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France's newly-elected President Francois Hollande leaves his campaign headquarters in Paris on May 7, 2012, a day after the French presidential election. (BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS)
France's newly-elected President Francois Hollande leaves his campaign headquarters in Paris on May 7, 2012, a day after the French presidential election. (BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS)

What readers think

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

France’s swing left

You suggest that Europe may become “more insular” following the French election (France Veers Left, Europe Looks Inward – May 7). This reminds me of one of the classic headlines from the British press: Fog In Channel, Continent Cut Off.

The gross domestic product of the European Union is close to $17-trillion, slightly more than the U.S. So one wonders just who will be isolated from whom.

David Winch, Ferney-Voltaire, France

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Who but the French would elect a socialist president at a time when austerity measures are clearly required and the EU is a hair’s breadth from collapse. Let’s hear it for French labour policies – seven weeks of vacation and on strike the rest of the year.

David Weiner, Toronto

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David Dodge replies

Your editorial (Heat Over Houses – May 3), based on a report in The Globe, did not accurately reflect my views on household debt in Canada. I did not criticize Bank of Canada policy either implicitly or directly. Had I done so, it would indeed have been “ill judged.”

The current high ratio of household debt to income, as I indicated, does indeed constrain consumption going forward and thus has an impact on future growth. The elevated level of household debt would constitute a risk to the stability of our financial system if there was a sharp run-up in unemployment, and hence reduction in household incomes. Simply a return over time to more normal interest rate levels does not pose such a serious risk.

I support the bank’s message of caution that households should avoid building excessive leverage. I certainly did not convey “optimistic comments on housing markets.” I made the point that the increase in Toronto and Vancouver was being driven in part by offshore investment. The possibility of a reversal of that investment flow constitutes the most serious source of risk of a sharp price correction in those markets.

As I have noted many times, during my term as governor and subsequently, the government, through its ability to set the terms and conditions for government-backed mortgage insurance, can and should constrain the ability of the most risky households to take on excessive leverage and thus contribute to house price escalation.

David A. Dodge, former governor, Bank of Canada

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Advice on offer?

A unique situation may present itself while Israeli President Shimon Peres visits Canada (Peres Set For Warm Reception – May 7). For the first time in Canadian history, a president of Israel may have to lecture a Canadian prime minister to be less hawkish when it comes to forging a peace with the Palestinians.

Suleman Remtulla, Mississauga

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The second year

So, there’s an “apparent campaign of the Conservative government to smear and intimidate groups opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline,” is there (Wildly Uncharitable Allegations – editorial, May 7)? Ah well. It’s just the start of another “good year” for the Harper government and Canada (Harper Government Has Had A Good First Year – editorial, May 2).

Geoff Read, London, Ont.

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Em.pha.sis here

Neil Reynolds (Why The ‘Sacred’ Still Matters – May 7) concludes with the statement: “Mr. Haidt says [my italics]he wrote The Righteous Mind to help liberals understand their conservative antagonists – who run (as it were) on all five moral cylinders, not just two.”

I’ve read Jonathan Haidt’s book. He concludes liberals put more emphasis on care and fairness, while conservatives put more emphasis on loyalty, respect for authority and respect for sacred things. Mr. Haidt also says that when he started to write the book, he was a typical liberal professor but by the completion of the book he described himself as somewhere in the middle of the liberal/conservative world view.

Mr. Reynolds’s concluding statement that “Canadian liberals might well listen up” should read “Canadian liberals and conservatives might well listen up.” Mr. Reynolds’s bias is showing.

Gary F. Johnson, Victoria

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The sacred and profane are never far from reach. Most balanced modern citizens Enjoy a bit of each.

Ron Charach, Toronto

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Immigrant equations

It is interesting to juxtapose two articles – Tories Debate How To Keep The Middle Class (May 7) and Is Temporary Foreign Worker Program Creating A Second Class Of Labourers? (May 7).

The Tories have bought into the breathless claims that labour “shortages” are strangling economic growth and temporary foreign workers can solve the problem. But an economy is not a machine that stops operating if a single part is missing. It is a powerful adjustment mechanism where firms and workers respond to wage and price signals to decide what to produce and whether to train. Bringing in temporary foreign workers keeps wages down and prevents that mechanism from working. Strangely, it suggests that a right-wing government thinks it knows better than the market how to organize economic growth.

Improving the lot of the middle class doesn’t just involve more jobs. It involves better paid and secure jobs. Using TFWs keeps wages down without generating employment for Canadians.

David Green, professor, Economics Department, UBC

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Re The Great Expansion (Focus – May 5): While the dizzying changes are mostly needed and desirable, many questions remain unanswered: Do these changes and innovations add up to a coherent national immigration policy, to a strategic vision for the kind of Canada we need this century? Are we transforming the immigration experience to a mere economic equation and mechanical soulless process? Would that work in the long term, or is it a doomed formula? Or are they a mixed bag of policy imperatives and political calculations?

The jury is still out.

Elie Mikhael Nasrallah, immigration consultant, Ottawa

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Say Cheezies

Those who share my addiction share my sadness at the passing of Jim Marker, who so brilliantly converted cattle feed to the best of travelling snacks, Cheezies (The Cheese Stands Alone – May 3).

I’ve eaten many a bag on the drive from Edmonton to Saskatoon, Regina or Vancouver and back, when staying alert was my prime goal. That crunch, that salty, fatty, cheesy flavour, the way it eventually leaves your hands and mouth that sunny shade of orange (they should have shares in a baby wipes company), the inevitable vow never to eat that many again.

Yes, Cheezies have accompanied me for many a Prairie mile. Best of all, it’s an American product that moved to Canada and is still here in Belleville, Ont. So, hats off to Jim Marker. I tucked into a bag on the weekend, trying not to share too many, especially those small, supercharged fat, salty ones, and thought of my hubby’s orange-stained vest-in-the-making as the Marker Memorial vest.

Sandra Smith, Edmonton

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