September 8 2003


September 8 2003


'The power-out was not an inconvenience, it was another example of poor government. How much will this massive blunder cost the taxpayer?' ROSS GRANT, Barrie, Ont.

Letters to the Editor:

Power struggle

The time is long past when each province, county and municipality can play its own tune to suit its own parochial interests in power management (“Unplugged,” Cover, Aug. 25). If we are to have an efficient power system, politicians will have to act like statesmen, for a change, to make sure that every electricity grid and transmission system is compatible and state of the art. The California experience with the privatization of its power system has shown that there are some things the private sector cannot be trusted with.

William Bedford, Toronto

So the power went off for a while. That warrants a cover story and endless drivel about the intestinal fortitude of eastern Canadians? In British Columbia this month, thousands of people were without power for days when fires took out the hydro lines. Hospitals and nursing homes had to be evacuated, generators had to be found for the sick and elderly. Grocery stores lost all their perishable inventory. There was no running water. Backyard cookouts were not a lark; they were a necessity as communities pulled together to help each other and share the burden. While Ontario residents were oohing and aahhing over their chance to see the stars, in British Columbia they watched the smoke and ash and wondered if the fire was going to make it to their doorstep. From this perspective, your self-congratulatory article is ridiculous.

E. J. Ward, Sexsmith, Alta.

W'hile I’m sure the power outage blame will be passed around like the proverbial hot potato, it will not likely come to rest in the politicians’ hands—where it belongs. Even though there were hundreds of people who fought the dismantling of Ontario Hydro by former premier Mike Harris, many of whom were knowledgeable in what this would ultimately mean to the province, Harris bowed to the big business interests that saw a massive profit for the taking. What the government refused to look at

was Ontario Hydro’s original mandate and mission statement, set by Sir Adam Beck so many years ago: cheap, reliable power sold to Ontario at cost. A simple statement, yet one that has significant impact in light of the blackout. While Ontario Hydro, being a monopoly and a bureaucracy, had its fair share of problems, it still fulfilled its mandate. Now you have a number of companies, all with a similar mandate—profit. Is it profitable to build a generating station? In the short term, no. It’s cheaper, and much more profitable, to purchase existing generation from the U.S.

Jim Duff, Burlington, Ont.

The blackout has made me seriously consider my current hydro bills. There is a charge for transferring power from the power plants to the city, and then a charge for moving power to my house, and then there’s an additional charge to help pay Ontario Hydro’s debt. I’m tired of watching my bill triple because of hydro company mistakes and paying to shuffle energy that I’m not even using around the province. On top of this, our hydro bill is likely to increase once again if there are any serious upgrades to be done to prevent another such blackout.

Christopher LaHaise, Ottawa

As I walked into Canadian Tire a week after the blackout, I was charmed to find a level of light lower than the normal brighterthan-midday glare. The effect was soothing and cool, like walking into an old-fashioned hardware store. Next, perhaps, an investment in large ceiling fans instead of air conditioning?

Brian Rutz, Kingston, Ont.

While we applaud ourselves and give accolades to all levels of government for the survival of hydro loss for as little as 24 hours in most cases, it is with much apprehension that I view our swaggering egotistical sense of accomplishment over surviving this minor power disruption. Let’s be realistic, we didn’t exactly surface from our homes after three days of shelling in the Mideast or experience the torrential rains that flood both the homes and streets of New Delhi on a regular basis, and yet we rejoice as if some cataclysmic event had just been averted. We have just witnessed an overindulged city with no conception of how critical our dependency has become on an infrastructure that is now bursting at the seams due to government mismanagement and complacency.

Daniel Kowbell, Toronto

Your statement that the blackout in Canada and the U.S. effected 2,400 sq. km is clearly incorrect. A glance at your adjacent map indicates you’re probably out by a factor of more than 300.

Bob Halliday, Saskatoon

I found myself disappointed yet not surprised to see the map suggesting that all of Ontario was in the dark. The truth is that the area of the province northwest of White River experienced no power failure. It is no wonder many northern Ontarians feel marginalized and detached from the rest of the province.

