The Mail

The Mail

December 24 2001
The Mail

The Mail

December 24 2001

The Mail

Out of money-and credit

You have penned a most accurate picture of the spiralling debt problems facing many Canadian consumers (“The debt bomb,” Cover, Dec. 10). As a trustee in bankruptcy, I am witnessing an uncontrolled growth in personal debt. Retail competitiveness, manifesting itself in offers of no money down and no payments until whenever, zero-per-cent interest rates and the constant media bombardment of buy, buy, buy is frequently too much for consumers who have been conditioned to believe that more is better. Their disposable income has been exhausted in meeting normal living expenses. They are no longer able to take cash advances on credit cards to make the minimum monthly payments on their consumer debts, such as other credit cards, bank loans, car loans, etc. Many Canadians are now having to consider declaring bankruptcy because they no longer have the ability to service their financial obligations. Brian A. McLay, London, Ont.

There is another solution to the problem of personal debt. Write a book on personal finance, put in a raft of recycled ideas and tacky inspirational statements, and watch the money roll in. Unfortunately, my book would be very short and entirely “unsexy.”

How to Reach Us

by e-mail (no attachments, please)

• For letters to the editor, press releases, story proposals: letters@macleans.ca

With letters, please supply name, address and daytime telephone number. We welcome readers’ views, but letters may be edited for space, style and clarity. Selected letters may appear In Maclean's electronic sites.

• For Over to You: submissions@macleans.ca Submissions to our Over to You guest column that reflect the concerns, joys and lessons of everyday life should contain no more than 1,000 words.

• For subscriptions or delivery problems: service@macleans.ca

or call 1-888-622-5326 or 416-596-5523 Maclean's Magazine, 777 Bay St.,

Toronto, Ont. M5W 1A7

Editorial Department: (416) 596-5386

Fax: (416) 596-7730

It would read something like this: watch your spending and buy only what you need, work hard and save for a rainy day, get good health insurance and pray for a great marriage.

Scott Oliver, London, Ont.

A few years ago, I was a young single mom with two kids and limited resources.

I was careful with money, had no debts and was able to get by on a part-time income and child support. I got married in 1993 and my new husband earned a decent wage. So I started using credit more and more because I thought there was more money coming in. I now owe about $2,000 on my MasterCard and about $250 on my Zellers card. But after reading this article, I didn’t hesitate-—I cut up the Zellers card. And I’m going to keep the MasterCard in my socks-and-undies drawer. Thanks for the eye-opener.

Annette Bachmann, Regina

There’s only one sure way to keep out of debt. It happens to be the one essential element of budgeting: don’t spend more than you take in. Unfortunately, our society —including our governments—has forgotten that elementary lesson in economics. Edwin R. Jones, Kamloops, B.C.

Your article suggested throwing away the credit-card invitation envelopes unopened. You should have said unopened and ripped into shreds. Identity thieves thrive on unopened credit-card pitches. All they have to do is fill in the pertinent data, detail a change of address, and they have a credit card delivered to them with your name on it.

Rosanna MacDougall, Calgary

‘Uncertainty and fear’

Your report of Wahabbi mosques and schools such as Um AÍ Qura in Canada is very troubling (“Divided by fear,” Canada and the World, Dec. 10). How can those

The Canadian way

I am delighted to say that I have been able both to retain my Canadian citizenship and to sit in the British Parliament. So could have Conrad Black, if he had stood (successfully) for election and democracy, instead of for the aristocracy and feudal privilege (“Over and Under Achievers,” Overture, Nov. 12). Rob Marris, MP (Wolverhampton South West), House of Commons, London

who teach their children intolerance and hatred of non-Muslims as “infidels” and “the enemy” expect tolerance and acceptance of themselves and their children in Canadian society? And how can ordinary Canadian Muslims expect to escape their present shadow of uncertainty and fear if they do not get off the fence and renounce the extremists in their midst?

David Cottle, Niagara Falls, Ont.

Our courts sentenced Holocaust denier Jim Keegstra for allegedly teaching that the Jews are our enemies. Will these same courts now prosecute these Muslims for preaching hate in school and mosque? Or would that be politically incorrect?

H. L. Wipprecht, Cobalt, Ont.

We have lived in the Kennedy-Eglinton area of Toronto for nearly 10 years and have never heard anyone call our neighbourhood “Little Beirut.” That name diminishes the rich diversity of this community that surrounds the mosque in your story. Our area could just as easily be called “Little Belfast” or “Little Bombay” or a dozen other names, as we have significant numbers of people from all five continents in our community. That’s what makes us proud to live and raise our children here.

