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Today’s topics: Rx for R&D frustration; Canada’s blue-helmet role; pensions, politics and math; plastic-bag postscripts ... and more (Jae C. Hong/AP)
Today’s topics: Rx for R&D frustration; Canada’s blue-helmet role; pensions, politics and math; plastic-bag postscripts ... and more (Jae C. Hong/AP)

June 9: Just say ‘nein’ to the EU and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Just say ‘nein’?

Good for Stephen Harper. It took guts to tell Europe we are not going to contribute to an IMF bailout fund (PM’s EU Stand Angers Germany – June 8).

We have Canadian projects begging for money while Europe is just now owning up to its financial quagmires, including looming bankruptcies, with much of the mess caused by exorbitant pensions paid out to people who should still have been working.

Our PM is dead right – the IMF was set up to help underdeveloped countries, not mucky-muck European nations that rely on their historical backgrounds rather than hard work.

Peter Warren, Victoria

.........

Stephen Harper is looking rather smug telling the EU that Canada won’t help, it’s Europe’s responsibility to get its act together.

Is this payback for the negative attitude toward Canadian oil sands production? Or an extension of domestic policy, reflecting the EI program adjustment? With oil tanking, commodities in full-fledged correction mode and many an observer proclaiming the bubbly nature of our housing markets, Mr. Harper may want to be careful about who he leaves to the vigilantes in the currency and capital markets. Recall Lehman Brothers’ stand-back attitude during the late 1990s and the Long-Term Capital Management collapse. It came back to haunt them years later.

Marc Doré, Montreal

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Rx for R&D

Despite massive advertising to the contrary, the interests of industry and those who seek progress in medical research do not coincide (Lack Of Drug R&D Tough To Swallow – June 8). The worst nightmare of the president of a major pharmaceutical company is that a research breakthrough leads to redundancy of a drug in which the company is heavily invested. It is in the interest of drug companies to maintain the status quo.

They try to ensure that funds for research are carefully directed – investigators willing to engage in clinical trials and research to increase the effectiveness of existing drugs receive a generous bounty. This draws scarce resources (laboratory space, skilled assistants) away from those engaged in uncensored creative research where critical advances in knowledge are more likely to occur. Thus, loose cannons are held in check and eventually eliminated.

Twenty-five years is more than sufficient for research community demographics to become overwhelmingly biased in favour of the compliant – those who go along to get along.

Donald R. Forsdyke, emeritus professor, Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Queen’s University

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Our blue helmets

While it is true that Canada is not a significant contributor to UN peacekeeping, this is not the tragedy some would claim it to be (Canada Casts Aside The Blue Helmet – June 8). Peacekeeping – more precisely, peace support operations – is no longer the preserve of the blue helmets. Even before the Balkan conflicts highlighted the folly of deploying lightly armed forces into active war zones, responsibility for fostering stability had been contracted out to ad hoc groupings of states and, more recently, to international bodies such as NATO and the African Union. Often these actors are better resourced than the UN.

Canada was once one of relatively few nations with the resources required to operate effectively on overseas missions; today, considerably more players are able to do so. This is not to diminish the desirability of Canada bringing its expertise and resources to the cause of promoting international security. It is simply to point out that the UN is not the only forum through which security is advanced, neither does the collective effort depend on Canada to the same degree it once did.

If we are to re-engage in peacekeeping as some observers hope, let us do so pragmatically and for reasons of enlightened self-interest. Only this will sustain public support when the bullets start flying. And they will.

David Rudd, Ottawa

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Politics and math

The campaign to strip public-sector workers of their pensions is nothing more than the politics behind the math (Wisconsin Shows It’s About Math, Not Politics – June 7). Based on 30 years of service and with an annual salary of $40,000, a 65-year old retiring OPSEU member of the Ontario Public Service in 2012 can expect to receive an annual pension of $15,870. Is this the “ruinous” amount that Margaret Wente would have us believe is crippling the Ontario economy? This money is deferred income that public-sector workers contributed.

It’s time for opinion-makers to stop viewing good pensions for all citizens as an “entitlement” (and the aristocratic imagery that word captures) and see it for what it is: a human right. Everyone, regardless of where they found themselves in the work force during their lives, deserves to live out their later years in dignity and financial security. Regrettably, those who would prefer to abolish public-sector pensions and see retirement earnings tied to the vagaries of the stock market are in the vanguard of society’s race to the bottom.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president, Ontario Public Services Employees Union

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Plastic-bag postscripts

How fascinating that the attention of the media and public has been hijacked by the issue of charging a nickel for a plastic bag or doing away with it altogether (Banning The Plastic Bag – June 8). Homelessness, poverty, shortages in public housing, mass transportation and budget challenges: real and important questions set aside to deal with something so trivial as to be laughable.

That this came up for debate at Toronto’s city hall in the first place is absurd and reflects a dearth of leadership and shallowness from Mayor Rob Ford and city council. What a shame.

Marty Cutler, Toronto

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We carried reusable bags most of the time and collected just enough five-cent bags to package our garbage. Now we will be forced to buy packages of plastic garbage bags. The sensible solution is biodegradable plastic bags, even if they cost more.

Hugh Jones, Toronto

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The decision to ban plastic bags provides a glimmer of hope for anyone concerned about the health of our cities and our planet. While the focus of advocacy groups is usually on big business and big government, big consumption is often ignored.

Throwaway plastic bags are a good example of frivolous consumption. Paper bags are not without their issues, either. Reducing consumption is the key.

Albert Koehl, Toronto

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Banning plastic bags was a symbolic victory for Mayor Rob Ford’s opponents but a pyrrhic victory for environmentalists. By weight, plastic bags account for less than 1 per cent of residential solid waste. Banning plastic bags is a placating measure that has been enacted in lieu of significant environmental action, such as imposing tolls on downtown drivers or revisiting the car tax.

Michael Sarty, Toronto

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If the authorities decide to prosecute C.R. Ihasz (Plastic Priorities – letters, June 8) for defying the plastic-bag ban in the course of running her business, I offer her the following free legal advice, and suggest that she argue the little used defence of “Non Compost Mentis.”

Lezlie Oler, Halifax

 

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