The Mail

The Mail

May 25 1998
The Mail

The Mail

May 25 1998

The Mail


The impact of casinos

I hardly find it surprising that governments have latched onto yet another revenuegenerating scheme by taking advantage of people’s weaknesses ("The curse of casinos,” Cover, May 11). For the past few decades, governments have been responsible for half the cost associated with the price of alcohol and tobacco. The irony is that the government gladly accepts the revenue the sales generate and yet complains that tobacco is an addictive substance, can cause cancer and can kill. It shouldn’t be too long now before we hear government-sponsored ads advising us of the evils associated with gambling, all the while reaping billions of dollars in income.

Peter Milne, Victoria

The focus on the effects of gambling addiction was presented without any attempt at objectivity or balance. The following facts were not included in the story. A thorough analysis of problem gambling indicates that the prevalence of addiction remains in the range of one to two per cent of the adult population, regardless of the type of gambling involved or whether gaming is run illegally

or properly regulated. Publicly available studies from Harvard University and the University of Windsor have proved this and were not cited in your article. In addition, casinos have a social benefit. In the words of Thom Morris of the Windsor chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, told to the Sarnia Observer: “The positive impacts [of a casino] far outweigh the negative from what we can see. There’s always going to be a social impact, but the casino has put people to work and the economic growth has really been a boon.” Finally, the Ontario government will provide $20 million to assist with problem gambling.

Paul Christie, Executive director, Ontario Charity Gaming Operators’ Association, Toronto

The recent Alberta Lotteries and Gaming Summit ’98 was a public relations exercise to get the government off the hook for the problems that gambling is creating in our society. One-quarter of the people at the summit were gambling and VLT operators who are making money—big money—from the addictions of their customers. They were very vocal in suggesting policies for the government to adopt. In any other situation, those who profit from the policies they are proposing would acknowledge they were in conflict of interest. A four-page ad placed by Hospitality Alberta in The Edmonton Journal recently suggested that only 1.4 per cent of the gambling population become addicted. Even if that means only a few thousand people become compulsive gamblers, do we as a society write them off as not worth worrying about?

Don Mayne, Edmonton

After reading your very informative story, my immediate thought was that a copy should be sent to every MP, provincial legislator and mayor across Canada for required reading. Surely there is enough evidence that legalized gambling is not the answer to our debt problems.

Kay Luna, Blind Bay, B. C.


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Childbirth mortality

Karen Hodgson correctly points out that educated women in developing countries have fewer children and that newborn and infant mortality rates drop accordingly (“Foreign aid and population,” The Road Ahead, May 4). While the loss of young children at or after delivery is undeniably tragic, we should not forget that 650,000 poor, undernourished and illiterate women lose their own lives yearly in the global killing field of childbirth. Every 54 seconds, somewhere in the world, a woman dies having a baby. Gross illiteracy, cultural constraints, poverty, government indifference (and worse) result in non-existent family planning and not even rudimentary perinatal care. As a result, these unfortunate souls have too many babies too soon. Urgently required in these countries is the construction of a perinatal health-care delivery system based on an infrastructure of welltrained professionals, hospital/clinic facilities, telecommunications, roads, transport, electrical power and the provision of clean water. The relaxation of cultural restraints and the reduction of illiteracy will allow the application of effective family planning. Given sufficient political will, the solution can be provided by a collaboration of the concerned country’s government, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Bank together with the well-recognized experience of Canadian obstetricians and pediatricians.

Dr. James Goodwin, Chief, department of obstetrics and gynecology, Yarmouth Regional Hospital, Yarmouth, N.S.

Hepatitis C victims

The federal government’s response to the hepatitis C scandal is unconscionable (‘The shame game,” Canada/Special Report, May 11). First, the government agencies failed to screen the country’s blood supply, then they ignored warnings that the blood supply might be tainted. When the scandal broke, the blood supply agencies were only concerned that no blame would attach to them. The Liberals boast of a budget surplus. Why don’t they apply some of it to compensate all victims of hepatitis C?

Rosalind Jones, London, Ont.

It should come as no surprise that Federal Health Minister Allan Rock “Stood his ground” on the hepatitis C package. As most

gun owners will agree, Rock has a reputation for standing his ground—in spite of logical, informed, passionate opposition. Yesterday, it was gun owners, saddled with badly conceived, ineffective, oppressive gun legislation. Today, it is an incomplete, uncaring compensation package. Who will Rock and the Liberal government trample on next?

Jim Lawrence, Wooler, Ont.

'Sylvester Stallion'

Sure, every one of us guys would like to be a Sylvester Stallion with the use of the new impotence pill Viagra (“ ‘A man again,’ ” Health, May 4). Why not? But at what price? Beware—nothing is free in this world. Just remember thalidomide and breast implants. They were considered breakthroughs at the time.

Maurice Charlebois, Val des Bois, Que.

