LETTERS

The Mail

October 26 1998
LETTERS

The Mail

October 26 1998

The Mail

LETTERS

Being prepared

I read with interest “Planning your estate,” where many things were suggested that would assist in securing the financial future of your loved ones (Cover, Oct. 12). It was interesting, however, to see no mention made of being able to help others by leaving a portion of an estate to charity. Nonprofit organizations from coast to coast would welcome the opportunity to discuss how an estate gift could help them. If there is trouble knowing what to do with the family cottage, give it to your favorite charity. We would welcome it.

Allan Weatherall, Executive director, Huntsville Hospital Foundation, Huntsville, Ont.

As a life underwriter and financial planner, I take issue with your comments on the use of life insurance in the estate planning process. You seem to suggest that the application of life insurance is inappropriate. Life insurance is an invaluable component in the financial and estate planning process, particularly in cases where there is a need for estate equalization. There was no mention of alternative products to life insurance in your article and until a better alternative comes along, what else can Canadians do to protect their estates? At the moment, life insurance remains one of the most cost-effective solutions, particularly when the proceeds can be paid out tax-free.

Michael Gentile, Waterloo, Ont.

Although your story on estate planning was informative, it was inaccurate in at least one respect. You quoted Toronto lawyer Michael Fitzpatrick saying that when making a will, “people can be as capricious as they wish.” Wills in British Columbia are subject to the

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Wills Variation Act, which provides that a person making a will has a duty to make adequate provision for the proper support and maintenance for a surviving spouse and children. The statute permits the court to vary a will that does not make this provision.

Donald E. Taylor, Duncan, B.C.

The politics of El

In the article “ ‘Drop the money,’ ” federal Finance Minister Paul Martin blames the Progressive Conservative government for today’s massive multibillion-dollar surplus in the Employment Insurance account (Canada, Oct. 12). Leave it to this Liberal government to play fast and loose with the facts. Indeed, the Conservative party when in power did accept the recommendation of the auditor general to include the Employment Insurance account as part of the fiscal framework of the government. But this is not the cause of Martin’s obscene theft from working Canadians today. The real reason is because Martin himself changed the act in 1993. He removed the provisions that limited the size of a surplus or deficit that the account could run. They had been in place to ensure such massive surpluses could not happen without parliamentary approval. This is what happened in the past two recessions when both Liberal and Conservative governments sought parliamentary approval to temporarily exceed these legislated limits. Only those who have little vision blame their predecessors for their own mistakes. Martin needs to stop worrying about his own political ambitions, make some tough decisions that may upset his cabinet colleagues, and truly put Canada’s finances in order by cutting El premiums and reducing the wasteful bureaucracy in Ottawa. But anything other than political expediency from a Liberal is too much to ask.

Rick Perkins, Toronto

The Employment Insurance fund is built up in good times to supply Canadians with the money they need for food and other essentials when they’re out of work. It seems obvious as a recession looms that a great many will be out of work. The auditor general who recommended inclusion of the Employment

Pyramid schemes

In response to Allan Fotheringham’s column about the respectable women in Oshawa who were engaged in an illegal pyramid scheme (“Why Canadian women don’t trust men,” Oct. 12), please allow me to observe that in Canada such a scheme is not illegal when the government runs it. In fact, it has been running since 1967, when it was implemented by the Liberal government. We all know it as the Canada Pension Plan.

Robert Anes, Brantford, Ont.

Insurance fund in general accounts obviously did not understand the nature of the political beast. The excuse that reversing the action would affect foreign opinion of Canada’s finances is not valid; foreign financiers and investors can interpret balance sheets. I no longer qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, but I don’t want to see the fund robbed. A responsible cut in premiums, certainly. But any politician who even thinks of spending Employment Insurance “surplus” on political candy—as has already been done too often—instead of saving it for the meat and potatoes it’s meant for should be tarred and feathered. El premiums are not just another tax: abusing this trust for political ends is an absolute disgrace. Is there a politician left in this country with brains and integrity?

