengths and talents to our community, but ask them to please not create a diluted city.

Becky Bearinger, Guelph, Ont. IH

Anglo funding

A “shocked and appalled and insulted” Anglo artist complaining that he did not get a grant from External Affairs because of an alleged “Quebec bias” gets nearly two pages (“Undiplomatic service,” The Arts, Oct. 28). But Anglo universities in Quebec getting three to four times more grants from Ottawa and Quebec than numbers justify? Fewer than 70 words, even though the actual amounts of taxpayer money involved are much larger (“Funding for Anglos,” Canada Notes). I guess Quebec-bashing, á la Diane (Hang the separatists) Francis sells more copies in the Rest of Canada nowadays than responsible journalism. Too bad for national unity.

Rémi Alaurent, Montreal

Scottish secession

I was disappointed that in the article “A nation in search of a modern Braveheart” (World, Oct. 28), there was only a superficial examination of the issue on the extent to which the Scottish secessionist movement is a racial separatist, rather than a civic nationalist, movement. While it is true that, to quote from Scottish National Party Leader Alex Salmond “not every nationalist movement is malign,” every movement that advances political separation based on race is.

Sheldon Warnock, Toronto

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Flags and bags

"I didn’t say I talked to him," (Canada Notes, Oct. 28) reports on Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s statements to students in Dauphin, Man., that he regularly visited with a homeless man in Ottawa. Perhaps Chrétien would like to talk to Heritage Minister Sheila Copps about a program to distribute sleeping bags, emblazoned with the Canadian flag, to the homeless. With an election on the horizon, why not add a picture of Chrétien and Copps?

Donald W. Cofell, Stirling, Ont.

Nation's true wealth

The Oct. 7 Special Report (“The heat is on”) reconfirms my belief that we live in an era in which our leaders in the cabinet and in the Bank of Canada have placed the horse before the carriage. Inflation, interest rates, debt levels and unemployment rates are not numbers to be manipulated in and of themselves in order to produce economic prosperity, they are merely indicators of human activity. The wealth of our nation depends on the qualitative aspects of our economy: the skill level of our workers, entrepreneurial spirit, job security, loyalty between employers and employees, work ethic, the ability to adapt, to innovate and to compete, and, above all, our aspirations for a better future. Zero inflation, zero debt and low interest rates mean nothing if Canadians are underemployed, scared and undervalued. Economists such as Paul Summerville should ask the average worker or business owner about how the Canadian economy is doing instead of asking investors in Frankfurt, or looking at the numerical projections made by using the paradigms of a dismal science.

Derek Eng, Victoria III

THE MAIL

Three cheers for Pierre Fortin (“Inflation or jobs?”). He correctly zeroes in on our number 1 problem, that of the Bank of Canada. Why has this institution, which was created to relieve us from the clutches of the international money vultures, been allowed to be turned into their instrument of enslavement? Why, when it once provided the bulk of our credit needs for our domestic requirements, at a low cost, that reverted back to our treasury, is it now involved in less than those needs, requiring vast borrowings from offshore, with billions leaving in interest charges to New York City and elsewhere? Clearly, we have gone full circle and are again in the day of feudal barons who, with the compliance of a friendly Crown, are ransacking the countryside. We very much need another Oliver Cromwell.

Philip Lindenback, Weekes, Sask.

In “The heat is on” you state that “Many MPs demanded further cuts, including Martin’s own parliamentary secretary, Liberal MP Robert Nault, who advocated a 20-per-cent cut last summer.” Please be informed that I, not my colleague, Robert Nault (Kenora/Rainy River) , am the parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance. I am not aware whether Mr. Nault made the comments about employment insurance premiums that were attributed to him.

Barry Campbell, MP, Ottawa 'Everybody's problem'

I completely agree with Dr. Jim Wilkes (“Children in danger,” Canada, Sept. 30) when he says that the staggering problem of child abuse in Canada is everyone’s problem. I’ve been having trouble sleeping since reading the article, and often when I respond to my own babies’ cries in the night I am haunted by the spectre of other Canadian children whose cries are being met with fists, burns and even socks being stuffed into their mouths. Yesterday, I began calling every mother I know because I think it’s time that those of us who believe it’s wrong to maim children began standing up for those children whose parents do not.

Joadie Jurgova, Newport, N.S.

Addicts' alternatives

The most important point missed in your otherwise excellent article “Back to the basics for addicts” (Health, Oct. 21) is the need for balance in the new life of the recovering alcoholic. I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. The fellowship has survived because of the compassion members have for each other, the willingness to share, the importance of

attending meetings and, yes, studying and applying the suggestions of the 12 Steps and the Big Book. They are suggestions, not rules. The Muckers seem to be swapping one addiction for another, which, in the AA experience, has often proven disastrous. If the Muckers program works, that’s OK by me, but leave my beautiful and gentle AA recovery program alone.

Vivian H., Vancouver

Where power resides

In “The power game” (Cover, Oct. 14), you write of B.C. Premier Glen Clark that “his knowledge of the national scene is limited by the fact that he has spent all of one day in Quebec.” So now we know where the national scene is at. You emphasize that point over and over again: Quebec, Quebec, Quebec, centre of the national scene, power and influence.

