The Mail

The Mail

January 25 1999
The Mail

The Mail

January 25 1999

The Mail

Weighty arguments

Your articles on “Canada’s obesity epidemic” were both timely and informative (Cover, Jan. 11). I do feel, however, that among associated health risks, some mention should have been made of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Not all sufferers of those conditions are obese, but a significant majority would be helped by loss of weight. While snoring itself can be a source of embarrassment and inconvenience, the related condition of obstructive sleep apnea is associated with numerous life-shortening health problems, as well as excessive daytime sleepiness.

Dr. Leslie Priemer, Toronto

Why is it that the text describing my issues with discrimination appears on the first page of the article next to an extensive list of ailments and conditions associated with obesity and a photo of a woman (obviously this magazine’s ideal) who managed to lose a substantial amount of weight? (But will she keep it off or have the same yo-yo problems experienced by others?) Why, with the dozens of photos of me that you had to


should be addressed to:

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choose from, did you choose the one you did? I am highly offended that this horrible picture appeared right next to a paragraph discussing obesity as a result of “sloth and gluttony,” and directly above a photo of a doctor holding a very ugly replica of one pound of fat. The article dealt with the medical and scientific views that only serve to bolster the opinions of those who choose to discriminate against obese people. Yes, I’m overweight. But no, I do not deserve to be ridiculed, whether directly by others to my face, or indirectly by images and I ideas presented by the media.

I Christine Blythe,

I Trenton, Ont.

I Your article did not address one of the Body Mass Index’s major shortcomings. According to this tool, world heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield, at six feet, 2Vf inches and 217 lb., is at some risk of health problems. As he is one of the fittest athletes in the world, this is ridiculous, but as this tool does not address lean muscle mass, it severely distorts the results.

Dave Blackman, Stittsville, Ont.

A good gym with a qualified staff and regular exercise programs and facilities like aerobics, body shop or aquafit is cheaper and far more effective than a similar six-month diet program.

Bob Tarplett, Vancouver

The oppression against fat people has got to end. I am a member of a size rights organization, and I can assure you, fat people aren’t going to tolerate the “sloth and gluttony” label. Body size has nothing to do with morals or gluttony. No one really knows what causes obesity, and when they finally find out, you can bet that it will have nothing to do with plain overeating and lack of exercise.

Sandra Gordon, Mill Valley, Calif.

Leading with truth

Peter C. Newman’s tongue-in-cheek but still half-serious analysis of our political leadership needs has two major flaws (“Introducing the man who can unite the right,” The Nation’s Business, Jan. 11). First, there is the assumption that an effective prime minister needs to be articulate in both official languages. This head-in-the-sand atti-


A review of The Divorce from Hell, a book by Wendy Dennis (“Dicey tale of divorce,” Jan. 11), failed to note that, although Ben Gordon was charged three times with assaulting his ex-wife Terry Nusyna, the charges were either withdrawn, stayed, or dismissed in each instance. Maclean’s regrets this omission and apologizes to Benjamin Gordon.


A photo caption in the article “Extreme acts” (Cover, Jan. 11) may have left the impression that Proenzi 99 is an unregulated product. In fact, while it is not officially recognized as a weight-loss agent, it is registered with Health Canada as a nasal decongestant and has been issued a drug identification number. Maclean’s apologizes for the omission.

tude, which guarantees an endless succession of French-Canadian PMs, is one of the major causes of our present predicament. What we need is a leader who can tell the simple truth in one language. The second flaw is the statement that Finance Minister Paul Martin has “demonstrated his populist roots” by turning down the bank mergers. What Martin, whose populist roots would be hard to discern without a microscope, has really done is to move a couple of pawns on his political chessboard. We’ll see his true intent only when he gets to the endgame.

John Thomson Sangster, Burnaby, B.C.

Peter C. Newman’s article gets a resounding amen. Chrétien has no ideas, no vision and absolutely no ability to inspire a population in trying times. Bring on Paul Martin.

