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Douglas Channel, south of Kitimat, B.C. Enbridge plans to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline project, which would carry oil-sands bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat for shipment to Asia. Today's topics: Canada’s economy; influencing the Northern Gateway review; pre-implantation genetic diagnosis; hockey talks ... and more (The Canadian Press)
Douglas Channel, south of Kitimat, B.C. Enbridge plans to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline project, which would carry oil-sands bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat for shipment to Asia. Today's topics: Canada’s economy; influencing the Northern Gateway review; pre-implantation genetic diagnosis; hockey talks ... and more (The Canadian Press)

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Jan. 10: Letters to the editor Add to ...

Good-times strategy

The recent IMF report on Canada does not “imply” that “the Conservatives are on the right fiscal path” (On A Steady Course, But Not Invulnerable – editorial, Jan. 9). Rather, Canada is praised for the effectiveness of a regulatory system that preceded the current government, and for the astuteness of the Governor of the Bank of Canada. The IMF calls for the gradual reduction of fiscal stimulus, in keeping with Keynesian principles, whereas Finance Minister Jim Flaherty intends to turn off the tap.

Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman points to the worsening situation in Europe, where austerity measures, far from stimulating economies and fostering job growth, are driving Greece, Ireland, Britain, Spain and Italy deeper into the hole; those nations that have not cut back, in Northern Europe, are doing well. As Keynes famously said, the time to fight deficits is in good times, not when economies are going bust.

Alan Waterhouse, Toronto

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Woof, woof! So Blinky, along with thousands of cash-strapped Canadians, thinks we’re in a recession, even if economists, number crunchers at Statscan, and denizens of the Bank of Canada say that, technically, it’s not a recession (editorial cartoon – Jan. 7).

I’m reminded by all this of a wise remark by a former Opposition leader, Robert Stanfield, who said: If I am unemployed, even if I am seasonally adjusted, I am still unemployed. Perhaps the many “ordinary Canadians,” working and retired who live in the real world, struggling to make ends meet, are the ones who are correct in telling pollsters that recession is gripping the country (Experts, Public At Odds Over Economy – Jan. 6).

Could it be that the econometric boffins have it wrong, and Blinky has it right?

John Raybould, Toronto

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Skewed debate

Having recently retired from a regulatory position, I know how costly it is for public interest groups to intervene in even short hearings (Ottawa Targets Environmental Reviews – Jan. 9), let alone the Northern Gateway review.

To suggest that public-interest non-profit groups should not accept funding from non-Canadian philanthropists at the risk of having their views dismissed is to place far too great a hurdle on their ability to participate. If non-profit groups are to be held to that standard, what about for-profit companies that participate in the review? Some intervenors, such as SinoCanada Petroleum Corp., Daewoo International or Exxon/Mobil, primarily represent foreign interests. All major companies issue shares and attract capital on global markets. Should they be disallowed from intervening or have their voices accorded lesser weight in the review process? The question would be ridiculous if posed seriously, yet somehow it is being posed seriously for non-profit groups, and taken seriously by our PM.

Issues “skewing the debate” in my view are the lack of a B.C. member on the review panel, even though the most of the environmental risk will be borne by B.C., and the interference by the Prime Minister and his cabinet in the independence of the review.

J.W. Fraser, Vancouver

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Just wondering

It's a “declining balance co-ownership program,” not a mortgage (On The Hunt For Financier’s Missing Gold – Jan. 9)? Is that like a “preowned” car, not a used car?

Ursula Summers, Winnipeg

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Human fertility

Re Unnatural Selection – Focus, Jan. 7): Patients seeking pre-implantation genetic diagnosis are routinely referred to our program following consultation with a geneticist. PDG is not a technique that is applied for trivial reasons, but only if it can minimize the chance of conceiving a child with a genetic condition incompatible with life or associated with severe disability and shortened lifespan. The vast majority of patients considering PGD have already conceived an affected child.

In situations that may be considered questionable (such as prevention of transmission of a late-onset disease such as Huntington’s Chorea, a devastating degenerative neurologic disease that presents in adulthood and leads to death) extensive genetic and bioethics consultation occurs prior to considering PGD.

It is illegal in Canada to perform PGD for non-medical indications. With respect to “questionable” applications of PGD, such as screening for mutations in the BRCA gene, which confers a markedly increased risk of ovarian cancer and early breast cancer, I do not feel that I, or anyone else unaffected by the devastation wreaked on a family in which several generations of women have been struck down at a young age by these illnesses, am in a position to judge the ethics of PGD for such an indication.

Ellen M. Greenblatt, medical director, Centre for Fertility and Reproductive Health, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto

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‘Tanning coffins’

I encounter tanning bed users every day. Few were told by the tanning salon about the risk of skin cancer from UV radiation, rather, they were often encouraged by claims of health benefits (Health-Care Groups Want Canadian Ban On Teens Using Tanning Beds – Life, Jan. 9).

Australia, California, and in Canada, Nova Scotia and the municipality of Victoria, protect teens from tanning beds (or tanning coffins, as I prefer to call them). Let’s not kid ourselves – each day we delay introducing preventive health policies, we assume moral and financial responsibility for the treatment of the skin cancers (both melanoma and basal cell carcinoma are now linked to the use of tanning beds) arising from indoor tanning. Can we afford that?

Mike Kalisiak, dermatologist, Calgary

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Pakistan solution

Re The Pakistan Solution: Redraw The Map (Dec. 21): This article gives a skewed picture of law and order in Baluchistan and reflects a lack of appreciation of its ethnic distribution – 45 per cent of the population is not Baluchi – and the impact of initiatives taken by the government to put the province on par with other parts of Pakistan.

The comparatively low crime rate in Baluchistan, including kidnapping, is trending downward owing to various political, economic and social-sector reforms introduced by the government.

The President of Pakistan has apologized for the wrongs done to the people of Baluchistan over the past 62 years. A package giving rights to Baluchistan was launched; recently, Parliament strengthened provincial autonomy and sharply increased Baluchistan’s share in Pakistan’s national resources.

Pakistan’s army has stepped up recruitment and increased educational opportunities in Baluchistan. Pakistan’s government, with the support of other political parties, has made strong inroads to bring disgruntled Baluchi leaders and elders back into the national political stream.

Samina Parvez, director general, external publicity wing, Pakistani Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Islamabad

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Should be interesting

So the first shot has been fired in the upcoming collective bargaining battle for a deal between the National Hockey League and the players (NHL Lookahead/Jan. 9 - 15). Should be interesting – with the league being run by a basketball guy and the union being headed by a baseball guy.

Lyman MacInnis, Toronto

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