The Mail

December 23 1996

The Mail

December 23 1996

The Mail


Gold standard

Peter Munk’s clever machinations to get his hands on the Busang gold field sound to me like a colossal theft from the Indonesian people (“King of gold,” Cover, Dec. 9). By morality and international law, no one but the Indonesian people (who, I believe, could use some wealth) should own the gold.

Les Desfosses, Victoria SI

What claim, legitimate or otherwise, has Peter Munk on the Bre-X property in Indonesia? If David Walsh of Bre-X had won the Lotto 6/49, has Munk the right to stick a gun in his ear and claim 75 per cent?

H. K. Fredrickson, Kemble, Ont.

How could a seven-page story on Peter Munk and the Suharto family of Indonesia forget to mention the atrocities of East Timor? More than 200,000 Timorese were massacred, and women and children were taken and used for prostitution by the military. It is one of the world’s worst genocides since the Second World War. This year’s


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Nobel Peace Prize went to two East Timorese citizens. Business and money in the amoral 1990s have taken priority over the concern for the human condition. I do not deny commerce its place, but its discounting of humanity for corporatism is reprehensible.

Aldo Violo, Toronto

It was disturbing to see former U.S. president George Bush in a tête-à-tête with President Suharto, Indonesia’s corrupt and brutal dictator, and former prime minister Brian Mulroney involved with a deal in the

same region (“The Indonesian way”). Gore Vidal once described Bush as the “errand boy of the corporations.” Ditto Mulroney.

Vincent Sonntag, Fernie, B. C.

CFL: 'a buried gem'

During the past two years, I have paid to see the Celtics play their final home game in the storied Boston Garden and the Bruins skate anew in the Fleet Center. I have paid to watch the Canadian Juniors win a world hockey championship, Roger Clemens shut down the Cleveland Indians offence, and the New England Patriots embarrass themselves against Denver in the much-hyped Game of the Year. But it may interest some of you north of the border to hear that by far the most worthwhile money I parted with during this period were those dollars I spent to purchase my Grey Cup tickets following my nine-hour drive to Hamilton. It was a fabulous sporting event, made even more enjoyable by the participation of the local citizens and the camaraderie of the crowd (“Tie Cup runneth over,” Sports, Dec. 9). It’s a shame that people in their quest for big-league sports overlook the gem buried in their own backyard.

S.J. Valentine, Boston SI

Valuing unpaid labor

I am disturbed by Diane Francis’s column (“The feminine mystique in the front office,” Dec. 9). The subtext of this article suggests that the alternative to women

Noble initiative

A few weeks ago, we witnessed one of Canada’s finest moments. When the rest of the world was saying the problem in Zaïre was not their problem, our Prime Minister stood up and said that human suffering was everyone’s problem, no matter where it is (“Mission of mercy," World, Nov. 25). We showed the world a small glimpse of leadership. For one brief, shining moment we told the world that unnecessary suffering was our greatest enemy, and we would fight our foe, no matter where he hides. They were noble words that held high the Canadian identity and our purpose in the world, that people of differing languages and cultures can work together to advance the human condition and rescue the unknown brother in distress.

Rick Fry, Moncton, N.B. m

“creating wealth” for their nation is to be “handcuffed to their uteruses, to child rearing and pleasing husbands.” Why are we creating wealth if not to provide a good life for our children? I can only hope that more women in the front office will also mean a trend towards family-friendly workplaces, recognition that children and families are the greatest wealth we could ever have, and equal value given to the important job of raising children.

Gail Tusz, Huntsville, Ont.

The distance we have to go seems insurmountable when, with a stroke of a pen, Diane Francis dismisses the value of all the unpaid work women do. Caring for children, the elderly, supporting one another, and volunteer work save the government billions of dollars. Doing tasks other than “wealth creation” creates a foundation for society to work upon. I would like to see a New Economy where sexual equality exists and the value of unpaid labor is recognized.

L. C. Duncan, Kanata, Ont.

Tobacco sponsorship

I must say I was disgusted with complaints about sports events or entertainment that might go under due to a legislated lack of contribution from tobacco companies (“Trying to snuff out smoking,” Canada, Dec. 9). We are talking about something a great deal more important—we’re talking about our children.

D. A. Petersen, Kingston, Ont.


Dictatorial clone

I read with astonishment the excerpt from the book Double Vision: The Inside Story of the Liberals in Power by Anthony WilsonSmith and Edward Greenspon, reviewed by Peter C. Newman (“Double Vision: the best political romp,” The Nation’s Business, Nov. 18). Is this the secret of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s leadership? He threatens to fire ministers arbitrarily after a cabinet leak? Now we know what we are up against. Not only do we have a prime minister who is accommodating towards separatists, and condescending towards the “third party” and Canadians in general, but we have a downright dictatorial clone running this country. I fear for Canada.

Werner Gretz, Clyde, Alta.

