Mind the fiscal gap
As often happens, most of the U.S. media’s talking heads appear to have succeeded in focusing Americans’ attention on the wrong topic. This time, it˙s the “fiscal cliff” (Obama Says A Deal ‘Is Within Sight’ But Not Yet Done – Dec. 31).
Sadly, our neighbours seem blissfully unconcerned (at best) or unaware (at worst) about the astronomical fiscal gap created by the unfunded and potentially unaffordable financial obligations their country is facing long into the future. They have mortgaged their children’s children’s future in the failed pursuit of immediate gratification. And even that immediate gratification is not ending up quite as planned.
The “fiscal cliff” is the tip of the iceberg. The fiscal gap is the other 90 per cent of the problem. If the U.S. continues in that vein, it will soon succeed in topping the PIIGS countries in terms of sheer fiscal ineptitude. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Before we Canadians self-congratulate, we should remember that our country is not lagging far behind in its implementation of this failed strategy.
On that note, all the best for 2013.
François Lambert, Montreal
The Age of Less
Here’s another trend of the past half a century (The Trends That Changed Our World – Dec. 28): This is also the Age of Diminished Expectations. Anyone who has read a timeline by futurists such as Arthur C. Clarke and Herman Kahn wonders whatever happened to the cure for cancer, nuclear fusion producing limitless energy, weather control and colonizing planets.
Jacob Mendlovic, Toronto
Beyond binary choices
Re Absolutism In The Church of Green (Dec. 31): The most common form of absolutism in our world is the assumption that we’re faced with binary choices on all difficult issues – remember George W. Bush’s line about being with us, or being with the terrorists?
When it comes to our natural resources, we need to break out of that simplistic pattern of thinking. It’s obvious we can’t suddenly stop exploiting our resources and maintain our current standards of living, but it’s important to recognize that exploding climate-change concerns will eventually have an impact on what the world will want to buy from us.
As a nation, we must shift more of our attention to planning for the future; we must invest our current windfall strategically, instead of behaving as if the world will never change.
Andreas Souvaliotis, Toronto
Below the B-team
John Ibbitson’s column (Rating the Ottawa A-Team – Dec. 31) scores the performance of various ministers of the Harper government. Missing from the A-team is Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore. I suspect that’s because heritage, and indeed arts and culture, flies well under the federal government’s radar.
Huge cuts to Library and Archives Canada, the slashing of funding for museums and arts programs, and the Harperization, er, fictionalization, of the War of 1812 put heritage under water, to completely muddle my metaphors. I would guess heritage and cultural interests would rate somewhere along the F-team or H-team level.
Gail Benjafield, St. Catharines, Ont.
CPP sticker shock
You dismiss forced saving within the Canada Pension Plan to protect spending and jobs now, and later to avoid coddling those with enough income to find “competent” advice (Let The Affluent Opt Themselves In – editorial, Dec. 31).
Yet, you would have the provinces get busy (They should! Without more savings, Ottawa’s delay of Old Age Security to 67 will be costly for them, and for upper “quintile” taxpayers). But instead of co-operating to boost CPP savings and pensions, you would have them promote an option put forward by those who also market mutual funds that are among the costliest in the world.
James Daw, Toronto
We’re supposed to be moving away from our school-to-prison pipeline but, instead, will create another symbol and comparison between schools and prisons (Locked Doors And The Problems Within – editorial, Dec. 29).
Surveillance cameras, policing and drug-sniffing dogs may just be a normal school day. We have the media to create a culture of fear, we don’t need policy-makers to do the same. We have the Safe Schools Act in Ontario, we have Bill 212 and Bill 157.
Let’s continue to reform our discipline codes, introduce peer mediation and other restorative practices, and continue to implement positive behaviour interventions and supports (such as in the area of mental health) – then student misbehaviour may once again become a learning opportunity.
We need more support in our schools in the form of psychologists and social workers. Many school boards wouldn’t even know what they look like.
Marvin Zuker, Toronto
Birth vs. citizenship
The central issue raised by the case of the autistic young woman facing deportation from the United States is not whether her non-Canadian parents should be allowed to accompany her to Canada, but rather whether Canadian law should permit persons without legal status in this country to transmit Canadian citizenship to their children simply because of their physical presence in Canada at the time of birth (A Daughter’s Future. A Difficult Choice – Dec. 29).
If, for example, the young lady in question had been born in the United Kingdom under the same circumstances as her birth in Canada, she would not have been entitled to U.K. citizenship because her parents would not have had legal status in Britain. There would be no question as to her destination, if the issue of deportation of her parents had arisen.
The Immigration Department’s decision in the case at hand not to let the parents return to Canada is well founded and should provide an incentive for the minister to address the underlying issue.
Raphael Girard, Ottawa
Next isn’t … next
Reading the Facts & Arguments essay (My Quarter-Life Crisis – Dec. 31) by a 25-year-old pondering the meaning of life, I thought: Isn’t it too bad that, now in my 90th year, having done some fairly heavy thinking along these lines myself, I don’t have some helpful advice.
I was reminded of the New Yorker cartoon with two Zen monks sitting side by side, cross-legged. The young one is looking quizzically at the old one, who’s saying “Nothing happens next. This is it.”
Jack Cassan, Toronto