TB-free, by rights
Having just diagnosed our 100th case of tuberculosis this year, I couldn't agree more that the disease should be eradicated from Nunavut. But can it be? This debate is as complex as the disease itself. Some experts argue that controlling TB is the only goal within reach, given the social factors that play a role in its persistence. However, isn't it worth setting an ambitious goal?
In addition to aggressive screening and medical treatment, why not address poverty and overcrowded housing as part of the TB strategy? Nunavummiut deserve a territory free of TB; there is no question that more can be done to achieve this. I hope the federal Health Minister takes note of your editorial (Conquer It - Dec. 14).
Katherine Breen, TB physician, Qikiqtani General Hospital, Iqaluit
I return to London this week after four years as British High Commissioner. It has been a privilege to serve in this great country.
My one sadness is that, over that period, Canada has still not got to grips with the climate issue. Margaret Wente's wearily predictable commentary on the outcome of Cancun (Great News from Cancun! - Dec. 14) reminds me of why progress has been so difficult. She is at once illogical (because the goal is "a very long way off," it is hubristic to begin the journey), unfunnily sarcastic ("King Canute, come on down") and content to jeer from the sidelines.
If, as she predicts, the world will some day be powered by clean energy, that will not come about by accident but because people choose to make it happen. If Ms. Wente's goal is to provoke debate, she can feel well pleased with herself. But her satisfaction comes at a heavy price for her country and the world. Each year that we delay the long transition to low carbon, we force up the economic and human cost of it.
Anthony Cary, British High Commissioner, Ottawa
Sometimes it's instructive to compare several news stories, essays and columns that appear in one day's paper - for example, Tuesday's front-page story, Debt Alert, the op-ed essay about the unsustainability of Canada's health-care system (Is There A Task Force In The House?), and Margaret Wente's ironically titled column, Great News from Cancun! What these pieces have in common is the focus on demand and supply. At least Ms. Wente has the courage to give us the bad news: that it's an illusion to expect simple solutions to very complex problems. Environmentalists, governments, politicians of all stripes, and, yes, the rest of us, like to engage in tokenism. Let's all turn off our lights for a couple of hours, drink our beer by candlelight in our local pub, and then drive home in oversized vehicles to heated swimming pools and air conditioners.
We want to maintain the status quo but resist paying the price. What is needed is enlightened self-interest. And let's stop expecting politicians to solve technical problems.
Jack McFadyen, Toronto
While Australia has dropped the penny as a circulating coin (Time For Change - Dec. 14), it is still retained in pricing. If you pay a bill for $24.97 using a credit or debit card, you pay $24.97, but if you pay cash, it'll be rounded down to $24.95.
Maurice Mandale, Sackville, N.B.
Faulty analysis and unhelpful recommendations (Is There A Task Force In The House - Dec. 14) won't fix medicare's problems. Health-care costs are not exploding; inflation-adjusted expenditures rose by only 1.4 per cent last year and dropped as a share of our economy. These trends will continue for the foreseeable future.
Health care is replete with waste. We spend billions on drugs that should not be prescribed and then billions patching patients up from side effects. Up to one-fifth of elderly patients are readmitted to hospital within one month of discharge when home-care nursing would avert half these situations. Improving quality is the key to sustainability.
High-performing organizations such as the U.S. veterans health system have demonstrated it is possible to achieve the triple aim of improved quality, enhanced services and cost control. Where is the Canadian political leadership to lead us in this direction?
Michael Rachlis, MD, Toronto
Gwyn Morgan (It's A Long, Hard Road Ahead For Electric Cars - Dec. 13) is unnecessarily pessimistic. Electric motors are about four times as efficient as the best gasoline engines so that even in the U.S., you would still be slightly ahead of the game with respect to GHG emissions. In a jurisdiction like Ontario, where electricity generation is cleaner, reductions in GHG emissions would be much more substantial.
Most electric cars would be charged at night, when Ontario has surplus generation capacity. A 50-kilometre commute, for a vehicle such as the Nissan Leaf, would require about 12 kWh of electricity, or about as much as a space heater uses in eight hours. Currently, 12 kWh of electricity would cost about $1.20, the cost of a litre of gasoline. You will not travel 50 km on a litre of gasoline.
Michael Ivanco, vice-president, Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, Mississauga
Canadians earning $100,000 or more give about 0.5 per cent of their income to charities, less than half the rate at which lower income earners contribute (Mugged At The Cash Register - Dec. 14). If those earning $100,000 or more a year contributed their fair share, perhaps there would be little need for mugging at the cash registers.
Don Taylor, Mississauga
Last year, on a minus 30 degree night, I was closing the doors of the church where I am a minister (Crumbling Churches Risk Burying Their Treasures - Dec. 14) when I heard a strange sound: snoring. (I will call it a divine snore.) Under our Christmas tree, a man was curled in a fetal position, asleep. We are now in the process of restoring our 100-year-old heritage building and adding 13 units of affordable housing. We have heard the call. We are living our shared values, radical hospitality, spirituality and social justice.
Perhaps the words "No room at the inn" will be words of the past. Everyone deserves a place to sleep.
John Pentland, minister, Hillhurst United Church, Calgary
Under the stands
James Mirtle (Boo Birds Circle Struggling Team As Losses Keep Piling Up - Dec. 11) noted that more and more seats at Leafs games are going empty, "especially late in games after the Leafs get behind by several goals."
What I notice on Leafs telecasts are the large number of empty seats behind the team benches when the second and third periods start. They eventually fill up, but I'd love to have access to what I suspect are under-the-stands negotiations to convince fans to return to their expensive seats. Hardball threats? Desperate pleading?
Maybe they just lock the doors.
Greg Blake, Fredericton