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Police chase student protesters in Montreal, May 15, 2012. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS)
Police chase student protesters in Montreal, May 15, 2012. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS)

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May 16: Letters to the editor Add to ...

What do they want?

For decades, Canadians outside Quebec were asking, “What does Quebec want?” when constitutional talks were on. The bottom line was never clear. Negotiating constitutional change with Quebec is no longer in saintly odour.

We turn our minds to the current crisis and ask, “What do the students want?” Their bottom line is not clear either (Quebec Student Revolt Boils Over – May 15).

What is clear, however, is that collectively, like Quebec itself, they are looking for a form of recognition, and the tuition hikes provide an opportunity. A few dollars here or there may settle things down for a while. But like tinkering with the Constitution, it will not address the larger problem.

It’s hard not to think of Premier Jean Charest when listening to Bob Dylan’s mythic Ballad of a Thin Man: “Something is happening, and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

Howard M. Greenfield, Montreal

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21st-century arts grads

I wish I had thought to invite Margaret Wente (Educated For Unemployment – May 15) to a session we held this month at Huron University College. Two dozen business and not-for-profit leaders in London, Ont., met with faculty members from Huron to map the competencies needed for real-life, on-the job situations onto classroom activities and assignments at our liberal arts university.

It turned out that critical thinking, problem solving, research skills, empathy, intercultural understanding, a sense of audience, an understanding of policy and decision-making, collaboration and excellent communication skills all come in pretty handy in any job you can think of.

Far from shrinking from challenges of “relevance” and “employability,” Canada’s small liberal arts institutions continue to prepare, and to re-examine how they prepare, graduates for life and leadership and jobs in the 21st century.

Mark Blagrave, dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Huron University College

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Margaret Wente repeats the oft-stated “fact” that average student debt on graduation is over $27,000. The most authoritative analysis of student financial information is from the Canadian Undergraduate Survey Consortium. Its most recent report shows that while 58 per cent of undergraduate students graduate with average debt from all sources of $26,680, the remaining 42 per cent graduate debt free. The report states that average debt of all graduates is about $15,500, and more than half of university students graduate with debt of less than $7,000.

Incidentally, this same report also showed high levels of student satisfaction with their education.

Jamie Cassels, Tony Eder, University of Victoria

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Opposite of fair

Denying refugee claimants access to primary care services and essential prescription medications won’t save the government’s claimed $100-million over five years. It will only lead to more costly care being delivered in emergency rooms and as inpatients.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney states this policy will still protect the safety of Canadians by treating diseases that pose a public health threat. Diseases such as tuberculosis are best identified in primary care settings. By pushing these individuals out of the system, this opportunity for early diagnosis and effective prevention is lost.

As André Picard points out, denying health care to an entire group based on the actions of a few is heavy-handed at best and morally reprehensible at worst (Cutting Health Care For Asylum-Seekers Makes No Sense – Life, May 15). There are other policy levers available to achieve this goal without putting the health of legitimate claimants, as well as the public, at risk. The federal government has attempted to frame these cuts as an issue of fairness when the exact opposite is true.

Timothy O’Shea, MD, Department of Medicine, McMaster University

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More equally poor

Lawrence Martin’s column (Divided Against Ourselves – May 15) brings to mind a Russian joke. A poor peasant asks God for help. “My neighbour has been given a cow, but I have no cow!” he cries. God responds, “How may I help you, my son?” The peasant replies, “Kill the cow.”

Ontario is in the doldrums because offshore manufacturers can produce goods more cheaply than we can. It is in the doldrums because the McGuinty government makes poor policy decisions. It is in the doldrums because the American economy, its primary customer, is struggling.

And just like in the Russian village, killing the resource-sector cow will not net more prosperity for Canada. It will simply make us all more equally poor.

Murray Whitby, Edmonton

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Once again, I find myself agreeing with Lawrence Martin. In the long run, an increasingly skewed economy will benefit neither East nor West. Canada desperately needs a new industrial strategy that takes into account the best interests of the country as a whole.

Lester Robbins, Vancouver

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The entrepreneur is in

When we are weighing the efficacy of medical innovations, I want medical professionals on the panel, not real estate developers (The Dragon’s Den Of Health Care – May 15). I take issue with the statement that “what they [business executives]lack in medical knowledge, however, they make up in business acumen …” Business people should not have a seat at the table when judging the value of saving lives.

Nora Kaufman, Winnipeg

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Fishing for facts

Re One Fish, Two Fish: Troubles In B.C. (Report on Business, May 14): Provincial studies show that the contribution of the commercial fishery through sales, wages and benefits, employment and contribution to GDP outweighs that of tidal recreational fishing. Lumping everything in, as Gwyn Morgan does, to make a sport salmon worth $1,000 is just plain fishy.

B.C. has seven commercial fisheries – including halibut, sockeye and pink salmon – certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, putting them in the top 10 per cent of global fisheries. Our groundfish fishery is the best-managed in the world, fully accountable for all catch and working with conservation groups to protect ocean habitat.

It’s no coincidence that the fish stocks in B.C. most at risk are those targeted by the recreational lodge and charters, killing fish for sport rather than putting food on the table.

Christina Burridge, executive director, B.C. Seafood Alliance

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SIN no more

It was only a matter of time before the Conservatives got around to eliminating the SIN card (Your Wallet Just Got A Bit Lighter: Ottawa Nixes SIN Cards – online, May 15). I can almost hear them discussing it in the PMO. “It’s just not right, Mr. Prime Minister. It’s like the government approves of SIN.” And the reply: “There, there. Go and SIN no more.”

Bill Engleson, Denman Island, B.C.

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