'Our own apartheid'

I cannot adequately express my anger and disgust over the cost of yet another royal commission (“Paying the price,” Canada, Dec. 2). The latest dog-and-pony show has spent nearly $60 million to tell us, essentially, that a large of number of Canadian aboriginals live in poverty. How anyone can justify spending this amount of money to study an issue that has already been examined many times before is totally beyond me. Like many academics, I’ve done my share of consulting work for governments and found it a cynical business. The sad fact is that government departments are seldom interested in solving problems. They would much rather administer them, since this ensures a continuity of employment and the chance to build an empire. I am reminded of a study I once carried out for a provincial government. The bureaucrat in charge was ecstatic. “This is great,” he said. “Did you do it on a laser printer?”

Richard ]. Haigh, Sidney, B. C.

As a Canadian living in Johannesburg, watching the development of the new South Africa, I find the article on urban natives (“Prairie time bomb,” Canada, Nov. 11) too close for comfort. Perhaps it is time for all Canadians to take a good look at the issues that affect the lives of Canadian natives and demand that our governments take responsibility for the lifestyle that was forced on them through the creation of reserves. Canadians supported and praised South African President Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress in their struggle to eliminate apartheid. Now, we must eliminate our own brand of apartheid.

Francine Halle, Wendywood, South Africa JS


Boardroom incest

Kudos to Deirdre McMurdy for telling it like it is around the sumptuous table where boardroom directors gather (“Degrees of separation,” The Bottom Line, Dec. 2). The staggering permutations of interlocking interests—political, financial, familial— would challenge an Einstein. The whole structure of mutual bottom-line stroking reeks of political and commercial incest. We do have laws against incest in other relationships; the lack of such laws in this instance merely confirms a blatant lack of political will. Do not hold your breath for corrective legislation.

Lyman Roddick, Brockville, Ont.

American medicine

I just hung up from a conversation with an American relative who is being denied a diagnostic test authorized by three specialists by her insurance company which deems the procedure unnecessary (“Radical surgery,” Cover, Dec. 2). Several American medical friends have told me that their practice is under greater control than their Canadian colleagues’. Medical decisions have been taken from the doctors, substituted by insurance clerks who interpret company policy. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader says that U.S. insurance companies are mustering at the border waiting for the opportunity to enter the Canadian market. No thank you. If my premiums must go up, so be it. If I must pay higher prices at the gas pumps, so be it. If I must wait a few months for elective surgery, so be it. I have friends who have been cancelled by American insurance companies and are uninsurable. Universal health care is a human right. Operating hospitals for profit and insurance-controlled health care need to be kept out of Canada.

W. Jon McCormick, Port Alberni, B.C. HI

In your article about changes in the healthcare system, I noticed a quote from Michael Decter, managing director of a company that specializes in making hospitals more efficient, which states: “People are saying, Wait a minute, if I get a choice between lying in bed for a week to have my cataracts taken out with a scalpel, or getting them done in half an hour with a laser—it’s an easy choice.’ ” Lasers are not used in cataract surgery. They

are most commonly used to cut or burn tissue, and since a cataract is a clouding of our eye’s natural lens, it has to be removed. Using enough laser energy to vaporize the entire lens would be analogous to setting off an explosion inside a grape.

Dr. R. C. Scott, Department of ophthalmology, Dalhousie University, Halifax

The Road Ahead

More power to the provinces

Just as individuals do, countries have strengths and weaknesses, and we can learn from each other. Having lived half of the Seventies and Nineties in the United States, this Canadian has seen some American values and practices that my country might well adopt.

In general, Americans seem happier than Canadians, certainly happier with their governments. More easily quantified is the fact that Canadian unemployment hovers stubbornly around 10 per cent, almost double the American level. These conditions are related, and the problems can be alleviated.

Major intergovernmental disagreements arise less often between the states and Washington than between the provinces and Ottawa. Federal-provincial bickering causes divisiveness and diverts an enormous amount of political energy from more constructive pursuits. Many of these disagreements concern social programs. Overlapping federal and provincial jurisdictions should be minimized, with Ottawa relinquishing its taxation and funding roles. In particular, equalization payments to the provinces and employment insurance should both be abolished.

Governments have a valuable role in smoothing out economic misfortunes, both

Leslie E. Hajdo

Dallas, Tex.

on the provincial and personal levels, but long-term redistribution of money is unhealthy. Transfer payments and employment insurance distort the national economy, keeping provinces and individuals from necessary adaptation to change. It makes no sense to accept, year after year, that some provinces are the have-nots. These provinces are overpopulated and/or poorly governed. One of the riches of the Canadian nation is that you are free to move to new opportunities.

Employment should be integrated into provincial taxation and welfare. Employment insurance allows people to remain in a marginal economic state instead of getting on with their lives. Government has no business in “insuring" work through involuntary taxation. If employment is insurable, private enterprises will spring up to provide the service. Welfare, on the other hand, is often necessary in a civilized society, and Canadians may wish to be generous. It is best handled as locally as possible, taxed and administered by the provinces.

Canadians want a kind society, a value which need not be abandoned. Both new and current taxpayers will be happier with less unemployment.

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.