October 17 2005


October 17 2005


Growing up in Hong Kong during an outbreak of the deadly strain of avian flu, H5N1, I would watch the mass poultry slaughters on television after my Saturday morning cartoons. I can still recall the apprehension of the city and the subdued panic of my parents. While Lianne George’s observations of our obsession with nonexistent epidemics were refreshing (“The real epidemic is fear,” Cover, Oct. 3), I wonder if there is a danger in dismissing fears of viruses such as West Nile and H5N1 as society’s funny fixations. There is certainly a danger in concluding that Canadian society is, statistically speaking, immune to the viruses that plague other parts of the planet. The world has become too interconnected for that school of thought. Judy Fu, Toronto

Shivering in our shoes

‘Fear is used by government, big business and the media to keep us, the masses, under control. Then we listen to whatever message makes us feel safe.’ -Ka¡ Hansen, Victoria

Letters to the Editor:

In your article about making fear the pandemic, the writer quotes a U.K. sociologist, and not an epidemiologist, saying: “There are very real threats, but they don’t always have to follow a Hollywood disaster movie script. We have ways to contain these things that would’ve been unthinkable even 10 years ago.” That’s a little like getting a quote from former FEMA director Michael Brown about hurricane disaster management. I’d expect more from a Canadian publication. Ned Hamson, Cincinnati

On target

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci’s conclusion regarding Paul Martin’s rejection of the U.S. missile defence program was simplistic (“Off target,” The Maclean’s Excerpt, Sept. 26). The government did not capitulate “to a minority of its own MPs” when it sent the Americans packing last February. The real reason was the Liberal Biennial Convention, which was to take place a few short days later. The vast majority of over 2,000 grassroots Liberals— youth, Quebec, and women’s wings most adamantly—were about to let the party leadership know exactly how they felt about the missile defence proposal over three televised convention days. To make matters worse, there would be a confidence vote on Martin’s leadership at the end of those three days. For the wrong reasons, Martin made the right decision. Consultation with members of a political party and with the general public may be an unfamiliar process to a representative of the world’s current superpower. That consultation and fear of humiliation had a rather profound effect on the Prime Minister’s decision.

Carolyn Parrish, MP, Mississauga, Ont.

I am sure that in Washington, people remember Iraq, missile defence, Carolyn Parrish and Françoise Dueros.

Gordon Ball, Ottawa

Paul Cellucci can’t understand why Paul Martin backed off joining the U.S. missile defence system. Perhaps the Prime Minister is an independent thinker. Perhaps he sees the folly of putting weapons in space. Perhaps he wants to be re-elected.

Jean Morrison, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Refugee status

I have read just about everything written about the New Orleans devastation, as my home is there—destroyed. Joseph Boyden’s story about going back after the hurricane (“All that remains,” Katrina: After the Flood, Sept. 26) is by far the most compeiling. I am working out of the country, but he made me feel that I was there with him. I forwarded his story to my wife, Nancy, and children, who are homeless and staying with relatives in Austin. She said, “That article is incredible! Where did you find it?” Thanks.

Jim Seal ¡se, New Orleans

The generosity and leadership shown by Frank Stronach in freely sharing his wealth with people in need is nothing short of astounding (“Movin’ on up”). How refreshing to see that there is at least one Stronach who is genuinely concerned about people and their well-being as opposed to being focused solely on self-aggrandizement.

David Goldsmith, Chatham. Ont.

Was it me or was it disheartening to read the article about the Katrina refugees who have taken up a new home at Frank Stronach’s Palm Beach, Fla., horse training facility? I felt for these people. Many Canadians gave donations to assist them in their time of need. It was my understanding that these donations were going to be put to good use and help them to survive, not live in the lap of luxury, especially using donated Red Cross money to help purchase a diamond ring. Last time I checked, engagement rings were not on the priority list for survival.

Mandi Walker, Sarnia, Ont.

All pumped up

I have a heated reply to Steve Maich’s column (“Bring on the $100 oil,” All Business, Sept. 26). Is he saying we should rejoice at the gas prices? A massive kick in the wallet is a massive kick in the wallet. If Canada is an energy exporter, and neither Katrina nor Rita came anywhere close to us, it makes no sense that our gas prices are skyrocketing. Knowing I’m being gouged by homegrown fat cats doesn’t make it feel any better. I can’t imagine how a huge gas price increase would help any non-OPEC nation’s economy. Maich says put on a sweater and get a bus pass. Guess I’ll have to—I can’t afford gas or heating oil, either. Hmm, wonder what I can burn to warm up the place. His article, maybe.

