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I couldn’t help but take note of the inherent irony highlighted by reading two articles in Thursday’s Globe: Kelly Grant’s piece, Ban Sought On Medical Tourism, and Margaret Wente’s column, Crime Is Plunging, But Police Costs Are Soaring.
Ms. Grant writes that “hospital budgets have been essentially frozen for three years” in Ontario. That’s led to hospitals looking to cash-paying tourists as a potential source of revenue and raised concerns over possible increased wait times for Ontarians.
Meanwhile, Ms. Wente points out that despite falling crime rates, the Ontario Provincial Police received an 8.5-per-cent pay raise this year.
How is it that we are paying more for a service we need less of and freezing budgets for a service our aging society needs more of?
Rob Parsons, Ingersoll, Ont.
The average firefighter salary is well below $100,000 per year. Most of the firefighters on the Sunshine List are senior platoon or district chiefs, captains and lieutenants who have been on the job many years and provide experience and leadership in our fire halls.
Front-line firefighters appearing on the Sunshine List usually do so because of one-time lump sum payments, such as retroactive payments triggered through a negotiated settlement or arbitration award.
Arbitrators are required by statute to consider a municipality’s ability to pay when determining an award. What Margaret Wente and others are doing is confusing “ability to pay” with “willingness to pay.”
Firefighters have chosen an inherently risky job. We respond to emergencies that can take a great toll on our health and welfare. We also conduct public education and inspections to help prevent many of these same emergencies.
The best part for Ontarians?
We provide this service for less than a dollar a day from the typical Ontario household.
Mark McKinnon, president, Ontario Professional Firefighters Association
For years, arbitration boards have been handing out huge salaries. With no actual stake in the outcome, they seem oblivious to the debt they are putting on the backs of taxpayers.
Unions, knowing they will get the best deal by pushing things to arbitration, now routinely try to go this route.
It is time to rethink the practicality of arbitration boards, as to continue will mean more indebtedness for all municipalities.
Police chiefs have us over a barrel, as everyone wants to be safe and secure. The problem is we are reaching the financial breaking point in our ability to pay for this service. A big chunk of policing costs involves overtime, something else that needs evaluating.
Larry Comeau, Ottawa
Police, fire and ambulance services – the holy trinity of fear-mongering when anyone tries to rein in their salaries.
William Nguyen, Vancouver
In the crossfire
Re Killed With A Knife (letters, April 17): Even police officers who are supposed to be trained in how to use guns responsibly can get it wildly wrong – how can we forget the shooting of Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in Toronto?
Putting guns in the hands of “everyone” would cause chaos. Can you imagine if those at the party in Calgary had had guns and had fired them at Matthew de Grood? How many others might have been caught in the crossfire?
Christopher Kelk, Toronto
Vouch for it
It isn’t that people don’t have identification, it’s that under the Fair Elections Act they need ID that establishes who they are and where they live, so things like passports and health cards won’t do it (Fair Elections Logic – letters, April 17).
As a deputy returning officer (DRO) in the past few elections, I saw vouching a number of times – seniors, often husbands, vouching for wives without driver’s licences or household bills in their own name.
I’d like to see the vouching process made easier for poll clerks and DROs to implement and not see legitimate voters made to feel like second-class citizens. Perhaps Pierre Poilievre didn’t spend enough time at a polling station before drafting his legislation.
Nancy Dickson, Cambridge, Ont.
LRT’s fast track
When proponents talk about light rail transit, they do not mean the streetcars seen in Toronto (Doesn’t Interfere? – April 17).
Look rather to Calgary’s C-Train and Vancouver’s Sky Train, also to many large European cities.
These trains travel on raised rails and they definitely do not interfere with traffic. This is the urban travel mode of the future and we are missing out on it because people like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford keep saying: Look at St. Clair Avenue. Please don’t.
Gayle Duchene, Toronto
Mr. Flaherty’s legacy
Re A Final Farewell To Jim Flaherty (April 17): By all accounts, Jim Flaherty was an amiable, reasonable, principled man and an effective politician; if some media reports and his virtual canonization by the Conservatives are to be believed, he was among the greatest finance ministers ever.
While I’ll leave an analysis of his economic legacy to economists, pundits and the cold calculus of economic facts, Mr. Flaherty certainly had the luck of the Irish. He inherited from the Liberals one of the strongest balance sheets in the OECD.
As well, he benefited from the lowest interest rates in decades, which kept the government’s borrowing costs down.
Throw in a strong Liberal-built central banking system, a smart-as-a-whip Bank of Canada governor in Mark Carney and an excellent social safety net that acted as an economic damper when unemployment rose and the economy crashed in 2008, and it’s hard not to imagine that almost any finance minister under those circumstances would have ended up with a pretty good record.
Alex Roberts, Halifax
During my five years as Canada’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, which included the 2008-09 financial crisis, many leaders from our country visited London.
None commanded the same respect as did Jim Flaherty, our finance minister.
When the banking and business world needed honest advice and a role model to look up to, Mr. Flaherty was there to offer encouragement and plain speaking. He was a modest man with great integrity and insight.
When he spoke, the City of London, the G7, the G20 and the wider international community listened, carefully. During those crisis years, Canada’s reputation on the global stage was never higher.
On a personal front, as the father of a disabled young man, I am especially proud that our country, because of Mr. Flaherty’s leadership and determination, has put in place the Registered Disability Savings Plan to help the most vulnerable.
Jim Flaherty was a great public servant. He fought hard for Canada and for the disabled and disadvantaged in our society.
We were lucky to have him.
Jim Wright, former Canadian high commissioner to the United Kingdom (2006-11); OttawaReport Typo/Error
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