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Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, right, speaks to the media during a press conference over the robo calls issue. Today’s topics: robo-called to account; Bob Rae’s apology; BTW less is more; railway men; silence ... and more (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, right, speaks to the media during a press conference over the robo calls issue. Today’s topics: robo-called to account; Bob Rae’s apology; BTW less is more; railway men; silence ... and more (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

What readers think

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

Robo-caution

Stephen Harper has an 11-seat cushion for his majority government, winning 166 seats in May (Tories Try To Contain Dirty-Tricks Charges – Feb. 28). It’s worth noting that Elections Canada numbers indicate that three of those ridings were won by fewer than 100 votes. When you raise that number to fewer than 700, you add another six districts across the country where the Conservative candidate prevailed.

If those results were overturned at some point, it would still leave Mr. Harper with a majority government. But what if the number were raised to 1,000 or fewer votes? Say goodbye to Mr. Harper’s majority. So my question is: Where is the point at which federal districts would require a by-election? And how would you know for sure that those, say, 1,000 robo-called constituents would have voted for anyone but Mr. Harper?

Peter McKenna, professor, Department of Political Science, University of Prince Edward Island

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While the robo-call situations in which voters were misled during the 2011 election are obviously very serious and must be fully investigated, it is equally serious that no one knows whether Elections Canada has been fairly and effectively enforcing the federal elections law in the past decade.

Democracy Watch analyzed Elections Canada’s reports after the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011 federal elections, and found that Elections Canada has not reported the results of investigations, or its rulings, on more than 2,280 complaints filed during those elections.

Also, Elections Canada has not disclosed information about the number of complaints received between elections, nor how and when they were investigated and ruled on, since 2004. So, very likely the robo-call matter is the tip of the iceberg and there are many other situations that raise serious questions about whether federal elections in Canada have been conducted fairly since 2004.

Elections Canada must be required by Parliament to disclose details about how it has handled every single complaint it has received since 2004.

Duff Conacher, board member, Democracy Watch

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Do we seriously believe that Canadians are so easily duped, that a computerized call would influence their vote or prevent them from voting (wrong polling station)? By all means investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of this scheme – but to suggest it had a major impact on the election result is an insult to the intelligence of Canadians.

Gary Lewis, Owen Sound, Ont.

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Did I get this right? The Conservative government believes possessing six marijuana plants deserves a minimum six months in prison, but posing as an Elections Canada official for the purpose of disrupting elections is merely “shenanigans”?

Marjorie Clark, Toronto

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Bob Rae’s apology

Re Liberal Staffer Resigns Over ‘Vikileaks’ (Feb. 28): Memo to Bob Rae and the Liberal Party: “People in glass houses should not throw stones.”

John MacEachern, Middleton, N.S.

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Bob Rae’s apology to Vic Toews for the campaign by a Liberal staffer that relayed personal attacks on Mr. Toews was a demonstration of character, dignity and leadership. It was inspiring. As role models for society, all politicians, regardless of their party affiliation, would be wise to heed Mr. Rae’s example.

Ian Lipton, Toronto

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Alberta + Ontario

All those jobs coming to Ontario (Ontario Urged To Speak Up For Oil Sands – Feb. 27), thanks to Alberta oil: Ya think?

A study put out last fall by University of Ottawa economist Serge Coulombe explains how Alberta’s oil sands – by causing the value of our dollar to rise – have caused the loss of over 140,000 manufacturing jobs. Not enough to persuade you? Check out another study put out last fall by Montreal’s Institute for Research on Public Policy, or an analysis submitted earlier this month by economist Robyn Allan, former CEO of the Insurance Corporation of B.C.

Basically, the higher the price of oil, the better for Alberta, but the worse for everyone else.

Gino Nicodemo, London, Ont.

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Talk, balk

Preston Manning, with his enviable wisdom, should have come up with solutions to the health-care discussitis and interminabilis (Discussitis Interminabilis: A Canadian Disease – Feb.28). It appears he simply added to the culture of talk, talk, talk that causes him irrititis interminabilis – irritation leading nowhere.

Prad Chaudhuri, Mississauga

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While Preston Manning is doubtless correct that action on major public issues must follow discussion, it is just as important that discussions (such as the Charlottetown Conference of 1864) are inclusive enough to lead to broad consensus. On issues of health-care reform, energy policy and productivity we as a country are far from consensus. Thus his calls for haste seem more tailored to the fact that the Harper government is in a position to impose conservative solutions on these issues.

Craig Keating, North Vancouver

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BTW less is more

Your editorial (Less Is Not More – Feb. 25) makes good points about “texting.” I cannot resist, however, suggesting you hone your own skill in writing economically. I offer the following to remind us that our composition teachers taught that sometimes “less is more.”

You wrote: “has a negative impact on language skills” – seven words, 40 characters, including spaces. One could say: “adversely affects language skills” – four words, 33 characters. Or better still: “reduces language skill” – three words, 22 characters.

By the way (BTW as we’d “text” it), the words “affect” and “effect” are seldom used nowadays. If we were to rehabilitate them, we could reserve “impact” for greater emphasis and regain a good way of “shading” our meaning.

Norman Haslett, Lunenburg, N.S.

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Railway men

We would like to thank Tu Thanh Ha, Adrian Morrow and Oliver Moore for their well-written article about this weekend’s tragic VIA accident (For Three Train Engineers, Railroading Was Their Life, And Their Death – Folio, Feb. 28). Our son is a VIA engineer trainee, so we are feeling the devastating effects of this loss for the VIA family. The writers’ words have paid a kind and respectful homage to three men whose lives were all about the railway and who served the public and their employer with the utmost care and professionalism.

Kim Kremzar, Ottawa

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Delicious, isn’t it?

Isn’t it deliciously ironic (even gratifying) that, in an age when so many films bombard viewers with noise and frenetic action, the Academy presented the Best Motion Picture award to The Artist, a silent movie.

It reminds me of the barber who asked a customer how he would like his hair cut. The chap replied, “In silence.”

John Raybould, West Kelowna, B.C.

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