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March 1: ROM’s reinvention, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Sacred space

Re ROM Plans Green Gateway Around Signature Crystal (Feb. 28): The Royal Ontario Museum’s “crystal” is an architectural failure for its expensive and arrogant eccentricity, its nose-thumbing insult to the old museum, and its lack of perspective.

The envisioned “green gateway,” we’re told, will cost $3-million and, “loosely inspired” by Place des Vosges, promises “lush canopies of trees” and “new sophisticated seating” to provide “that slow, wonderful experience that you get now in New York or in Europe, where you sit and have a conversation.”

I live nearby and pass that corner regularly, and I’m floored by this kind of cultural provincialism. Can we pretend this plan really redeems the failure?

John Beckwith, Toronto


We should recollect Frank Lloyd Wright’s remark: A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.

Richard Bachmann, Burlington, Ont.

Don’t blame unions

If you were to believe Konrad Yakabuski, it’s unions in Canada that are to blame for the rise in precarious employment and the shrinking middle class (Unions Must Share The Blame For Precarious Employment – Feb. 28).

Interestingly, the McMaster University study that he cites comes to the opposite conclusion, saying that, if more people belonged to unions, their work would be more secure.

Our research indicates that, on average, unionized workers in Canada are paid $5.11 an hour more than comparable non-union jobs. This extra money in workers’ pockets is worth a cumulative $793-million a week – a significant contribution to the Canadian economy.

This union advantage also helps local businesses and creates healthier communities because union members spend most of their earnings directly in the local economy.

Mr. Yakabuski, it seems, would prefer that people he describes as having “an average IQ and education” should settle for a Hobbesian race to the bottom.

Ken Georgetti, president, Canadian Labour Congress


Blaming unions for the rise in precarious employment is akin to blaming the victims of pickpocketing for having their wallets in their pockets.

Workers, especially young and marginalized ones, are increasingly facing temporary, insecure and transient conditions. Many CUPE members are in precarious situations – confronting seasonal layoffs, working two or three jobs to make ends meet, and on short-term contracts with uncertainty of renewal.

Last week, Chrystia Freeland pointed out that the key income disparity decision of this century is the decoupling of productivity growth and wage growth (A Tech-Powered End To The Middle Class – Report on Business, Feb. 22). The share of GDP that goes to workers’ wages is declining, while corporate profits grow.

Globalization has stripped away millions of middle-class jobs, but the reasons have nothing to do with trade unions. By rightly resisting this race to the bottom, trade unions will create more economic growth and stability, not less.

Paul Moist, national president, Canadian Union of Public Employees

Audacity of hope

Having just returned from the first universal session of the United Nations Environment Program’s Governing Council in Nairobi – I was the lone Canadian civil society representative – I believe Sheema Khan is absolutely right (Beyond Tolerance Lies True Respect – Feb. 28).

For 10 days, I experienced the ways people crossed all boundaries of race, ethnicity, language, religion, gender and other differences while dealing with complicated issues.

Tolerance gave way to respect, admiration and kinship within hours, as we wrestled with how to work together for a better future, comfortably and with enthusiasm.

Through that celebration – and transcendence – of difference, another world really is possible.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg

Splendour in grass

The controversy over open space at the University of Toronto is not without precedent (Heritage Sensibility – letters, Feb. 28).

Around 1960, Queen’s University formed a plan to put a building on a playing field on the lower campus. There was much opposition from students, faculty and alumni, including a student demonstration and mock funeral for the open space.

Faced with this level of antagonism, the administration reversed its decision and found a perfectly good alternative site for the building. The lower campus still serves its original and traditional purpose.

Julian Brown, emeritus professor, Queen’s University

Sacred cows

Your front-page article From City Street To Steakhouse: Inside India’s Bullish Beef Market (Feb. 27) brought back fond memories of New Delhi in 1995.

At the time, I was intrigued by all the cattle in the city, scattered along the major routes and streets. What was particularly fascinating was to see them on the move at sunset. I didn’t fully understand this until one night when we were going out for dinner and our driver parked on an unlit side street.

Getting out of the car, my colleague cursed as he stepped into something soft and squishy. We were among a herd of cattle. It turned out the farmer lived on this street, and his cattle had returned home from the “pasture” to be milked and fed.

The farm was in the city, and the farmer’s yard was the street. Both his house and farm had been there long before the city had engulfed them and, although he’d sold most of his land, that house and shed remained.

Paul McNeil, Winnipeg

Vegetarian verity

Vivienne Lawrie’s letter (Horse-Trading – Feb. 28) exemplifies how vegetarians can make themselves so unpopular.

Perhaps a better response to 14-year-old Emily Lewis’s “I can’t imagine eating a horse” comment (Don’t Eat My Horse – letter, Feb. 27) might have been: “Good for you, Emily. Have you thought about adding cows, pigs, chickens and fish to that list?”

Catherine Buck, vegetarian, Vancouver

Where angels fear …

Amid all the furor over the word “pasta” in Montreal restaurants, I’m eagerly awaiting the day when the minions of Quebec’s language police walk into a Hells Angels branch and tell the occupants that their name is illegal in the province.

Charles Morton, Manotick, Ont.

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