The wrong metric
The editorial lauding Canada’s new aid direction (Toward Better, Smarter Foreign Aid – Focus, March 30) reflects a disturbing ignorance of the history of international assistance.
The “modernization” method was tried in the sixties and seventies, and “trade liberalization, productivity and technology” were driving ideologies behind World Bank and IMF policies in the eighties and nineties. Zambia was a poster-child for these approaches well into the current decade and now (largely on the basis of world copper prices) has one of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world in terms of GDP. What does that look like on the ground? The IMF itself admits in its 2012 report that Zambia “has achieved sustained high growth and macroeconomic stability over the last decade, but poverty remains high … The key challenge is how to make growth more inclusive.”
More than 60 per cent of Zambians live below the World Bank’s poverty line, earning less than $1.25 a day. Modernization and trade liberalization might achieve macro benefits, but be reminded: they are no panacea for the folks on the ground.
Elizabeth Vibert, Department of History, University of Victoria
Let me get this straight: Tom Flanagan is arguing that Ralph Klein, the man who presided over a shrinking of the tax base in Alberta that led to the current structural deficit, should serve as a model of fiscal responsibility (Deficit And Debt Fighters Of Today Should Learn From Ralph Klein – March 30).
Alberta’s recent budget slashed social program and education spending, including a 6.8 per cent cut in university funding; if the problem in Alberta is indeed “unrestrained spending, not insufficiency of revenue,” how much more would have to be cut in order for the structural deficit to be eliminated? Far from providing an example of “how to deal with runaway deficits and public debt,” Premier Klein epitomized the belief that crippling the government’s ability to raise revenues is wise fiscal policy.
Joel MacDonald, Saskatoon
The real problem isn’t that Prime Minister Stephen Harper forces his MPs to ask phony questions (MPs Plead For Greater Freedom – March 29). It’s that they get time at all. Question Period should be for opposition MPs only, so they can do their job.
Derek Smith, Toronto
Nobody puts baby in a corner (office)
“All I know is that, if I had a daughter, I’d tell her to get on with it.” Margaret Wente highlights the health risks to children who come from older fathers and then places the blame squarely on the women who are trying to have a career and a family life (Old-age Parenting Is A Bad Idea – Focus, March 30). We should be addressing the social reasons that fuel this phenomenon, such as the lack of available childcare and a workplace that still punishes women for their reproductive choices.
Analogizing the shifting age of parenthood to an experiment gone wrong trivializes the enormous balancing act that Canadian women struggle with today.
Marita Zouravlioff, Toronto
It’s not ‘obscene’
Gary Mason raised interesting issues about public-sector salaries and wages in Alberta (Alberta Workers Taste Reality – March 29). They are high – but driven by increases in private-sector remuneration. When high school graduates with connections in the oil industry or its ancillaries can earn up to $100,000 a year with no further qualifications, and unskilled as well as skilled workers are in high demand, no wonder a lower proportion of Albertans attend university.
Public-sector jobs generally require substantial postsecondary education. Those who get such an education forgo years of significant earnings while doing so, acquire skills that are in short supply in a smaller population such as Alberta’s (3.6 million), and therefore command a wage premium over less-skilled workers.
That’s called market economics, not “obscene deals” when it concerns the C-suite. Why should this principle apply to CEOs or private-sector engineers, but not to nurses or teachers?
Andrew Gow, Edmonton
The “so called” Sunshine List of those earning more than $100,000 annually is covered with a thick haze, as it only considers salaries (‘Sunshine List’ Grows 11 Per Cent – March 29). Taxpayers deserve to know the total compensation for government employees, the defined benefit pensions, cashing-in of sick days, medical and dental coverage, etc., that we are on the hook for. I have to wonder if the Sunshine List could then be replaced with a much smaller list – of those whose compensation package is less than $100,000.
Richard Austin, Toronto
Pennies for drought
The Harper government is unwilling to spend the equivalent of 1 cent per Canadian to support the UN’s fight against desertification (Drought – March 29). It does, however, care deeply about burnishing its own image. So it is willing to lavish millions of dollars on advertising that does little more than tout the wonders of its Economic Action Plan.
Janet Beattie, Calgary
A letter writer compares the balance sheets of the governments of Canada and Ontario to those of the banks and insurers, and finds it curious that the governments should “instruct” private businesses (In-Hock Irony – March 29). Governments, rightly or wrongly, have pruned taxes to the point of amassing huge deficits, while banks and insurance companies have reaped huge profits with exorbitant rates and fees. It’s high time our governments exerted some control.
Ken Cory, Oshawa, Ont.
Old, new: Part 2
Re Words, Old And New (letters, March 29): Your letter writer takes comfort in Margaret Wente’s recent use, in a column about Toronto’s mayor, of the word “boob” in its “original 17th-century sense, ‘stupid person,’ rather than its more recent popular meaning” (Toronto Needs An Intervention – March 28). So how about kudos to Stompin’ Tom as well for keeping 17th-century English alive when he wrote and sang, “goodbye Rubberhead, so long boob”?
Allan Q. Shipley, Parksville, B.C.
Sometimes, events and personalities simply demand that a new word be added to the English language. May I suggest SchadenForde?
Eric Mendelsohn, Toronto