John Gavias, Kingston, N.S.

Steve Maich has hit the nail squarely on the head. The world has grown used to cheap oil and now it is receiving a rude awakening. The ironic thing is that oil has never been cheap, not when you measure its cost in dollars, and not environmentally, socially, or in human terms. Governments need to find ways to actively encourage conservation, create transit that people want to use, and regulate construction to mandate the use of energy saving practices. It is indeed encouraging when a business writer, of all people, manages to transcend the usual bottom-line mentality to see the bigger picture. Graham Tarling, Victoria

Amiel on the record

A week after the Mulroney-Newman story (“The secret Mulroney tapes,” Cover, Sept. 19), Barbara Amiel’s column appeared with a snippy reference to an interview she had given for a book, only to find that the story appeared in double-page spreads in London, New York and Toronto newspapers (“We just never learn,” Sept. 26). It did indeed. I co-wrote it. Amiel is newsworthy. As Peter C. Newman pointed out to me when I interviewed him, she often fails to consider the consequences of her actions. In this case, she provided a sitdown, on-the-record, tape-recorded interview to two journalists, billing it as a favour and the first time she’d given an interview since 2002. She noted that she advised businessmen not to do interviews unless they had something to say. She made it clear that one of her intents in speaking to us was to discuss the loss of her career as a writer as a result of her marriage to Conrad Black, and the pain from the charges of corporate malfeasance against him. As journalists, it would have been irresponsible not to report that. As Amiel knows, it is an easy fallback to plead the case for ignorance if you do not like the outcome. Joan Crockatt, Calgary

The best of Canada

I was touched by Paul Wells’s reflections on Adrienne Clarkson’s tenure as Canada’s 26th governor general (“She did us proud,”

The Back Page, Oct. 3).

I am a Canadian who lives in New York City, and I have been reflecting, especially since 9/11 and the current hurricane crises, on the growing philosophical disparities between Canada and the U.S. I was moved by Clarkson’s quiet strength in promoting Canada’s point of view. When I read excerpts of Clarkson’s speeches, the differences between Canada and the U.S. became immediately clear. Canada efficiently accepts immigrants, develops peaceful and respectful relationships with the world, and achieves prosperity. In America, maudlin and superficial appeals to patriotism have allowed the leaders of this country to systematically weaken the very spirit that built it into a great nation and a wonderful idea—a beacon of hope to the world. Canada is a place of limitless human possibility. Canadians should be grateful for what they have achieved together.

Get a bus pass? Put on a sweater? Hmm. What can I burn to warm up the place? Steve Maich’s article?

Douglas Toews, New York City

I’d like to thank Paul Wells for setting the record straight with respect to the 2003 visit by Adrienne Clarkson to my country, Finland. Her gesture of visiting the Hietaniemi Cemetery where our 84,000 Second World War dead are honoured was much appreciated. So was the fact that she brought with her in the Canadian delegation not just the usual governmental suspects but people from many walks of life, representing the many faces of modern Canada. The criticism directed at her because of that visit to Finland (and Russia and Iceland) was pennypinchingly small-minded. Most of Canada’s trade is with the U. S., but that is not a particularly intelligent reason to deny the governor general the chance to bring Canada to the rest of the world, Finland included. Pasi Patokallio, Ambassador of Finland to Canada, Ottawa

Readin’ and writin’ on the rails

My phone has been busy with people calling to say they saw a picture of my father, Fred Sloman, sitting at his desk in the school car in Maclean’s (“The big steel rail brought education to northern Ontario,” Maclean’s 100: From Our Pages, Sept. 26). The five of us Sloman children attended the school just as the other children did, and when we were old enough we helped with the teaching. It was a great way to grow up. The school car, now retired, is a museum in Clinton, Ont., the hometown of both my parents, and for many years now, my younger sister, Margaret, has been escorting ex-students of the school car, and schoolchildren who have never seen a school on wheels, through it. Thank you for the pleasant surprise.

Elizabeth Hillman, Professor of Paediatrics and Public Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa

Tipped off

I thought Ken MacQueen’s article on Smart cars was informative and well-written—until he brought up the tipping incidents (“Tiny tires time,” Life, Oct. 3). If that was an attempt at humour, it was lame and it is at the expense of all Smart car owners. Picture finding your car on its side—you wouldn’t find that funny! We should be doing everything possible to promote fuel-efficient, eco-friendly, safe vehicles like the Smart. Next time, think a little before you publish such a negative comment!

Glenn Kolano, London, Ont.