The Mail

February 10 1997

The Mail

February 10 1997

The Mail

Mutual fund expenses

The cover story on mutual funds was most welcome and informative except for one complaint (“The best and worst mutual funds,” Jan. 27). Returns, risks and expenses are three important considerations in any long-term investment decision. Your fund rankings included the first two but failed to note the last, the expenses. Over a long-term investment horizon, both the initial load fee and the annual management expense ratio can have a significant effect on returns. The related issues of why annual expense ratios for Canadian mutual funds are almost twice those in the United States, and why there is no low-cost index fund in Canada comparable to the Vanguard 500 index fund in the United States, which charges about .2 per cent per year, were also not addressed in your story. Excessive annual management fees are a drain on investor returns. If they could be reduced by one percentage point per year, it would put another $2 billion in investor pockets every year. Over a 25-year investment horizon, this approximates $50 billion, and now we are talking about real money.

George Lüste, Toronto

Where did all the tin men go? They became financial planners.

Lionel Perry, Tobermory, Ont.

Your special issue on mutual funds is full of dire warnings about the lack of knowledge of the investor. A quick look through the ads will show part of the reason. They tell people not to worry, to plan for vacations, to make money without leaving home, to sleep while their RRSP works, that there are better things to do than worry about money. The industry, I think, would prefer a sleepy public. Maybe that would forestall prickly questions about management fees, front-end loads and residual fees paid to investment brokers.

Bill Feeney, Waterloo, Ont. IS

Somalia coverup?

It is clear that a three-way conflict of interest is occurring with the department of national defence. The reluctance of Defence Minister Doug Young, his predecessor David Collenette as well as Justice Minister Allan Rock to hand over the needed documents has been a fundamental reason for the lengthy inquiry. In addition to this, the Jan. 10 decision to change the deadline from Dec. 31,1997, to March 31,1997, was an absolute breach of ethical political administration especially when the defence department in under investigation by the inquiry (“Pulling the plug,” Canada, Jan. 27). Soldiers who depended on this inquiry to clear their names will no longer have this opportunity and, conversely, others higher up will be rewarded for a coverup that will not be uncovered. Why would Young claim that this deadline would suffice when he knew that vital evidence would not be heard? Is the Liberal government orchestrating a coverup?

David Hill, Moosomin, Sask.

Defence Minister Doug Young is to be congratulated for trying to put an end to the Somalia inquiry. As an ordinary taxpayer, I was very pleased to see him take this action, as far too much of our taxes has been spent on the high-priced commissioners and the gaggle of lawyers, senior military officials and

One in a million

Out here in Regina, our hospitals do not have one MRI machine, a stateof-the-art system for peering inside the human body. Our citizens have to travel 600 km for this service, while our hard-working physicians endure constant frustration awaiting results. The cost of supplying this very basic component of health care, we are told, is too much—about $1 million. Meanwhile, in Ottawa, our ex-prime minister, still smarting from public knowledge of his excesses as reported in a best-selling book, is concerned with reassembling his reputation (“Brian Mulroney’s revenge,” Cover, Jan. 20). Our present one, hoping to finally humiliate his old rival, bungles the job. The cost of financing this political squabble, we are told, is negligible: about $1 million. Just don’t push us too far, Ottawa.

Joe Turnham, Regina

all their support staff. Surely it should not take nearly four years and millions of dollars to investigate and report on this sad event that occurred in March of 1993.

J. H. Bailey,

Surrey, B.C.

Our military critics have got the object of their scorn and condemnation into such a state that it doesn’t know whether to fish or cut bait. If the critics expect our soldiers to behave like they were having tea with their Auntie Rose in situations that are uncomfortable, frustrating, as well as downright dangerous, perhaps the entire peacekeeping concept should be abandoned. There are always some bad apples in all sectors of society and they have to be dealt with, but it should not cost $30 million to do it, even if it does provide jobs, jobs, jobs. The military in all of history has had an understandable aversion to sharing its records with the media, which have to satisfy a need to make their publications more exciting. We need a sense of responsibility here, not a knee-jerk reaction to publish whatever comes to light.

Peter Dobbing,

Nepean, Ont.

American content

The possibility of Canada being forced to allow split runs of American magazines at a devastating cost to Canadian publications is getting close to the last straw (“A blow to magazines,” Media, Jan. 27). American publications want to sell their product (advertising space) in Canada at below cost.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR should be addressed to: Maclean’s Magazine Letters 777 Bay St.,Toronto, Ont. M5W IA7 Fax: (416) 596-7730 ® E-mail: letters@macleans.ca or: 76702.2247@compuserve.com Maclean’s welcomes readers’ views, but letters may be edited for space and clarity. Please supply name, address and daytime telephone number. Submissions may appear in Maclean’s electronic sites.

The Road Ahead

'Limit politicians to one term'

As one who spent 12 years as an MLA, served as Speaker of the house in the Northwest Territories legislature and ran for Parliament, I have thought a lot about how to improve our political structures both provincially and federally in Canada. Here are my suggestions:

First, politicians should be limited to a single term in office. The result would be that, rather than doing almost everything with a view to re-election, politicians would act mainly in the public interest, principally doing what they know to be right and just. Another benefit would be that pensions would become unnecessary. The professional politician would become a thing of the past. Instead, our best and brightest could be encouraged to serve because their commitment would be to a single defined term. Employers would give good people leaves of absence to serve the public interest, returning public service to the lofty height it deserves.

