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May 9: Committing science, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Committing science

Re Science Council Rewired To Work With Industry (May 8): The National Research Council is now going to focus on reversing the country’s “chronically lagging innovation performance.” Instead of attacking the ingrained culture of Canadian business – call it provincialism, the pursuit of the short term, or maybe just small-town Toryism – that stifle innovation and R&D spending in Canada, Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, has announced that since “our businesses are not doing the research that they need to do,” the government is going to do it for them!

Since when do real conservative governments subsidize private business with public expenditures and assets? The Harper (and Redford) governments look more and more like a weird mash-up of Margaret Thatcher’s policies and François Mitterand’s methods, and less and less like classical small-government conservatives.

Andrew Gow, Edmonton

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The federal government does not seem to grasp that government itself is the principal driver of innovation ecosystems; we see this, for example, in its restructuring of the National Research Council.

The U.S. government plays the major role in both the supply and demand sides of science and technology (S and T). The supply side is supported by funding granting agencies, and many institutes and centres in universities and the private sector.

The federal government’s purchasing power, if focused on developing innovative, demand-driven S and T and products, will build the private and university sectors’ capacity to become more focused on contributing to Canada’s innovative capacity. Much of the demand-driven innovation in the U.S. private and university sector has been created by government’s smart-procurement policy: We all know the impact of military expenditures and space activities as drivers of innovation. Contracting out public needs has built this widely envied capacity.

Think of the incredible opportunities open to the Canadian government to use its military expenditure as an important tool to drive innovation capacity here. This would move the public agenda far beyond a simple jobs agenda and establish the innovative capacity that is so necessary for long-term, sustainable job growth.

David Strangway, former president, University of Toronto, University of B.C., Canada Foundation for Innovation; founer of Quest University Canada

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Terminally obtuse

Re Qatar Still Hasn’t Bought This Asset (May 8): It may indeed be “terminally naive” to believe that the Harper government’s absolute support for Israel, as demonstrated by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s foolish visit to East Jerusalem, is the primary reason for Qatar’s campaign to have ICAO headquarters relocated there.

But to believe that these same actions by our government have not created resentment within the Arab world that Qatar is now successfully exploiting would be terminally obtuse.

Mike Hutton, Ottawa

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May 8, 1945

I eagerly turned to the Moment In Time feature on May 8 to see what you’d written about V-E Day and found … Steve Nash. Much as I love him and his success, come on folks. The kids need to know.

I remember V-E Day vividly. I was just 7 on May 8, 1945, and had no memory of my father since he had been away training, then overseas in the Canadian Army nearly all my life. My mother came in and woke me, urgently telling me to get dressed and and to go down the street to get a paper from the boy calling out “Extra! Extra!” Which I did, of course, but full of questions.

She had worked hard at telling my brother and me about our dad and trying to explain why he was away for so long. Pretty daunting task!

He was promoted to Brigadier in the field in 1944 and commanded the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade until the end of the conflict in Europe; his soldiers called him a soldier’s soldier. His name was John Rockingham, a.k.a. Rocky.

Audrey Rockingham Gill, Vancouver

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Great names, Part 2

To add to letter writer Tim Jeffery’s Wondeful Monikers (May 8) from hockey’s past, I offer Bucko McDonald, Gump Worsely, Butch Bouchard, Bingo Kampman and Cyclone Taylor.

Hank Karpus, Toronto

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Al Gore’s truths

Al Gore and a number of U.S. environmentalists choose to attack Canada’s environmental record while ignoring some inconvenient truths (I Had Hoped Canada Would Point Us In The Right Direction– Focus, May 4).

Electricity generation is by far the biggest source of global CO2. Among the major G20 economies, Canada is second only to France in terms of electricity generation from non-CO2 emitting sources. Canada gets 75 per cent of its electricity from hydro, nuclear, wind and solar, whereas the U.S. gets 75 per cent from CO2-producing coal and natural gas.

With the Climate Change and Emissions Management Act (2007), Alberta led the way as an oil-producing jurisdiction to legislate that large emitters such as coal plants and oil producers must reduce carbon emissions (by 12 per cent annually) or purchase carbon offsets that are used to fund carbon-reduction projects in Alberta.

Just two out of 600 U.S. coal-fired electricity plants produced more CO2 in 2010 than all of the Alberta oil sands combined.

Hugh Holland, Huntsville, Ont.

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Ottawa’s environmental and scientific credibility is sliding faster than an avalanche. Get ready for more criticism from well-known international figures.

Marcelle Roy, Saltspring Island, B.C.

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Agrarian wonder

Re Tight Budget Forces USask To Count The Cost Of Its Sheep (May 8): I don’t really imagine you’ll print my letter to the editor, but I was moved to write so that, at the least, you can know your reporting on issues both big and small touches readers.

News that the University of Saskatchewan is selling its sheep triggered one of my fondest childhood memories. Growing up in Saskatoon, I lived like any suburban-dwelling child in a Canadian city in the 1970s, but once a year, my mother would take us to see the lambs at the university. They were wobbly, brand new and the cutest things I’ve ever seen. I hope city kids will still have the chance to see the wonder of our agrarian roots.

Michelle Dodek, Vancouver

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Sense of mystery

Under the the headline of Susan Harrison’s obituary (May 8), the editor tells us “She emerged from the art world to write about female orgasms and, later, a mystery featuring Adlerian psychology.” It seems to me that her career began and ended with mystery writing.

Kevin Riemer, Pointe-Claire, Que.

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