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Ex-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff addressing supporters last year in Toronto. Today’s topics: Oda and out?; Michael Ignatieff and Canada’s head-heart divide; the ‘Ugly Canadian’?; apropos Alberta … and more (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ex-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff addressing supporters last year in Toronto. Today’s topics: Oda and out?; Michael Ignatieff and Canada’s head-heart divide; the ‘Ugly Canadian’?; apropos Alberta … and more (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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April 26: Letters to the editor Add to ...

Oda and out?

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda recently defended $380-million in overseas aid cuts in this year’s budget as an exercise in accountability. Accountability involves both top-down and bottom-up practices: $665-a-night stays at London’s Savoy hotel, $16 glasses of orange juice and $1,000-a-day limousine services are in sharp contrast with responsible behaviour and are unacceptable to the Canadian public (Oda Apologizes For Hotel-Upgrade Costs – April 25).

We need a zero-tolerance policy for such spending excesses. Any elected official or civil servant who misuses travel or other privileges should be required to resign.

David Levy, North Vancouver

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The National Citizens’ Coalition, once led by Stephen Harper, is calling on Bev Oda to resign her post. Why hasn’t Mr. Harper fired her? How can he expect his government’s message of restraint to ring true when he allows her pattern of behaviour to continue? This is not the first or even the second time her excessive spending has come to light.

The PM’s sign-off message to Ms. Oda should be clear: It’s Oda and out.

Leslie Allan, Calgary

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Head-heart divide

Sometimes the truth simply slips out when you least expect it (Quebec Comments Out Of Context – April 25). Thinking out loud, Michael Ignatieff muses that so many powers were conceded to Quebec in response to the 1995 referendum (a “near-death experience”), that we have become indifferent. During the hearings of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1963) an elderly Québécois tried to explain, saying that Quebeckers had to learn English to do business but they needed French to pray. The head speaks English, the heart speaks French.

Mr. Ignatieff gets it. The gap was never, nor will it ever be, bridged. We like each other, but we go home to different families.

Hugh McKechnie, Newmarket, Ont.

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The identity crisis that contributed to his failure as Liberal Party leader continues to dog Michael Ignatieff. Sometimes he speaks as an academic and intellectual, a person who tries to tell the truth as he sees it, even when that truth is uncomfortable or challenging. I’ve watched his entire BBC interview, and it’s a wide-ranging, thoughtful discussion of the consequences of separatist tensions, with implications for all federated and multinational nations; at times, Scotland and Canada are only his jumping-off points.

Sometimes, alas, he speaks as a politician, a person who tries to hold a cause or party together, even if that requires spinning. His letter to The Globe (Ignatieff On Quebec – April 25) attempting to set the record straight shows him in this vein, unfortunately.

In the BBC interview, Ignatieff the academic intellectual says things like, “We survived the referendum, but it did us damage” – a tough-minded claim, worth thinking about and arguing over. In his letter, Ignatieff the politician says things like “We must not drift apart and we must not allow illusions about each other to divide us. Canada is bigger than our differences.” O Canada! Let’s all join hands and close our eyes and hope for the best.

I know which Iggy I prefer. Too bad for the Liberals (and perhaps for Canada) that the intellectual so easily yields to the politician.

W. Brock MacDonald, Toronto

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Viewer v. curator

No wonder some people find art exhibitions intimidating (Picasso Comes To Town – April 25). No explanatory panels will accompany the works of Picasso on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario as, heaven forbid, viewers might like to broaden their understanding and appreciation by reading them but, in so doing, will interrupt the flow in the gallery.

According to the curator of the Musée National Picasso, Anne Baldassari, “An exhibition is not a text, is not a book. We don’t need any explanation at the first level of contact …” What utter nonsense. Providing context for a piece empowers viewers to expand their knowledge, should they wish to do so. It leaves that choice to the viewer rather than the curator.

Ms. Baldassari should come down from the rarefied heights of art academia and mingle with those of us who are willing to learn and expand our appreciation of art.

George Molloy, Toronto

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Knowledge central

The complaints of Harvard Library, about subscription costs to journals, are only the tip of an enormous iceberg (High Price Of Journals Hits Harvard – April 25). Not only do governments spend billions, annually, on grants to commercial publishers, but these publishers do an amazingly inefficient job. It is not uncommon for publications in some fields to take three years to print an article, while insisting that the (completely unpaid) submitter embargo its contents so as to keep the research findings “fresh.”

It is now far easier for an undergraduate to share the events of his night out than it is for a senior researcher to share her contributions to human knowledge. The first government or publishing company or academic body to set up a truly modern academic publishing system will not only divert billions of dollars back into actual research, but will sit at the centre of the next century in human knowledge.

Nick Gunz, Toronto

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‘Ugly Canadian’?

An analysis of the websites of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch presents a devastating picture of life in Honduras (Urban Prosperity In The RED – April 25). Eighteen journalists assassinated in the two years since the military coup, a lack of judicial independence, disputed election results, suspension of civil liberties, hundreds of government opponents arbitrarily detained and the impunity afforded police and military have all been revealed.

Sadly, Canadian companies have taken advantage of the disastrous economic conditions in Honduras, despite widespread criticism of labour abuses and environmental degradation. Just as disappointing, Stephen Harper has signed a free-trade agreement with Honduras and travelled there to legitimize this role. Is this the kind of mentorship that is needed? In Latin America, the term “Ugly American” is quickly being replaced by “Ugly Canadian.” Pity …

John M. Kirk, professor of Latin American studies, Dalhousie University, Halifax

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Apropos Alberta

Letter-writer Glenn Woiceshyn (Alberta’s Afterpains – April 25) suggests that “the intellectually bankrupt left” fails to recognize either capitalism's “ability to improve our lives” or socialism’s “failure and social destruction.”

“Intellectually bankrupt”? Nah, we’re just bankrupt. It seems a lot of folks are, these days. I seem to recall it tracing back to the “failure and social destruction” of, umm, capitalism.

Peter Gorman, Toronto

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Danielle Smith says Wildrose has to revisit its policy on conscience rights, an Alberta pension plan, provincial police force and the environment (Wildrose Party Willing To Modify Policies – April 25). This ability to shift in the wind makes me believe Ms. Smith would make an excellent running mate for Mitt Romney. Sadly though, she cannot see Alaska from her backyard.

Rick Durst, Milford Bay, Ont.

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