Harvey L. McIntyre, Winnipeg

Appropriate care

I wish to respond to the suggestion by Janet M. Liszt in her letter to the editor (Sept. 21) that my husband, columnist Peter C. Newman, received preferential cardiac care based on any criterion other than his clinical status. The actual process from his first electrocardiogram to treadmill to angiogram to open-heart surgery occurred over many months. This fact was glossed over in his column (“Facing death—and a double deadline,” Sept. 7) because Newman wanted to maintain some semblance of privacy on his health matters, while dealing with his neardeath experience in a tongue-in-cheek manner. When the state of our health-care system evokes suspicion rather than sympathy for someone else’s misfortune, we are in a sorry state indeed. This is an obvious wakeup call to reclaim our right to treatment, ensuring all patients have appropriate care in equally life-threatening situations.

Alvy Newman, Hopkins Landing, B. C.

THE MAIL

Reading problems

"Why kids can’t read” (Cover, Sept. 7) also explains why Canadian adults can’t read. Fifty per cent of adults in literacy classes have learning disabilities. By definition, people with learning disabilities have average to above-average intelligence. One in 10 Canadians struggles with dyslexia. Research proves dyslexia is neurobiologically based, making it both a health and an education issue. What science now knows about learning disabilities, brain development and language instruction must be incorporated into the training of all teachers. Early identification of LD is critical for cost-effective remediation and prevention of other social and health-related issues that often develop as a result of poor literacy skills. Increased public awareness about signs and symptoms of LD, together with improved teacher preparedness on language instruction with the use of new assistive technologies and accommodations, will give the gift of reading to more Canadians.

Paul Gallagher, President, Literacy BC, and Fran Thompson, President, The International Dyslexia Association, British Columbia Branch, Vancouver

You misinterpret the significance of the experiment by Sally Shaywitz, a scientist in the department of pediatrics at Yale University, with dyslexic children by accepting her claim that she has proven that there is a neurological basis for reading disorders. Of course, there is. Everybody knows even without wasteful sophisticated magnetic resonance imagery that the brains of good and bad readers function differently. This is, however, a result (rather than a cause) of different ways of reading. Every thought, emotion, dream and impulse has a neurological basis. Shaywitz’s experiment is a regrettable milestone in the propaganda war of the specialists of learning disabilities, who desperately try to show that they are not due to low intelligence and/or bad schooling.

Heinz Klatt, London, Ont.

As an educator practising the Irlen Method and seeing success where no other method worked, I was disappointed that you did not mention it in your article. Worldwide research has shown that approximately 50 per cent of children with reading problems have Irlen Syndrome. Reading for these children is difficult, even impossible. It is a perceptual dysfunction that affects the way people read, and it can co-exist with other learning

difficulties, dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Until now, it has baffled educators because it remains undetected by standard educational, visual and medical tests. Where Irlen Syndrome is the problem, it can be treated satisfactorily.

Sondra Fyffe,

Peterborough, Ont.

There is a growing body of evidence, much of it at this point anecdotal, that the root cause of many cases of such relatively commonplace maladies as hay fever, migraine headaches, asthma, thyroid disease and allergies may be found in mineral and other nutritional deficiencies. That our diets are minerally deficient has been recognized since the mid-’30s by no less than the U.S. Congress, and the condition has only worsened, because our emphasis on farming depletes rather than augments soil quality. This brings into question whether heredity is a factor in the above maladies, which geneticists now believe may be caused by the same chromosome that is thought to be responsible for dyslexia. Any research into dyslexia et al should be accompanied by an examination into, and augmentation of, nutritional needs, which research is increasingly showing cannot be met solely through the food we eat.

