I am glad that our government is working to help the Canadian Christian couple detained in China, but can’t help wondering if it would work as hard to help Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian-Egyptian journalist detained in Cairo for doing his job, if he were also a Christian. He, too, appears to be the innocent victim of a geopolitical game (Cafés Caught In Political Spats – Aug. 8).
Brydon Gombay, Rivière-du-Loup, Que.
Unlike the shadowy grey hues of a John le Carré novel, Stephen Harper’s world is resolutely black and white. Not surprisingly, so is his government’s foreign policy.
A myriad of rights, obligations, interests and opportunities must be disentangled to form a coherent foreign policy. Ultimately, like any other portfolio, foreign policy must be pursued in the best interests of the country.
So where are we today? In Russia, we’ve poked the bear. Now they won’t let in our pork (Food Exports Feel Brunt Of Russian Bans – Aug. 8). As for Kevin and Julia Garratt, the Canadian couple accused by China of espionage, they would be right to think that our PM is a bull in a china shop.
Howard M. Greenfield, Montreal
China is not a free society and as far as I know, still officially atheist. It is not a surprise that the Chinese government is acting in a strong-handed manner.
Wayne Nickoli, London, Ont.
Middle East deaths
Re Words In A War (letters, Aug. 8): Why are we Canadians so obsessed with the Israel/Gaza conflict, when more tumultuous events abound in the Mideast? For instance, more than 160,000 Syrians have been slaughtered over the past three years.
Andy Mulcahy, Victoria
Beyond ‘losing face’
Re Why The First Nations Transparency Act Is An Insult To My People (online, Aug. 7): Nowhere in Eden Robinson’s impassioned article, beyond the antiquated notion of “losing face,” did she adequately explain why asking elected First Nations officials who receive public funding (i.e. my tax dollars) to disclose their salaries (like every other elected public servant in the country) is an insult, or unreasonable, or not in the public interest.
If I understand her argument correctly, it is more important for First Nations leaders to “save face” than for there to be accountability and transparency regarding their use of public funds. This might be fine, except that First Nations leaders receive funding from Canadians at large, and we as taxpayers expect those receiving our funds to disclose how they are used and to be held accountable, face be damned.
Sam Perlmutter, Wellington, N.Z.
See ye efter, aye ?
Some in Orkney and the Western Isles, perhaps partly in jest, are discussing having their own referendum, should that in Scotland succeed (Scottish Desires – letters, Aug. 5). As with the indigenous peoples of Quebec’s north, they feel culturally and historically quite distinct, given their strong Norse ties and roots. Orkney was a Norwegian earldom from the 8th century until 1468, when it was pledged to Scotland as security for a dowry, which hasn’t yet been redeemed.
Should Scotland become independent – whatever exactly that means in the European Union – Orkney may seek independence, or perhaps even to become an autonomous part of Norway. As with Quebec’s north, Orkney has natural resources; much of the oil and gas is in its territorial waters.
Anders I. Ourom, Vancouver
As an expatriate Scot, I view with sadness the petty arguments in the Scottish referendum debate. It seems purely diversionary, to draw attention away from the creation of jobs and real prospects for improvement. What’s a few thousand pounds of uncertain short-term gain here or there? Would independence set Scotland zipping along on a new course to prosperity? If so, why have these changes not been made already?
Scotland has a rich history, as does its close neighbour, and many experiences, including two world wars, in common.
Jack Marr, West Vancouver
Sun, wind, power
Re A Sunny Experiment Gone Wrong (Aug. 4): Providing electricity is a mammoth industry upon which society is intrinsically reliant. But it is challenged by vested interests and contradictory incentives that make it controversial. Admittedly, solar is an imperfect way to generate power, but conventional energy sources are profoundly imperfect.
Existing nuclear plants operate efficiently but disposing of them and replacing them are mind-boggling exercises. Gas may be better than coal, but that’s like saying botulism is better than cholera; millions of tonnes of CO2 are still pumped into the atmosphere. Hydro is great but nature has circumscribed how much of it there is, and we have picked the low-hanging fruit.
While the technologies unpinning conventional power inch ahead, solar is immature and is benefiting from rapid technological, financial, regulatory, skill and process improvements, as it belatedly experiences substantial investment. A noteworthy portion of those advances is being nurtured in Ontario under the aegis of the feed-in-tariff program. It is better to be an active participant in the future than clinging tenaciously to the past.
Marc Clark, Markham, Ont.
In his 2013 report on Ontario’s progress in taking action on climate change, Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller states that wind energy has helped Ontario make real progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector.
Wind energy is cheaper than new nuclear power, cost-competitive with new hydroelectric power and promises long-term price stability relative to the commodity and carbon-price risks facing natural-gas generation.
Wind energy costs continue to fall as new technology boosts output, and economies of scale reduce production and supply costs, all while creating new jobs in a growing green industry.
Robert Hornung, president, Canadian Wind Energy Association
Paid by the public
Re We Can’t Turn Doctors Into Moral Eunuchs (Aug. 7): Doctors are paid out of the public purse. Whether a public servant agrees with public policy is beside the point. Imagine if firefighter got to pick which fires to put out or a police officer got to decide which laws to enforce based on personal beliefs. Doctors should either carry out the approved policy or get out of the public sector. At the very least, if they don’t offer all available treatments, they don’t deserve all available salary.
Jason Preston, Montreal
First things first
Re Toddler Intruder At White House Alarms Secret Service (Aug. 8): The first thing they really needed to know was whether or not the toddler was a Republican or a Democrat.
Douglas Cornish, Ottawa