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June 8: Letters to the editor Add to ...

Taxing ideas

You write that "the budget was not as austere as it needed to be" (Austerity, To Be Announced - editorial, June 7). We need to have a grownup conversation about fiscal priorities, and you are right that this budget does not help, but your analysis conflates two priorities. The first is deficit reduction, the second is restructuring government. The Harper government wants us to think that we will have no choice but to accept the second, in the form of massive cuts to public services, if we want to achieve the first.

We have a choice. The Harper government chose to cut the GST, thereby reducing the resources available to pay for public services. Now it says that because of the deficit, we have to cut public services to reduce the deficit. If cutting the GST is at least part of how a Chrétien surplus was turned into Harper deficit, the fiscal conversation we need to have is as much about tax as about spending.

Robert Wolfe, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University

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While there are aspects of the new federal budget that can be critiqued, balancing the books by fiscal 2014/15 is clearly not one of them. It is inappropriate to criticize Stephen Harper for not immediately setting out a well-defined plan to reach that target.

There'll be plenty of time to examine details as to how we do it. For the moment, let's agree on the goal.

Peter D. Hambly, Hanover, Ont.

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Who prays, tell

How curious that The Globe's report on the judges of the Supreme Court (On The Bench - June 7) tells us who are Jews but fails to mention who are Roman Catholics, Protestants (of various denominations), atheists or agnostics.

Stephen Kurtz, Windsor, Ont.

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Spin to win

Preston Manning's column is a case study in ideological spin (The Election Of Our Discontent - June 7). The survey responses he cites are just as easily interpreted as evidence of social-democratic as conservative values. Large corporations might "play a larger role" than government in tackling climate change? That makes sense, given that they are the principal cause of the problem and should be asked to bear the costs of fixing it. Equality of opportunity? Absolutely; and this is fostered by government programs that redistribute a bit of wealth into programs such as public education and health care so as to give everyone a decent shot in life.

Governments "helping us" rather than "doing it for us?" This is precisely what would be eliminated by Mr. Manning's market-driven agenda. The public's declining confidence in government? Mr. Manning collapses the distinction between social programs to promote a basic level of social justice and a grotesquely collectivist, all-powerful state.

Gregory Millard, Port Moody, B.C.

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A principle, defended

The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs states the following: Canada believes that a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue is central to a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and must comply with international law; Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967; Canada does not recognize Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem; Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention; construction of the separation wall inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem is contrary to international law under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has set the following conditions for peace negotiations: No to the 1967 borders, no negotiations on Jerusalem, no return of refugees, no dismantling of settlements, and no withdrawal from the Jordan valley.

Hence, by siding unconditionally with Israel, Stephen Harper (In Defence Of A Principle - June 6) is contradicting Canada's declared policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is grounded in international law and human rights.

Khaled Mouammar, national president, Canadian Arab Federation

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Just wondering

If hockey is our national game, if Don Cherry is our patron saint, if what we saw in Boston on Monday night was hockey, what has this country become (Rome's Vicious Hit Demands Strong NHL Response - Sports, June 7)? Just wondering.

Denis Smith, Ottawa

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Ottawa's sewers

The suggestion that water main work and sewer overflow in Ottawa are the result of underspending on infrastructure in favour of other projects such as concert halls and hockey arenas is not correct (Sewage Systems Need Repair Before Problems Overflow - June 6).

The Woodroffe Avenue water main break is not the result of neglect of a known problem. It is because of the premature failure of a pipe that was supposed to last 50 to 100 years.

The city, along with the provincial and federal governments, has invested almost $100-million on projects over the past three years alone to reduce wastewater flows into the Ottawa River. We cut overflow discharges into the river in 2010 by more than half, as compared to 2006. When our $250-million Ottawa River Action Plan is fully implemented, Ottawa will be the leader in this important area of environmental concern. What we need now is for our federal and provincial partners to commit to funding their share of the remainder of this critical project.

Jim Watson, Mayor, Ottawa

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The skinny on circumcision

Perhaps the intactivists (The Big Flap Over Foreskins - June 7) ought to rally against the "appalling" cultural beautification practice of using pointed metal to perforate the skin of minors, as is the case when the underage have their ears pierced?

No matter how enlightened people like Lloyd Schofield and Matthew Hess may claim to be, the recent efforts to ban male circumcision simply seem like a new manifestation of anti-Semitic and anti-religious activism. And I humbly advise that Christians, too, take note, because it's only a matter of time before baptisms are construed as some horrific infant version of waterboarding.

Daniel Balofsky, Toronto

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Male circumcision may have started as religious custom, but it is now all about health. Penile cancer occurs almost exclusively in uncircumcised men. Neonatal circumcision has recently been referred to as a "surgical vaccine" that prevents cancer, reduces STDs such as HPV infection and others, and is considered one of the best interventions in the prevention of HIV transmission.

James Channing Shaw, MD, Toronto

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As a nurse who has witnessed circumcision and seen firsthand a helpless infant screaming in pain, I am amazed that Margaret Wente is so insensitive. Perhaps she should attend this barbaric "procedure" and see (and hear) for herself.

In Britain, Europe and much of the civilized world, most males are not subjected to this brutal assault.

Denise Prentice, Toronto

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The ballot proposal in San Francisco to ban infant circumcision gives new meaning to the term private members bill.

Eric Mendelsohn, Toronto

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