P J. Mitchell, Victoria

Banks and business

Ross Laver’s column about software entrepreneur Isabel Hoffmann who is thinking of moving to the United States really struck a nerve with my wife and me (“Canada—who needs it?” Jan. 11). We started a business in 1969 and along the way experienced the same woes as Hoffmann. The banks are in a position to help us grow and prosper, but still have not grasped the fact that small business is the only growing sector in Canada. We live in a General Motors city and they have not hired in a big way in years. The economy in Oshawa is growing because of small business and educational business schools. We must keep people like Hoffmann in Canada.

Larry Dupuis, Oshawa, Ont.


Bridging the gap

Although Canadians have many government resources open to them, health care is by far of the greatest importance (“User fees could support health care,” The Road Ahead, Dec. 14). Those who are affluent can have better medical care because they can pay for the extras. People who go without these extras do so not because they want to but because they have to. User fees would create an even larger gap between those who can afford services and those who cannot. Canada’s medicare was set up to eliminate financial differences between the medical care for the rich and the not-so-rich, to give equal medical care to all its citizens. User fees are good for non-essential, non-life-threatening service, not for basic medical care.

Noorbegum Koorjee, Guelph, Ont.

I want to correct Michael Valentine on his assertion that individuals in Canada do not pay for medical care. In British Columbia, we pay annual premiums. However, we long ago gave up expecting anyone in Ottawa to know what is going on in the West. At 72 years of age, with no dependents, I pay $432 a year. I do not resent this, for I feel I con-

tribute to the care of others less fortunate. Our system is scaled to taxable income, so those who can ill afford it do not have to pay. Food for some thought in Ottawa?

Winifred Mather, Greenwood, B.C.

A world away

Barbara Amiel’s quotation of former Chilean president Eduardo Frei—“a civil war was being well prepared by the Marxists. And that is what the world does not know, refuses to know”—really struck a chord with me (“My critics live on a different planet,” Column, Dec. 14). It reminded me of the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933, when the West chose to do nothing. The West “refused to know” that millions of Ukrainians were starving because the Red Army, the secret police and Communist party workers and youth groups took all their food away. The lone reporter to tell the story at the time, Malcolm Muggeridge, representing a British newspaper, was censured by the Western press corps for doubting what the leaders of the so-called great Communist experiment fed to the media.

John Herring, Medicine Hat, Alta.

If Barbara Amiel’s critics live on a different planet, then they have a better view of what’s going on here on Earth than she does from her Xanadu in London. Ms. Amiel likes to bring up the number of deaths attributed to communism but prefers not to mention the numbers related to capitalism and the pursuit of profits. Whether they are workplace accidents, street kids murdered by business-funded death squads, trade unionists murdered by business-minded governments, or families starving to death because a “readjustment” in the economy has put millions out of work, Ms. Amiel doesn’t really seem to care. If living on planet Earth gives me Barbara Amiel’s perspective, I’ll take a one-way ticket out of here.

Dave Hazzan, Hull, Que.

Bias suspected

Maclean’s has grand pretensions to editorial objectivity. How interesting, if unsurprising, then to read in your pages a reactionary diatribe disguised as a simple book review (“In from left field,” Books, Dec. 21). It may seem to the reviewer that, since craven governments pretty much now allow business to set our social and economic agendas, this must be the natural order of things. Just this sort of presumption increasingly permits media to present received opinion as fact. When national news organizations imply that short-term speculation, rather than long-term investment, “creates jobs,” no one is supposed to bat an eye. It is to be accepted uncritically that gluttonous corporate welfare, helping already huge companies stamp out competition, is a good way to ensure a “free” market. Fortunately, a few brave souls like Maude Barlow stand up to the sort of right-wing nonsense Maclean’s routinely passes off as reporting. It’s too bad Bob Rae only used to be as critical of the business world view.

Jason Welch, Surrey, B. C.

“In from the left” convinced me to wait till Bob Rae’s latest book, The Three Questions, drops to the specials list. After reading his first book, I realized why his critics were critical. As for Rae’s present hobby of blowing British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s horn, even to the extent of portraying him as a latter-day Tommy Douglas, that is a cruel joke. The Third Way that Blair prattles about already exists in democratic socialism, as it truly is the alternative to both rigid state control and free-market capitalism, abject failures in Russia and the Pacific Rim, respectively.