E. M. Davies, Abbotsford, B. C.

“The opinions the PM heeds” is cause for serious concern in a democratic society. The advisers, unelected, ambitious, powerful and, quite often, far more cerebral than their political bosses, are permitted to shape the nation’s destiny without the bother of being

elected. What happened to the deputy ministers? Is their advice, usually based on years of experience, now being replaced by that of short-term appointees?

Jean G. Boulet, Ottawa

Blood-donor plea

I have just read the letter from Stella WallaceChagnon (“Last blood donation,” The Mail, Oct. 21) and I beg her to please continue donating blood. I am a cancer patient and my life depends on being transfused. So much negative talk about the past problems is discouraging people from making donations. Please help keep us alive—we are counting on you.

Orma Betts, Richmond Hill, Ont.

Roberto and Marg

The Roberto Alomar incident was handled with cowardice by the baseball establishment (“Dropping the ball,” Sports, Oct. 14). But there was an obvious penalty to impose: Alomar should have been transferred immediately to the Cincinnati Reds. He and Marge Schott deserve each other.

F. I. Gould, Toronto Delivering junk mail

According to George Radwanski, the policy consultant hired by Diane Marleau, the minister in charge of the post office, Canada Post has engaged in unrestrained competition with the private sector and has suffered huge losses since 1986 (“Battling Canada Post,” Business, Oct. 21). On the basis of his report, Marleau ordered the post office to stop delivering junk mail, a profitable part of its operation. Why shouldn’t Canada Post compete with the private sector? At least when my tax money goes to a public corporation like Canada Post, I am part owner of it. Junk mail has been tolerated at my house only because I knew it made money for my Canada Post, which is committed to keeping communications open even in the most remote parts of Canada. If junk mail is to be delivered by anyone else, I won’t accept it.

Margaret Tyson, Ottawa

THE MAIL

'No-brain escapism'

I was pleased to see that in your review of The Merchants of Venus, you resisted the temptation to join the many people, mainly men, who like to make fun of the readers of Harlequin romances (“Billion-dollar romance,” Books, Oct. 21). When it comes to low stress, no-brain escapism, there is not a lot of difference between a Harlequin romance and the male equivalent, a Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader.

Michael Craig, Toronto

Hospital closures

Although you gave a good description of the proposed hospital closures in Sudbury, Ont., in your article “Condition critical” (Canada, Oct. 14), the major concerns of the health care workers were not fully ad-

dressed. We are frightened, as stated, but the fear goes far beyond that of self-preservation. In its report, the commission had reduced the number of acute-care beds to critical levels in a city that is the referral centre of the North. The commission has removed services from the hospital sector to the community level, without including the true cost of implementation or requiring the creation of such services. The commission’s report brings the Conservative government one step closer to privatizing our health care system by throwing health care services into the community where the lowest private enterprise bidder gets the package. The commission may say it works at arm’s length, but it appears the report simply fancies up numbers that were predetermined.

Jan Hibi-LeBlanc, Sudbury, Ont.

The Road Ahead

Nov. 11: A pause that refreshes

The observance of Remembrance Day is becoming a distant memory for many Canadians. Some simply do not know why we pause for two minutes at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to reflect and remember. For many it is simply a day off work or school—another statutory holiday. For others, with busy lives and important things to accomplish, it is a nuisance. Still others, who profoundly misunderstand the reason for the event, choose to attack those who would “celebrate war.” For all of us, peacetime has become a way of life. Conflict that dissolves into armed combat seems not possible in Canada today.

When I was growing up, my father used to say over and over again: “I may not agree with what you are saying, but I will fight to the death to preserve your right to say it.” He almost did, by volunteering in the Second World War. He was lucky; he came home. He was able to enjoy the fruits of the prosperous peacetime that has survived for us to this day. His older brother was not so lucky. He died defending this freedom that we now take for granted.

With each passing November, the meaning within my Dad’s oft-repeated creed becomes more clear to me. I dearly value life here in Canada. I cherish our flawed but workable democracy. It has allowed us all to muddle along in pursuit of dreams, optimistic and unafraid. When the important political and philosophical disagreements become bitter and acrimonious, when left meets right, when race, religion and sex become the focus of attack, and accusations fly, will each of us be able to make his statement to our adversaries?

Can each of us look our so-called foes in the eye and say, “I don’t like your point of view. I think you are wrongheaded, meanspirited, pigheaded and just plain stupid. But I will die before I will let someone refute your right to express your opinion”? Or will our valued freedom of expression lose the battle to self-interest, bitterness, greed, hate and envy?

Many of us have parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and dear friends who died for this cause. My hope is that we Canadians can put our differences aside for two minutes on this Nov. 11 and say to them: “Thank you. We can and we will preserve this simple thought which has brought us so far, because it is the single most important thing that we can do to preserve this precious moment in our civilization.”

The Road Ahead invites readers to advance specific solutions to Canada's political, social and economic problems. Unpublished submissions may run condensed as regular letters or appear on an electronic bulletin board.

Marilyn Baker, Richmond, B.C.