MAIL BAG

January 9 2006

MAIL BAG

January 9 2006

MAIL BAG

T congratulate your editor for a first-rate interview with Santa Claus. Please keep up the humour and whimsy, and not just around Christmastime/

That’s a wrap

While 2005 was not much fun for many people, at least your year-end double issue, “Newsmakers 2005” (Dec. 26), was most entertaining. Happy New Year.

Dennis McMahon, Burlington, Vt.

Your double issue was a dog’s dinner with page after page of snippets connected (or not) confusingly to pictures by little numbers. It was just too much work to try to match the pictures to the often silly commentaries, and to make it worse, the format went on and on throughout the whole issue. Your From the Editors letter says that your art director and her crew were to be thanked for “bringing coherence to a cast of thousands.” I’m not sure they did. A.E. Mackintosh, Lansdowne, Ont.

What an informative, gentle and refreshingly innocent piece (Santa Claus talks to Kenneth Whyte, Interview). I congratulate your editor and publisher on conducting a first-rate interview with Santa Claus. I enjoyed reading it thoroughly even though I am Jewish. Please keep up the humour and whimsy at Maclean’s, and not just around Christmastime.

Irena Karshenbaum, Calgary

It was good to at last meet Santa in your pages. The Q & A with Santa biographer Gerry Bowler was funny, informative, and heart-warming. No lumps of coal for you guys!

Bruce Litteljohn, Bracebridge, Ont.

Just when the prospect of reading Maclean’s became as enticing as reading a new novel by some important CanLit author, you changed. Thank you. No longer do I endure a weekly doze-fest wondering whether I’m suffering from accelerated old age. Hiring Scott Feschuk? Outstanding. Kudos to a guy that has the potential to be a combination of Peter Gzowski and Rex Murphy. Keep it up, Maclean’s. God knows this country needs you.

J.R. Toone Sr., Winnipeg

Bashing the Liberals I found Paul Wells’ bash at the Liberal party quite entertaining (“He’s unbelievable,” National, Dec. 19). We all know Paul Martin isn’t a charismatic leader, and he certainly has a habit of making a big deal out of small measures (such as his gun registration and daycare improvements, which really just solidify existing legislation). What I think is important to remember is that we don’t elect politicians to charm and entertain us. We elect them to run our country as well as is humanly possible. Looking back at the past few years, one must admit that, overall, the Liberals have done a good job of keeping us on track. Gay marriage, a budget surplus, and a climbing dollar (which, much as it scares exporters, still means that we’re doing well enough for other countries to want to invest in us and buy our products) are just a few achievements that Mr. Dithers has managed to bring about in spite of his fear of commitment. Martin isn’t a man to make sweeping changes or elicit cheers from the teeming millions, but he is a man who quietly keeps Canada as strong as it’s ever been. Owen Hortop, Montreal

I appreciate Maclean’s coverage of the election campaign, but I don’t believe there is enough emphasis on the biggest issue facing voters: national unity. If Canada is dismembered by the departure of Quebec, then all bets are off. The foundations of our state, especially in provincial jurisdictions like health care, would be badly shaken, and all the political promises on child care, the GST, Aboriginal self-sufficiency and the military could amount to nothing. In this light, it particularly angers me that the federal party leaders cannot put aside their temptations to score petty political points on one another’s approach to unity. The latest example is Paul Martin’s characterization of Jack Layton’s support of the Clarity Act as a flip-flop. Martin should have welcomed the move. I was thinking of voting Liberal, but when it comes to the future of our nation, these counterproductive comments in support of shortsighted political gain are turning me off. Richard Archer, Ottawa

Urban vs. suburban

Robert Bruegmann’s apologia to urban sprawl (Interview, Dec. 12) was as bedazzling in its gall as in its intellectual legerdemain. The interview reads like a plausible defence, when much of it is actually a confession that the suburbias of today are guilty as charged. His defence consists of conjuring up idealized suburbias in a world that doesn’t exist, a world where cars are safe and clean, and suburban homes have solar power, and their owners pay the actual public costs of sprawl, many of which are now charged to general government revenues raised in part on the backs of the working poor who cannot afford to live there. One of the worst evils of the suburbs was not even addressed, and that is the banal life it inflicts on children and

teens. Outside of the home, suburbia’s unrelievedly homogenous tracts of houses and lifeless corridors of arterial roads deny them two key essentials for healthy development: the experience of nature and the stimulation of community life. Cities built with people, the environment and the public economy in mind would be land-conserving, mediumdensity, mixed-use, pedestrian and transitoriented, with lively public spaces, and flanked closely by wilderness woods and fields. That does not describe suburban sprawl, even in Bruegmann’s most wishful dreams. Dieter Heinrich, Toronto

Harper's cut to the GST would be a saving every time a lowincome family spent a dollar. Check it out. Do the math.'

