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A picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen outside Homs. Today's topics: sharing the shame over Syria; Bob Rae’s wit and wisdom; development basics; teachers – young and less so; democracy and the budget bill ... and more (KHALED AL-HARIRI/REUTERS)
A picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen outside Homs. Today's topics: sharing the shame over Syria; Bob Rae’s wit and wisdom; development basics; teachers – young and less so; democracy and the budget bill ... and more (KHALED AL-HARIRI/REUTERS)

June 14: Sharing the shame over Syria and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Share the shame

If even some of the information about the slaughter of innocents coming out of Syria is correct, countries should be moved to act (Syria’s Crisis, The World’s Challenge – June 13). Such intervention would have happened long ago if Syria were a major player in terms of world oil supplies.

Ignoring the situation in Syria amounts to complicity. History will record those who stood by idly and watched the slaughter. They, too, will share in the shame.

Don Bartley, Winnipeg

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Wit and wisdom

Like the statesman he is, Bob Rae put his party before himself (Rae Won’t Seek Liberal Leadership – online, June 13). His candidacy would have split the already divided Liberals even more. Mr. Rae’s wit is unmatched in the House. Wit and wisdom. It’s a rare combo in Ottawa these days.

Robert Chin, Vancouver

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Ban dumb ideas?

Re Councillor Calls For Ban On Sale Of Bullets (June 13): One has to wonder if Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughn missed reading Marcus Gee’s column (Meet Councillor Impulsive, Ready For Action – June 12), in which he asked, tongue in cheek: “Can city council ban the sale of cigarettes to keep our lungs clean, of foreign cars to support the local auto industry, of California asparagus to help Ontario farmers?”

How else to explain why Mr. Vaughn – one day later – would seriously argue, “If we can ban plastic bags, why can’t we ban bullets?” Sigh. How about a ban on dumb ideas?

Julie Fleming, Toronto

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Start with basics

Stephanie Nolen’s article (India’s IT Revolution Doesn’t Touch A Government That Runs On Paper – June 13) was a wonderful reminder of how basic infrastructure is essential to ending extreme poverty.

Roads and easy access to clean water and affordable health care are necessary for economic growth in any country. According to the World Bank, 47 per cent of Indians live below the poverty line of $1.50 per day. I hear a lot about the “rising” middle class and the impact of globalization. An inclusive, worldwide panacea? I think not.

Have we missed the point when a country, well on its way into the 21st century, has only 3 per cent of its billion-plus people with access to the Internet? Might this, along with other weak links in the socio-political infrastructure chain, slow down the engine of sustainable development? Economic growth and equitable progress depend on basic needs being met. We can’t assume otherwise.

David Peck, Oakville, Ont.

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Hire and fire

Margaret Wente characterizes one problem with public education in terms of the alleged inability of administrators to “retain their youngest and keenest teachers” because of union seniority if the work force shrinks (Why Bad Apples Don’t Get Fired – June 12). Ms. Wente appears to equate youth with effectiveness. Reality, however, is otherwise, as the research shows.

Charter schools – especially their U.S. manifestations – are where administrators can hire and fire at will. Research shows us that teacher attrition is higher in charter schools than traditional schools. In addition, teacher attrition in these schools is higher among younger teachers. Moreover, as David Stuit and T.M. Smith write, younger educators often leave “before they have developed into optimally effective teachers.” This “rotating cast” situation means that students are often continually exposed to the least experienced teachers.

Teaching is complex and teachers, unlike underwear models, clearly get better with age.

Chris Stolz, Vancouver

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Unions are legally required to defend their members when they get into trouble. If they do so effectively, it’s because the employer didn’t get their ducks in a row, not because regulators are captives of the unions.

And where does Margaret Wente get off asserting that the “youngest and keenest teachers” are perforce the best? By this nonsensical reasoning, it should be about time she lost her column space to a younger and keener version of herself.

Peter Reid, Burnaby, B.C.

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The problems Margaret Wente highlights about teachers’ unions are endemic in all unions – by their very nature, they play to the lowest common denominator and stifle initiative and quality. Much of the financial malaise today can be blamed on public service unions that have been given far too much for far too long by complacent governments dishing out taxpayers’ money.

Even the unions are beginning to recognize they may have killed the goose with its golden eggs. Let’s hope so.

Gerald Crawford, Mississauga

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Shipping wine

Bill C-311 does not allow for the direct sale of liquor across provincial borders (Shipping Wine Across Provincial Lines? – Life, June 13). It clarifies a province’s right to set limits to the quantity that can be imported for personal use and defines how the importation can occur.

To allow direct shipping from a winery to a consumer in another province, the province where the consumer lives would have to establish the necessary regulations to make that legal.

B.C. supports interprovincial shipping, but only if other jurisdictions agree to opening up domestic markets for wine. I look forward to discussing this with my provincial counterparts because that is exactly what the passage of Bill C-311 allows, but nothing more and nothing less.

Rich Coleman, B.C. Minister of Energy, Mines and Liquor Distribution Branch

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Past tense

England’s King John would have loved Stephen Harper and Daniel Caron, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada (Cuts To Our Past Harm Our Future – June 12). If they had been his archivists, Magna Carta would probably have disappeared into the mists of time.

Anne Spencer, Victoria

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Democracy, M.I.A.

Frankly, there’s nothing like an omnibus bill to get a lot accomplished in very little time (MPs Greet Omnibus-Bill All-Nighter With Stoic Dread – June 13). The glaring problem is that voters had no chance to consider the current bill with all its ramifications. Democracy would be much better served if no omnibus bill could be put before Parliament without first having been put before the people in the party’s election platform.

George Haeh, Turner Valley, Alta.

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“The Liberals and NDP campaigned on the Tories’ shoddy treatment of Parliament. The Conservatives campaigned on protecting the economy. A large plurality of voters chose the Conservatives” (Even This Bill Is A Product Of Democracy – June 12).

Even accepting John Ibbitson’s interpretation of last year’s election, why does it exempt the Conservatives from respecting democratic procedures and accountability after the election? Are “protecting the economy” and respect for accountability incompatible?

Carl Rosenberg, Vancouver

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I believe that the lamented missing skunks (Just Wondering – letters, June 13) have all gone to Ottawa – on an omnibus.

Peter Gower, Kingston

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