Janet Klees and Harry van Bommel, Toronto

High drama

I was quite taken aback by a comment by the McGill campus tour guide regarding the “theatre department” at McGill University (“Choosing the right university,” Cover, Nov. 19). As Ann Dowsett Johnston reports, a mother from Connecticut asks, “Does McGill have a strong theatre department?” And the guide replies, “No. In fact, I would say we have a terrible

The Mail

theatre department.” I am a graduate of the drama and theatre stream through the English department at McGill, and I couldn’t disagree more. Albeit true that the drama and theatre program does not cater to students who plan to make their livelihoods in the performing arts, McGill provides a strong academic background to the study of drama. Furthermore, the campus theatre scene at McGill is alive and well with three active theatres for general use. Theatre at McGill (not necessarily as part of the program) is vital not only to the McGill community, but to the anglophone community of Montreal.

Amelia Franklin, Toronto

Marconi and Tesla

I enjoyed your article on the Marconi centennial (“The dot-dot-dot revolution,” History, Dec. 10). Your mention of Guglielmo Marconi moving to Cape Breton when his work was stymied in Newfoundland by the Anglo-American Telegraph Co. brings to mind an interesting snippet of Canadian history. Not long after Marconi was told by the AngloAmerican that it had a monopoly over transaban tic transmissions, he was sitting in a St. John’s restaurant obviously feeling sorry for himself. Enter a friendly stranger to whom Marconi pours out the story about the telegraph company and his problems with it. The stranger turned out to be a senior Canadian postal official on a visit and, after their chat, he contacted the dynamic postmaster general in the Laurier government, William Mulock (presumably by telegraph), and told him that Marconi was on to a good thing. Mulock swiftly moved to offer Marconi the hospitality of Canada for his experiments in return for some concessions. So if the Anglo-American had not enforced its monopoly, and if Marconi hadn’t coincidentally met up with the Canadian official, he would probably not have come to Cape Breton. But that’s history for you. Prof. Robert Pike, Department of Sociology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont.

Marconi may have received the first wireless transmission, but he did not invent radio. His patent application in 1900 was rejected as a duplicate of Nikola Teslas patent, which predated Marconi’s by more than three years. In 1943, the U.S.

Supreme Court affirmed Tesla as the sole inventor of radio. Tesla, who held 112 patents at the time of his death, pioneered many technological items that we take for granted today, including alternating current and electric motors. Due to his complete lack of business sense, he never got rich and has been mostly forgotten, but the world would be much different without his inventions.

Scott Carpenter, Kentville, N.S.

More bitter, angry people?

After reading the article “Pity the children” (Canada and the World, Dec. 10), I wonder if the children of Afghanistan are just considered collateral damage in the fight against terrorism. In avenging the acts of Sept. 11, ostensibly in the name of making our world a safer place with the extinction of fanatics and those who harbour them, are we not creating (or perpetuating) another generation of bitter, disillusioned and angry people? These children will remember their formative years as containing all the horrors that war can bring. I worry that the educational and health benefits that will be necessary in the aftermath of this war will not be forthcoming once the ultimate goal—getting Osama bin Laden—is reached. The U.S.led forces have the power to assist in bringing these children to adulthood without bitterness and further hatred. Furthermore, I hope that we are not teaching children all over the world that revenge is the right way to solve problems.

Nancy E. Newnham, Blenheim, Ont.

Foth and Air Canada

Perhaps after he recovers from his sputtering tirade against Air Canada and its boss, Robert Milton (“Dear Bob: ‘Get real!’ ” Dec. 10), Allan Fotheringham might pause to consider how the rest of us —who can’t afford to fly anywhere—feel about Air Canadas imminent demise. Militant labour unions and their usurious wage demands have overloaded the plane with excess baggage, rendering Air Canada too bloated to fly. More laughable is Milton’s

i heartrending Oliver Twist routine with the I federal government, assessing blame for I Air Canada’s problems on Osama bin 1 Laden. Air Canada should be made to sink 2 or swim on its own. It’s the only way to survive in the real world of airline competition in a more cautious world. Like many, I will be keeping my feet on the ground for now. Mark Alan Whittle, Hamilton

Amen, Allan Fotheringham. Pass the stale peanuts and give me the window seat. A flight over the Canadian Rockies is as good as it gets.

Geoff Allen, Guelph, Ont.

Over many years of travelling, I have found Air Canada to be far better than most American and European airlines, only exceeded by some, such as Cathay Pacific, in terms of meals and service. On a recent trip, the meals, even in economy class, were very good and the flight attendants were efficient, friendly and attentive. Furthermore, my worst case of baggage loss (diverted to Rome for four months) was not by Air Canada!

Lea Barker, Ottawa

The solution to Air Canada’s woes is right in front of our eyes: put Allan Fotheringham in charge. With the improved pay, he could stay aloft forever, continuing to identify Really Big Problems affecting the industry: giggling flight attendants, bad food, dumb movies and—worst of all—a humourless boss. AI could offer a more challenging read than the directions found on those barf bags. How about samples of his side-splitting columns, or would gales of laughter from fellow passengers distract him from Canada’s magnificence—as seen through a six-by-10-inch window above the clouds at 35,000 feet?

Lorrie Wood, Thetis Island, B.C.