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Dec. 29: Letters to the editor Add to ...

So no holiday?

It's simply not true that Sir John A. Macdonald was “almost single-handedly responsible for bringing together our country” (Sir John A. Day? – Dec. 28). Although his contribution was essential, it was no more so than the contributions made by other men, most notably Montreal's George-Étienne Cartier and Toronto's (and The Globe's) George Brown.

Michiel Horn, professor emeritus of history, York University

Baird's mandate

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, in defending Canada's policies abroad, says it's all for the good of Canada (Tories Crafting Foreign Policy With A Harder Edge – Dec. 28): “My job is to stand up for Canadian values and Canadian interests.” But isn't his job also to co-operate with other countries in trying to fix global problems such as climate change, refugees and armed conflict?

It's ironic that, even as Mr. Baird laments the unhealthiness of short-term thinking that attended recent minority governments, his approach to foreign affairs is one of the most parochial to be seen in decades.

Dale Hildebrand, Toronto

G-G's message

Governor-General David Johnston's call for Canadians to continue to show generosity toward each other (Canadian Giving Subject Of Governor-General's New Year's Message – online, Dec. 28) is particularly poignant when, during this supposed festive season, so many people are waiting in despair for the federal government to process their EI claims.

If, as Mr. Johnston says, the gift of giving is ingrained in our society, one can't help but wonder how we've allowed the Harper government to display such a marked lack of generosity to those among us struggling to find work and pay the rent, let alone treat their loved ones to something special for the holidays.

D. Philip Cameron, Regina

Voiceless? Our fault

Antonia Maioni (A Wish List For 2012 Canada – Dec. 28) says, “As a Quebecker, I'm speechless at the weakness of the province's voice in Ottawa. Is this the legacy le bon Jack bestowed on us?” If Quebec's voice is weak, it's not a Layton legacy. Quebeckers bestowed him on Ottawa – they're responsible.

It's time we stopped blaming politicians for weak voices or poor public policy, or government we don't like. It's we the people, the voters, who're failing. We're voting for the “just another politician” types who haunt our legislatures. Or we don't vote at all, enabling politicians to slip into office on pluralities that breed weak government.

Occasionally, these pluralities see a minority of voters electing a majority government, but the resulting strength is in personality, not government.

Greg Schmidt, Calgary

Way of the Wi-Fi

Your editorial on children's literacy (Honey, I Shrunk The Books – Dec. 27) concludes: “Reading is oxygen to the young, and the air should be rich with it.” But our atmosphere is now replete with Wi-Fi. We can shut the stable door, but a generation of young colts has already bolted into our electronic culture of distraction.

Imagination is no longer required, nor is the voice inside your head that transforms a sentence on the page into an intimate dialogue with the self. Kids were once better than adults at this kind of creative reading.

Two years ago, I introduced a Grade 12 English class to an e-book. One student ran his finger over the still words on the screen. “What else does it do?”

Change is indeed in the air. Maybe one day the oxygen will be as virtual as the reading.

Colin Brzezicki, St. Catharines, Ont.

Way of the moose

As Christmas is a good time for children's stories, we probably should thank Neil Reynolds for reminding us about Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose. But I'm less certain about his interpretation of the story. Are our public servants really the free riders in the antlers of Canada's welfare state?

Your paper has reported on the problems facing the unemployed over their EI benefits; the minister has promised to investigate. I think some sober reflection will suggest public servants who provide public goods (health, safety, education, infrastructure) aren't the free riders Mr. Reynolds implies. If they truly provided nothing in return, Canada would be much less than it is today.

Public servants didn't cause the financial crisis of 2008. Slashing the provision of public goods so private consumers can plow themselves further into debt isn't going to solve our problems.

Mark Wolfgram, Ottawa

The rebate challenge

The motivation behind Ontario's decision to offer tuition rebates to 320,000 college and university students is commendable (Ontario To Offer Tuition Rebates – Dec. 28). Putting more resources into postsecondary education will ensure Ontario has a labour force ready to compete globally.

In your article, Sandy Hudson, chair of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students, criticizes the government's approach, saying it doesn't provide money to the wealthiest students and families (i.e., those earning more than $160,000 a year): “The way to make sure that all students who need financial assistance will get it is to make sure that you have a tuition reduction for all.”

While Ms. Hudson says too many students are being excluded, we say too many are included, that the program should be fine-tuned to target only those students for whom tuition remains a barrier to their access to college or university. Such a strategy would save money, and allow for more assistance to go to those who truly need it.

Ross Finnie, University of Ottawa, and Richard Mueller, University of Lethbridge

Going …

On a roadside leading to a New Brunswick lumber mill: Accident-free days: 1.

Denise Loader, Toronto

.......

On Interstate 5, entering San Diego: “Cruise ships use Exit 11.”

Dewi Williams, Kanata, Ont.

.......

Brass plaque on a low-slung beam in a Lancashire, England, pub: “Duck or grouse.”

George Hutchison, Toronto

… going

Growing up in Manitoba, we often took country drives that went past the Stony Mountain penitentiary. My father thought this sign made great sense: “Federal Prison – Keep Out.”

David Crowe, Toronto

.......

A sign in front of a butcher shop: “ Watership Down – you read the book, you saw the movie, now eat the cast.”

Brian Caines, Ottawa

… gone

I hope a sign I see every day will be the last word on the deluge of letters about silly signs: “Stop.”

Michael Smith, St. Marys, Ont.

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