Philip Lindenback, Week es, Sask.


Customer relations

I have had very little problem with uncooperative clerks and business people (“Dishing out rudeness,” Special Report, Jan. 11). If there is rudeness crossing the retail counter, at least half of it is coming from the customer. The guy who thought up the expression “the customer is always right” opened a Pandora’s box.

Robert B. Dickie, Halifax

I’ve been a restaurateur (and retail businessman) my entire adult life and I agree with the article’s contention that the times are changing for the worse—but in the past few years it is the consumer who has become progressively ruder and poorertempered. Consumers greeted by bad manners from retailers can shop somewhere else. Retailers having to deal with bad manners from customers have to grin and bear it, or lose their trade.

Sam Drakich, Windsor, Ont.

I am a set-decoration buyer for the film industry (a professional shopper) and I am absolutely appalled by the dreadful customer service in many Toronto stores. Department stores are the worst, but the problem is everywhere. I want to scream at people: “Why do you put up with this bad service?” I, unfortunately, usually have a hysterical boss waiting on a film set and am forced to wait, but if it is not urgent, I put the items down and leave immediately if there are long lines or no one is serving me, and I urge others to do likewise. An individual does not have much power, but they do have power as a consumer and they rarely use it. I spend tens of thousands of dollars each year, and I try to spend as much of it as I can at small stores. I wish there was a regular forum for comments and complaints about retailers.

Shirley Gulliford, Toronto

Recovery through self-reliance

When Asians crossed the Bering Strait land bridge into North America 13,000 years ago, they discovered an abundance of mammoths that had never known a human spear. When Europeans arrived on the same continent 500 years ago, they discovered vast amounts of forests, buffalo, birds and fish that had never known an axe, a gun or (later) a hightech trawler. In both instances, the result was extinction, or near-extinction. It is one of our most abiding human characteristics that we learn painfully, by trial and error.

In the big picture, this is what we are facing today: the “Oops Factor,” as in “Oops— that didn’t work.” The modern age has been full of wonders—but it has been equally full of oopses. Fossil fuels? Oops. The overuse of antibiotics? Oops. Ocean-based fish farming? Oops. Chemically based agriculture? Oops.

The important question, especially for the forestry and fisheries communities that are suffering from post-oops trauma, is, “How do we recover?” What does the postoops world look like, and how do we marry sustainability with new jobs?

The people of Cortes Island on British Columbia's coast are considering one solution. After years of conflict with MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. over clear-cutting, the Cortes Island Ecoforest Co-operative is looking at the possibility of purchasing MacBlo’s 1,800 hectares of forest holdings and managing them in an ecologically certified manner. The proposal would bring secure, longterm jobs, with a steady flow of sustainably harvested forest products for sale.

A similar idea is already up and running

Guy Dauncey,


in Denmark, where 100,000 families in small rural co-operatives have become partners and investors in wind farms. It all started with one family who saw a future in wind power and decided not to do it the normal capitalist way. With such an urgent need to unhook ourselves from fossil fuels, could Vancouver Island communities that are blessed with West Coast storms also become partners in a major renewable energy operation?

The same could be asked about tidal energy. A Vancouver company, Blue Energy Canada Inc., has developed a tidal turbine that operates like an underwater windmill in passages where there are fast tidal rushes. They are negotiating a major contract with the government of the Philippines, and seem poised to become Canada’s next breakthrough in the sustainable energy field, following the success of Ballard Fuel Cells. Tidal and wind energy could supply electricity, and be used to manufacture the hydrogen to drive the fuel cells that will power our vehicles.

Ecotourism operations, expanded organic farming, eco-industrial parks—these can all be part of a community-financed economy. We have to tap into our own resources and our own self-reliance to dig our way out of the oops era. Depending on the largesse of government is only the mirror image of depending on the largesse of nature. The post-oops era must have balanced financial budgets and balanced ecological and watershed budgets. Then we can work our way back into this miraculous natural heritage into which we have all been born.

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.