Governance and intervention
It's instructive to read two of The Globe's April 18 columns together.
Brian Lee Crowley (Canada's Real Wealth: It's Not Gold, It's Good Governance – Business) observes that prosperity is ultimately rooted in a rules-based order with trusted public institutions, a truth that applies equally to security. Jeffrey Simpson (Czar Vladimir Is Changing The Rules Of The Game) reminds us that the states most vulnerable to resurgent Russian chauvinism are riven by ethnicities not protected by the rule of law and trusted institutions.
In every case of post-Cold War cross-border military intervention, the target country, like Ukraine, was already enmeshed in intractable conflict, suffering a deep crisis of legitimacy. Stable, well-governed countries are rarely invaded.
Since 1989, there has really been only one partial exception, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait – and even there, to say it was well governed is a stretch. In all other interventions, the target state was in unambiguous crisis – Georgia, Bosnia, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Lesotho, Mali, South Sudan.
Protection from the Putins of this world has zero to do with sending six CF-18 fighters to the region, but everything to do with promoting and supporting responsible and accountable governance.
Ernie Regehr, O.C., research fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont.
Canada has good governance compared to the various dictatorships Mr. Crowley cites. But he fails to mention that Canada's flawed electoral system permits a single political party to govern with absolute power while receiving a minority of the votes cast in an election. This results in extreme shifts in policy, as each political party takes its turn governing with absolute power while lacking political legitimacy, as Mr. Crowley notes with examples of provincial governments having to "backtrack."
Unlike Canada, most parliamentary democracies have proportional representation that enables their governments to avoid this situation. Proportional representation prevents any political party that receives less than 50 per cent of the votes in an election (as is often the case) from passing legislation without the approval of another political party.
David Wand, Cobourg, Ont.
Mr. Simpson's very perceptive article raises most of the important issues, except a very conspicuous one: When did Ukraine become a vital interest of the West?
If it's only since the fall of the Soviet Union, the West is surely fishing in troubled waters. Because it's been a vital interest of Russia for a thousand years.
Arthur Milne, Calgary
Mr. Simpson's column has the effect of bolstering the Harper government's approach, arguing that the Ukrainian crisis has revealed the real face of Russia as a sinister expansionist state contemptuous of international law and the values of European civilization.
This Cold War confrontation is accordingly being revived as quickly as NATO can mobilize air and ground forces on Europe's eastern borders. Never mind the the joint statement issued after Thursday's meeting of the key players in Geneva, calling on all sides to avoid provocative actions that could increase tensions.
Why are our opposition parties not insisting on a parliamentary debate on what Canada's response should be?
Scott Burbidge, Port Williams, N.S.
Canada does not need fighter capability to protect sovereignty, for minor armed conflicts or for conflicts between major powers (F-35 Remains Top Replacement Option – April 18).
Unless in the vicinity of the target, fighters could not protect Canada against its greatest threat of a 9/11-style terrorist attack.
Minor armed conflicts (such as in the Central Africa Republic) would not require fighters, but could require Canadian support of ground operations by aircraft specialized for that role.
War requiring F-35 capabilities would involve countries having or developing comparable fighters – the United States, China, Russia, possibly India. Despite the tensions regarding Ukraine, there seems to be little prospect within the foreseeable future of hostilities amongst these countries.
The "lifetime cost of maintaining fighter capability" that could pre-empt the purchase of other high-priority military equipment, the indefinite unit cost of F-35s and the prospect of remote controlled drones dealing with some military aerial activities, are further reasons why the CF-18s should not be replaced by fighter-capable aircraft.
C.R. (Buzz) Nixon, deputy minister of national defence (1975-1983), Ottawa
If Canadians want to encourage a real youth vote in the next federal election, they will push Elections Canada to develop the means of securely voting over the Internet and especially by cellphone. Where even our banks and the Canada Revenue Agency encourage such personalized communications, you're not going to convince me that such a development isn't possible or even inevitable.
Then again, this convenience would fly in the face of the current government's attempts at achieving just the opposite (The Fair Elections Act Is Ever So Telling – April 16).
Neil Finnie, Victoria
Ability to pay
Margaret Wente has come rather late to the dance (Crime Is Plunging, But Police Costs Are Soaring – April 17: Actually, our association has been facing, and dealing with, sustainability issues for years. And Toronto's police budget is proportionately the same today as it has been historically.
It is wrong to say that arbitrators don't have to look at a municipality's ability to pay. In Ontario, the Police Services Act mandates that they look at a variety of factors in determining a fair salary increase. The very first criterion is the "employer's ability to pay in light of its fiscal situation." Arbitrators must also look at the "extent to which services may have to be reduced, in light of the decision or award, if current funding and taxation levels are not increased." They must also consider the "economic situation in Ontario and in the municipality" as well as the "interest and welfare of the community served by the police force."
Finally, it should be noted that the vast majority of police contracts are in fact freely negotiated, so arbitration is not a driver of police employment costs.
Mike McCormack, president, Toronto Police Association
Accept unto others
Leah McLaren raises a very complex issue in When Multiculturalism Tests Our Moral Relativism (Life & Arts, April 18).
Morality is about our dealings with other people, and since everyone asks similar questions, the implication is that the basic principle of morality is to respect everyone else as one's moral equal, or some version of the golden rule.
Specific values are developed by different cultures, and so we have a range of beliefs and practices. In a multicultural society, we must not only be tolerant of these differences but we must accept these differences and learn how to deal with them. Ms. McLaren's neighbours are no more wrong in their beliefs than she is – just different, and it's these differences that must be accepted.
Bernie Koenig, London, Ont.