With the elimination of pension costs, politicians could be better paid, thereby attracting more capable people. A fixed single term would make it easier for good people and their employers to plan. Strict rules

David H. Searie,

Vancouver

governing conflict of interest would have to apply between the politicians and their past—and future—employers so that no favors could be sought or received while the employee is working as a public representative. Upon completion of public service, the politician could return to the same job, or an equivalent position.

The term of an elected member would have to be extended from the current norm of roughly four years to a fixed term of five or six years. That would provide sufficient time for a government to consider, design, implement and evaluate initiatives. But it would also require politicians to move decisively and with a sense of urgency. The role of the elected member would be strengthened because parties would not be in a position to threaten to withdraw their support for re-election from critical members. Votes free of party discipline could become commonplace rather than the exception.

Those fundamental changes would encourage action to be taken simply because it is right and just. The only reward would be the gratitude of one’s constituents for a job well done. And isn’t that what “service” is all about?

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.

THE MAIL

If this isn’t a form of dumping, what is? If this is foisted on the Canadian people, surely we can do two things: not buy the product itself and not buy from those who advertise in that product.

Donald M. Jackson, Goderich, Ont.

No one should be surprised that the American media giants will not be satisfied until they have won the final victory. But just as in 1812, they have taken us for an easy mark. As a result of the turbot wars, I simply refuse to purchase any item from Spain. Surely if enough of us did the same to their magazines, the Americans might repeat history, give up and go back across the border where they belong. With 1,300 Canadian periodicals to choose from, why read about America anyway?

Richard Legault, Val Therese, Ont. Hl

It is because Peter C. Newman believes Canadian culture must be protected by legislation that he foists his myopic lack of confidence in Canadians on readers with his musings in “The Canadian dream loses a big round” (The Nation’s Business, Jan. 27). Woe on us if we are such mollusks that reading American magazines “blunts our intuition” and “makes us forget who we are.” Newman should realize that the quality and scholarship of Canadian magazines will bring success against any cultural attacks from any foreign-type media. Canadians are smarter than Newman and the Liberal government give us credit for.

Macey Morris, Richmond, B. C. HI

Yukon gold

It is difficult to understand why a project that is good for both the Yukon and Canada has to be presented in such a negative manner (“Yukon alchemy,” Business, Dec. 30/Jan. 6). Why couldn’t the article have

pointed out the positive facts about the Brewery Creek mine, as well as some of the concerns? Every aspect of the plant was designed according to the strictest of guidelines worked out by personnel from the company, local, territorial and federal governments. The pad and pond design requirements are the most comprehensive in North America. The millions spent so far have been a significant boost to the Dawson City and Yukon economies. During opera-

fions, as many as 130 people will be employed at the mine and the total payroll will be in excess of $5 million, most of which will go into the Yukon economy. To state simply that “cyanide solution, if accidentally released into the local water supply, could cause serious environmental damage” is merely a sensational statement that may create anxiety without cause. Every gold operation in Canada, and there are many, uses cyanide. It is a chemical that has many positive uses if

THE MAIL

handled correctly. Comparing Brewery Creek to the Summitville mine in Colorado where a leak occurred is unfair. The physical situations are completely different and the construction was carried out to very different standards, making these two projects dissimilar in a number of ways. Lastly, heap leaching is already being carried out in very cold climates in the Dakotas and Montana with very successful results.

Paul F. Saxton, President and chief operating officer, Viceroy Resource Corp., Vancouver

Not snow, nor rain

The statement that “B.C. Ferries cancelled service to and from the mainland” the day after the “storm of the century” hit British Columbia is not correct (“Slip sliding away,” Canada, Jan. 13). We were unable to supply ferry service from Swartz Bay to Vancouver and the Gulf Islands, but ferries from Nanaimo to the lower mainland operated all day thanks to the efforts of a number of staff who, in some cases, walked several kilometres through deep snow to get to work.

Mike Carter, Senior vice-president, operations and customer service, British Columbia Ferry Corporation, Victoria

Russian refugees

I read with open-mouthed disbelief your story about Russian Jews leaving Israel and applying for refugee status in Canada (“Fleeing the promised land,” World, Jan. 13). As a Canadian who emigrated to Israel from Montreal, I can attest to the patent falseness and cynicism of the claims of these “refugees.” As a medical professional, I am familiar with the generous basket of services that an immigrant from the Soviet Union receives on arrival here. What is unbelievable in this tale is the naïveté of some Canadian government officials who buy this story.

Dr. A. Mark Clarfield, Jerusalem

A country classic

It was with sadness that I read about the death of Wilf Carter (Passages, Dec. 16, 1996). To a Prairie boy weaned on Wilf’s 78r.p.m. recordings in the 1950s, “Montana Slim” is truly a legend of legends. He was still belting out country classics to sold-out audiences in small-town Alberta arenas as late as the mid-1980s.

Murray C. Luft, La Paz, Bolivia JM