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Over-prorogued

Wait – what? Stephen Harper will prorogue Parliament so that he can make a Speech from the Throne, work the Conservative Party convention and otherwise promote his agenda, without the New Democrats and Liberals having the platform of Parliament from which to criticize his administration – and this is supposed to "sell Canadian voters on the notion he is still the person to lead the country" (Harper Hits Reset With Prorogation – Aug. 20)?

The person to lead my country does not manipulate the rules in order to stifle legitimate criticism from the opposition.

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John Lazarus, Kingston

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What a great solution and example to voters: Every time there are embarrassing questions, Parliament is prorogued like a convenient reset button. The people elected to speak for me are sent home, and the issues I want answers to are either shelved or forgotten; transparency and accountability are only words used during political speeches.

What does it take for Canadians to finally speak out? Why is it we can only get excited over hockey, the Royal Family and donut contests, but not over the way our government is run?

Izabella Cresswell-Jones, Toronto

.......

The Prime Minister doth prorogue too much. Apparently, lacking any new tricks, he feels he has to resort to older ones.

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Would that the opposition parties, individually or collectively, can find ways to rid us of a government past its "best before" date. In the meantime, it would help if they and others began articulating the policies around which a realistic progressive alternative could be built.

Dr. Steven B. Wolinetz, professor emeritus, political science department, Memorial University of Newfoundland

.......

Let judges decide

Your editorial about James Forcillo and Sammy Yatim (When A Constable Is Charged With Murder – Aug. 20) draws attention to a significant problem in our criminal law. While most of us agree that inappropriate use of lethal force should be punished, significantly fewer believe that automatic life imprisonment is fair. The punishment should fit the crime, and many would rather see an accused found not guilty than sent to prison for an excessive sentence.

It would be much better to remove the automatic minimum sentence from the Criminal Code and acknowledge our inability to foresee all the circumstances involved in establishing appropriate punishments. Sentencing should be left up to up to the judge hearing the evidence.

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Peter Love, Toronto

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Senate decision-making

Re Our Diseased Senate (letters – Aug. 20): I have advocated in three motions (2007, 2008 and 2009) a Canada-wide referendum on the future of the Senate. While the question of Senate reform or abolition and its constitutionality is now before the Supreme Court, I have always believed that, in a democracy, we should allow Canadians to weigh in first on the future of the Senate through a referendum.

A referendum would send a clear signal to all levels of government as to the peoples' will. Provincial premiers would be hard-pressed to ignore the marching orders of their constituents at the constitutional table. If Canadians decided that the Senate was no longer required, or that it needed serious reform, then provincial governments, the federal government, elected MPs and unelected senators would have a most clear indication of the way forward, one that would not be ignored. It's called democracy.

Senator Hugh Segal, Ottawa

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Ramsay Cook says that "the reality is that the Senate's consent is necessary for its own abolition … How many senators are currently planning a future on EI?"

If a page were to be taken from the corporate world and very, very substantial "golden handshakes" were provided, I submit that the senators would concure with abolition in a heartbeat.

Phillip Utting, Aurora, Ont.

.......

Under section 47(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, the Senate has a suspensive, not absolute, veto when it comes to constitutional amendments. If senators refuse to approve an amendment abolishing the Senate, the House of Commons needs only to wait 180 days and then approve the amendment for a second time. The bill moves forward without Senate consent.

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The biggest obstacle to constitutional reform of the Senate remains the requirement for approval by provincial legislatures. Depending on which amending formula the Supreme Court decides applies, approval is required by all the provincial legislatures or seven provincial legislatures representing 50 per cent of the population.

Dr. Barbara Cameron, associate professor, political science department, York University

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Urban studies

The discovery of the buried city atop Phnom Kulen, Cambodia, is certainly interesting (Mapping A 1,200-Year-Old Mystery – Focus, Aug. 17). Consider the amount of material, the years of labour and the skills to organize and create such an infrastructure.

Equally interesting, anthropologically, would be discovering how a culture based in such a small geographic area could produce the surpluses required for such a colossal effort. Possibilities might include: very productive agriculture, trading, slave labour or a combination of the above. The Khmer empire was larger than modern-day Cambodia, but it was still a major feat to build and manage such a huge community.

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John Owen, Dartmouth, N.S.

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Northern exposure

I would suggest to Prof. Whitney Lackenbauer that the clues to our Prime Minister's legacy (Harper's Arctic Evolution – Aug. 20) will not be found in his current overt display of affection for all things Nanavut, but in a decision he made earlier this year to cuddle with Chinese pandas rather than shaking hands with the native youths who had trekked from James Bay to meet him.

David Wood, Mildmay, Ont.

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Revolting

Thank you, Gwyn Morgan, for your clear and concise analysis of the McGuinty Liberals' failed and costly energy plans (Ontario's Power Policies Show What Not To Do – Aug. 19).

If there was a Bastille, I'd storm it.

Susan Schacter, Toronto

.......

Jesus has landed

Jesus has been interpreted in many ways over two millennia, and a long time before the Reformation and subsequent proliferation of numerous Christian sects. He foresaw and accommodated various interpretations by directing that "spirit" be superior to "letter" in interpreting moral and ethical law.

But the story of Jesus has not kept "landing the way it was intended to," as Lorna Dueck maintains (Jesus As We'd Like Him To Be – Aug. 19). In fact, it's been the cornerstone of counterintuitive as well as anti-scriptural atrocities and abuse. The introduction of horrendous methods of torture against heretics, witches and others is one example.

But the essential idea of forgiveness and love of enemies survives because it makes sound psychological, and often, practical sense: Forgiveness empowers and puts the forgiver in the driver's seat. This and other such ideas will never die because they work, no matter the next-world ramifications.

Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert, Alta.

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