Richard Weatherill, Victoria

THE MAIL_

The Information Age

Reading David Johnston’s article, “Challenge of the highway” (Essays on the Millennium, Oct. 12), I kept looking for the words “public service announcement.” His feel-good version of how history unfolded leaves out the real reasons why, after 1492, Western Europe “began a trajectory, dramatically outpacing China and the world of Islam in wealth creation and in political liberty”: superior weapons, disease, slavery and two new, recently depopulated continents to plunder. As for the future of the Internet, it will still be a handy way to send messages and do research, but I am not buying the hype. It will probably be no more important to the average person than television, entertaining but unnecessary.

Brian Wall, Red Deer, Alta.

In “Challenge of the highway,” David Johnston says: “The information highway should be as affordable and relevant to Canadians as the telephone and television are today, with almost 99-per-cent penetration rates.” Given the quality of today’s television programming, the colossal irony of such a statement would be amusing if it weren’t so bitterly sad. Here’s a radical thought for our Brave New Millennium: why don’t we lift our atrophying heads out of our PCs and our televisions and restore the art of conversation? Or what about (gasp!) reading a book? Then he hits us with this: “But the crucial next step is to help teachers evolve from their role as content providers to coaches or facilitators.” Ye Gods, if my dog brings me the newspaper, does that make him a “content provider”? Precisely when did it become acceptable for an educator to abrogate the responsibility of reflecting the spirit and intent of course materials? For the sake of our precious children, I desperately wish educators would cease this infernal practice of pandering to gadgets that have absolutely no history of success in that application.

Chris Dooie, Winnipeg

Cut waste and pay for real needs

The Road Ahead

Contributor Gordon Brain is right on in citing the need for tax reforms to get Canada’s economy back on track and bring down the unemployment rate (“Lower taxes to encourage innovation," The Road Ahead, Sept. 21). Fundamental tax reform is essential, as is the reduction of $50 billion in government duplication and waste. Ottawa has to reduce its overall size by a net 200,000 people, but include in this a 50,000 increase in essential personnel in the scientific sector—those who perform tests on drugs and food and forensic services for the ROMP and other police forces as well as the computer staff required to maintain the federal computers. We need to substantially increase port and border/immigration police manpower, rather than trying to solve our immigration and drug trafficking problems in the courts.

We certainly need to eliminate the massive government waste on aboriginal and foreign affairs. Other major federal waste is in the duplication of provincial ministries such as agriculture, labor, forestry and justice, plus umpteen commissions and hidden agencies that have little use.

That could make $50 billion available for real government priorities: 1) reduction of the national debt ($10 billion), 2) restoring transfer payments to the provinces for education and health care ($10 billion), and 3) overhauling of the federal tax system to reduce personal and corporate taxes to make them directly competitive with those in the United States, reduce the GST to five per cent and increase the personal tax exemption ($15

Bob Tarplett

Vancouver

billion). Increased spending on defence— the militia, troops and hardware, but no more peacekeeping unless through NATO— would need $5 billion. Higher spending on national police—RCMP, ports, immigration and borders—would cost another $5 billion. And the last $5 billion would go to science and technology through annual National Research Council and university grants.

The federal government should be reduced in size to 10 ministries from the current 30-plus, and the tax system should put far more income back into the pockets of Canadians and small businesses rather than wasting it on a useless bureaucracy.

A 15-per-cent entertainment tax, replacing the GST, should be levied on all commercial entertainment (movies, video rentals and sales, live shows, sports) and monthly cable/satellite rentals. A film and television distribution tax should be levied on programs and feature films purchased for broadcasting and showing in Canada. Those two taxes could produce annual revenues of $1 billion by year 2000—to be used specifically for Canadian film and television production.

Other spending or investment would be limited to transit infrastructure, not highway funding. Provinces should be encouraged to build private toll roads. Via Rail and Ontario’s GO Transit commuter trains should receive at least $2 billion in capital and operating funding, allowing them to provide fast, reliable and reasonably priced service between urban centres at just 12 per cent of the cost of highway subsidies.

Let’s get our priorities right for a change.

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.