Although Bruegmann claims that the costs of suburban development are passed down to the developers, external economic costs are abundant. Last month, Transport Canada reported that traffic jams—largely a result of single-car use in suburbs—cost the Canadian economy at least $6 billion each year in lost productivity. And as for Bruegmann’s claim that the car is the most efficient means of mass transit the world has ever devised, I would challenge him with the sight of a GO train passing thousands of cars stuck in traffic on Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway. The problem with the suburbs is not inherent to single-family detached housing. Suburbia can be home to efficient mass transportation. We just do not build it that way. Dan Thompson, Hamilton

In moving people efficiently, easily and individually from one place to another, cars contribute to the modern illusion that we are self-contained—connected neither to other people nor to our physical environment— and in control. Bruegmann speaks positively of such containment and control in his endorsement of low-density suburban developments. He argues that suburban sprawl offers privacy, mobility, and choice—benefits that the single person/family automobile both contributes to and shares. Clearly, desires for privacy, mobility and choice are not inherently negative; however, the reality of life in our society, and on our planet, is that human beings are not alone or in control. The individual who, day after day, travels to and from a suburban home in an automated private space is easily able to lose sight of the social and environmental costs of this convenience. Driving encourages individuals to forget, not only that the machines they are driving are seriously jeopardizing the immediate future of our planet, but also that there are other people in the world. Heather Burt, Vancouver

Tax cuts and good sense

I must disagree with Steve Maich and his read on the two proposed tax cuts (“Voters, pick your poison,” Dec. 26). He refers to the “smart tax cut” of the Liberals and mentions the reduction of income taxes by $30 billion over five years. I bet next week the Liberals will be doubling that figure by offering a cut of $60 billion over 10 years. Who’s the dumbest one of all? Please someone tell me how much income tax a family of four earning $20,000 a year will pay? So what is the saving of one per cent on income tax worth to a family living below or near the poverty line? How much would the same family save if the income tax was reduced by 50 per cent? On the other hand, it will cost the same family their total earnings to pay for the essentials, such as clothing, food, heat and shelter, and household items. Yet Stephen Harper’s one per cent to two per cent proposed cut to the GST is a saving every time a low-income family spends a dollar. Check it out, do the math, and stop annoying and insulting the intelligence of marginal wage earners.

Carvell Antworth, Fredericton

Steve Maich has shown a good effort to analyze various issues objectively but on the Conservative proposal to reduce the GST, he has missed some points that most economists are ignorant of or are deliberately choosing to ignore. While he says that a large portion of spending is on GST exempt items/services such as mortgages, rent, and food, we must remember that there is GST hidden in all of those costs. Also, if a mortgage is on the purchase of a new home, albeit with some GST rebate, the interest paid yearly is based on the total borrowed, including the GST. The same applies to new car purchases and to any borrowing to pay for goods or services purchased on credit. People at the low or middle levels would have more money in their pockets through a reduction in the GST based on savings on interest as well. Consider also the Liberal idea to cut the dividend tax rate along with various other manipulations of income taxes. These measures do little to help the poor. I believe that you have to walk a mile in the shoes of the poor to realize the importance of reducing the GST.

John Cousins, Oshawa, Ont.

Lesbians and good news

Exactly who determines what constitutes Good News and Bad News and how are they arriving at this judgment? I am outraged by your inclusion in Good News (“Try the Legion,” 7 Days, Dec. 12) the story of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal that found that the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic service organization, were within their rights to deny a banquet hall to two lesbians for their wedding reception. The entrenchment of bigotry hidden under the guise of religious freedom is not good news to many Canadians. Peter Sinclair, Toronto

Holy typo!

I noticed that in your television story “Two shows succumb to Saturday Night fever,” (The Back Pages, Dec. 26), you write, “The classic comedy show has lost it’s cutting edge.” Mr. Whyte, if you ever let something like this get by you again, I will fly to Toronto to swat your hands. Now let’s go over the rules: it’s is a contraction of it is. Its is the possessive form of it. Got it?

Anne Baker, Saint John, N.B.

Kong and Humpty Dumpty

Brian D. Johnson is mistaken when he says stop-frame animation was invented for the original 1933 version of King Kong (“We Love You Ya Big Ape,” Dec 12). Kong’s animator, Willis O’Brien, had used the technique earlier in The Dinosaur and the Missing Link (1917) and The Lost World (1925). But its true inventor was more likely to have been Albert E. Smith. Who can forget his Humpty Dumpty Circus of 1898? Tim Rostron, Toronto

'Where is it written that Canada should be debating the war in Iraq in our election campaign? As an ally of the U.S., we cannot exempt ourselves and, at the same time, offer advice and debate on the merits of that war.'

Staying out of Iraq

Where is it written that Canada should be debating the war in Iraq in our election campaign (“Should Iraq be an issue?” Dec. 12)? Or at any other time for that matter. Columnist Peter Mansbridge should be told that you cannot suck and blow at the same time. Ergo, as an ally of the U.S., you cannot exempt yourself from the Iraq war and at the same time offer advice and debate on the merits of that war. At least Mansbridge recognizes that the U.S. is our most important ally and biggest trading partner, but he and the rest of the Canadian media and our government should have the good grace to either put up or shut up on the entire matter of the U.S. involvement in Iraq. Our neighbours and friends to the south are having their own debate on the issue and Canadians should leave it to them to resolve. Eric Hayne, Edmonton

Mansbridge must be running out of interesting things to write about. If any of our political leaders want to talk about pulling Canadian troops out of Afghanistan, that would be something that they have a right to discuss, but Iraq should be off limits. Iraq is a situation that was unilaterally created by the U.S. for reasons unclear to many of us and it should now be their responsibility, and theirs alone, to get it properly resolved.

Doug Paquette, Greenfield Park, Que.