Adrian DiGiuseppe, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Yes, something wonderful did occur during the blackness—people got to know each other. All of our technology, so-called advances to better the human race, were thankfully set aside when the lights went out. We discovered that right next door were people who shared our fears and our joys; we rediscovered our own humanity. With any luck, we’ll enjoy blackouts more often—

and in the process, make our society finally mean something.

Don Horne, Cobourg, Ont.

Wagging the dog

I had to laugh when I read the three letters in The Mail section of the Aug. 25 issue (“Getting it right”) complaining about the cover photo showing a child holding on to a dog’s tail (“Reclaiming toxic ground,” Aug. 11). The letters claimed, incredibly, that the actions in the photo were abusive to animals. One writer called it “absolutely horrible.” As a dog owner, I would guess that the people who wrote these letters don’t own dogs. Otherwise they would have known that the minute the man threw the toy, the dog would probably have bowled the child over and she would have likely ended up crying on the grass. Perhaps this is a photo of child abuse?

Colleen Wilkinson, Vancouver

Clueless in Ottawa

I just cannot believe Stephen Harper (“‘Canada remains alienated,”’ Q&A, Aug. 25). Is this guy for real? He maintains Canada should have joined the war with Iraq so we could remain close to the U.S. He even says that the post-war troubles are to be expected. So this guy wants us to send our soldiers to a war and get them killed so that on issues such as mad cow the Americans would continue buying our beef? Tell that to the families of the four soldiers killed in Afghanistan, by Americans I might add. This guy doesn’t have a clue what Canada is all about. Tina Naftali, Montreal

Let me get this straight: Stephen Harper wants Canada to “stick together” with the Americans, because if we don’t, the U.S. will punish us on softwood lumber, mad cow and other issues. As an example of actions that we should have supported, Harper suggests the war on Iraq, even though it is now clear that Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction, Saddam’s ties to al-Qaeda, and U.S. interest in Iraq’s oil. In fact, Harper states, justification for the war on Iraq “wasn’t related” to the claim of WMDs. What planet has he been living on for the past year?

Jim Geiwitz, Victoria

As someone whose ancestors have stood up for king and country since the American

Revolution, I would like to tell Stephen Harper that times have changed. He implies that if my son and I went off to war, Canadian beef farmers would be just fine and eastern workers like myself wouldn’t be unemployed. How mercenary can you get? I have no intention of spending nearly four years in a POW camp like my father did after being sent to defend the Crown colony of Hong Kong. Canadians no longer believe in fighting in wars for other nations’ global interests.

Donald C. Mulrooney, Brownsburg-Chatham, Que.

Stephen Harper would make an excellent prime minister. He is not afraid to take a stand for what is right. Thus far, as leader of the official Opposition, Harper has pulled the Canadian Alliance out of debt, shown excellent leadership in organizing the party and has worked hard to keep the Liberals accountable to the Canadian public. Harper and the Canadian Alliance stood by our American allies in the war with Iraq, are working tirelessly to try to reopen the U.S. border to our beef, and are making a strong stand to uphold the traditional definition of marriage. People who want real leadership should take another look.

David Haitel, Edmonton

Sexual politics

Just to add something to Paul Wells’s fine article (The Back Page, Aug. 25), a Liberal politician recently admitted that he was concerned that the gay-marriage issue might cause the party to lose seats. For some MPs and their parties, the issue is not one of principle or privilege: it’s the usual Canadian political phobia, a morbid fear of losing seats.

Edward Cruddas, Toronto

I have become thoroughly enamoured of Paul Wells’s acerbic wit since he took over The Back Page, but I was terribly disappointed with his “Ottawa’s lost souls.” Gay marriage is one of the few items in Canadian politics in which the public is taking interest, which means there must be more than a “downtrodden minority” of MPs questioning this issue. Denigrating those who don’t rush headfirst into culture shock sounds more intolerant to me than trying to create dialogue on a thorny issue.

Daniel Mongrain, Oshawa, Ont.