Only the deserving

Why did the federal government feel the need to give the Order of Canada to Celine Dion (“A highly diplomatic merci,” People, May 11). Without question, she is one of the biggest pop stars to come from this country, but she has been generously paid for her talent and recognized by every mutual admiration society in North America. This award should be reserved for truly deserving Canadians who give of themselves without fanfare or generous compensation.

Murray McDonald, Shawnigan Lake, B.C.

'Strong words'

Jack Munro of the Forest Alliance of British Columbia accuses Greenpeace of “treating the truth with God damn disdain” (“Score one for the ecologists,” Business, May 11). Strong words. They’d be a lot stronger if he had a modicum of evidence to

back them up. The forest industry has nothing more than empty rhetoric, name-calling and its own sorry record to fall back on. L they are so “God damn” environmentally friendly, why are they fighting to log the last few remaining old-growth forests? Where are all the trees from the plantations they’ve been subsidized to plant for decades? The truth? Munro and his ilk wouldn’t recognize the truth if someone sawed it at the base so that it fell over on them.

David Desjardins, Aylmer, Que.

Nuclear environment

ii'T'he nuclear waste muddle” brings A much-needed attention to the critical state of Canada’s nuclear waste program (From the Editor, May 4). After spending 20 years and $700 million in public funds, the nuclear industry totally failed to convince an independent review panel that the program should proceed as planned—to choose a site for underground disposal. But it is a misreading of the panel’s carefully worded report to say that Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. demonstrated that the plan was technically safe. In fact, the panel had no trouble agreeing that AECL’s waste-disposal plan is unacceptable on all seven proposed tests, including safety, but also including broad public support and the trustworthiness of the proponent (AECL) and the regulator (Atomic Energy Control Board).

Norman Rubin, Director, nuclear research and senior policy analyst, Energy Probe, Toronto

No, Canadians are not willy-nilly ready to accept AECL’s narrow definition of safety in terms of storing nuclear waste in the depths of the Canadian Shield. While AECL and the Canadian Nuclear Society argue that the concerns of Canadians are emotional rather than factual, the fact is the nuclear industry, worldwide, has a poor safety record. No need to cite chapter and verse, but I did note,

in the same issue oí Maclean’s, the little item about a leak at Ontario’s Darlington Nuclear Station (“Radioactive spill,” Canada Notes, May 4). As in the rush to go nuclear, environmental safety and public opinion continue to be pooh-poohed by an industry that seems to continue to view accountability to Canadians as beneath it. For this very reason, assurances are suspect.

Helen MacDonald, Newtonville, Ont.

College co-operation

It was with great interest that I read Ann Dowsett Johnston’s “A degree of imagination” about the need for greater co-operation between Ontario’s colleges and universities, and the formative steps some have taken towards this (Education, May 11). We at Seneca College could not agree more. We are currently overseeing the construction of a new campus with York University. This campus will have an emphasis on technology and new approaches to learning: it will not only serve to enforce already existing agreements between Seneca and York, it will create new opportunities for our students. Already there are a number of programs where students can achieve their college diploma and bachelor of arts in less time than was traditionally possible. These

types of agreements, which break down traditional borders between our postsecondary institutions, are the future of education.

Stephen E. Quinlan, President, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, Toronto

Sheldon Levy, president of Sheridan College, believes colleges in Ontario are seen as poor country cousins because college graduates do not earn degrees. How he squares that view with the fact that Hollywood’s top guns are tripping over themselves to hire his graduates is difficult to understand. Rather than pursuing elitism, Levy should accept the new reality; it’s what you can contribute, not the letters behind your name that counts. On that score, the colleges across the country are well positioned.

Carl Eriksen, Victoria

Banking on mergers

I was quite surprised to see the comments attributed to me in “Ottawa faces the big squeeze” on the subject of Canadian bank mergers (Canada, May 4). The essence of my comments was that the merger made sense if the market in banking and financial services would be open to North American

competition. My paraphrased comments would lead the reader to believe that I am included in the camp of individuals who are opposed to these deals under any conditions. This is certainly not the case.

Henry Demone, President and CEO, National Sea Products Ltd., Lunenburg, N.S.

The feeling of being manipulated is not a pleasant one, and many of us are now awakening to the fact that many big businesses that touch our lives are also pulling our strings. Now, our banks are telling us that they can become even more efficient by merging with each other. Canadians banks already have the critical mass to operate electronically across our continent, if not around the world. Their branch networks are something the Americans are only now getting around to, since deregulation is finally allowing them to expand into multi-state operations. If federal Finance Minister Paul Martin allows the mergers to go through, it is my hope that balance is maintained by making it easier for foreign banks to establish themselves in Canada. With the possibility of foreign banks entering the picture, the new Canadian megabanks may find themselves losing business—one customer at a time.

George J. Breen, Waterloo, Ont.