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Money, influence

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Banning corporate and union donations to a political party is only part of the "fix" for the political fundraising scandal.

There is also the problem posed by a group, such as Working Families, which has spent millions of dollars opposing a political party during an election campaign. That spending clearly rebounds in favour of another party or parties, the same way as a direct donation. It is not beyond the realm of possibility, for example, that the Ontario Liberal government paying for teachers unions' bargaining costs could be seen as a "thank you" to Working Families.

David Surplis, Toronto

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Re Six Steps To Clean Up Political Financing Rules (April 4): Banning donations by corporations, unions and other organizations, increasing disclosure and decreasing spending limits for parties, candidates and interest groups are good moves. But setting the individual donation limit at "something like the federal limit of about $1,500" is not.

Federally, an additional $1,525 can be donated to the riding associations of each party; the total of $3,050 can be given to as many parties as a donor wants (if a donor wants to hedge their bets).

Given that the average annual income in Canada is about $40,000, a $3,050 annual donation limit (or even $1,500) is far more than most people can afford. As a result, it allows the wealthy to continue to use large donations only they can afford as an unethical way of influencing politicians and parties. Such a high limit therefore violates the fundamental democratic principle of one-person, one-vote.

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The democratic solution is for every jurisdiction in Canada to make the same world-leading changes Quebec made in 2013: donations only from individuals who live in the jurisdiction, limited to $100 annually and, to make up for the loss of large donations, a base amount of annual per-vote public funding for parties, and public funding matching an initial amount raised by parties each year, and raised by candidates each election.

Any other system will allow undemocratic and unethical donations from wealthy interests to continue.

Duff Conacher, co-founder, Democracy Watch; Ottawa

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Toughest job?

Re This Woman Has The Toughest Job In Canada (April 2): It appears by all accounts that Jody Wilson-Raybould is a very competent minister facing a tough portfolio. But to suggest that she has the "toughest job in Canada" is ridiculous. The single mom working double shifts, she has a tough job. The laid-off oil sands worker doing construction jobs in B.C., a thousand kilometres from his family, he's got a tough job. A cabinet minister, with a well-staffed office, $250K annual salary, and a parliamentary majority to boot?

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A lot of work, sure. But a far cry from the toughest job in Canada.

Paige Gibson, North Saanich, B.C.

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Pretzel politics

Re Through The Looking Glass (Focus, April 2): Cathal Kelly's insightful article on Donald Trump brilliantly says that categorization isn't the same thing as understanding. Yet Mr. Kelly goes on to categorize "huge swaths of Americans as "buffoons" and adds other overgeneralizing labels, such as classifying those who designed the U.S. political system as "paranoiacs."

I am thinking that he is saying his article is not helping us "understand" the Americans.

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Bruce Hutchison, Ottawa

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What has to be the best Chandleresque line in a long time comes from Cathal Kelly: "For months now, Mr. Trump has felt omnipresent, largely because the American electronic media has pretzelled itself around him like a lover." If Mr. Kelly wrote a telephone directory, I would read it from cover to cover.

Kathleen Hanna, Picton, Ont.

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A committee replies

Re Oil Or Nothing? (editorial, April 1): You are correct, a blanket view of fossil fuel companies reveals that they are different from apartheid. "Society will need [most of] them for years to come, and there is no way for the entire planet to ditch them entirely and immediately without widespread harm." In fact, the report of the University of Toronto Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels completely agrees.

Quoting from our report: "The committee recognizes that fossil fuels will remain indispensable and a contributor to social welfare for many years." We did not recommend universal divestment.

Instead, we called upon the university to lead an effort to, in The Globe's language, "gradually ratchet down fossil-fuel use worldwide," beginning with the worst offenders, whose behaviour we should not tolerate. Much like the apartheid regime, the worst offenders need to be identified and isolated. These fossil fuel companies are the ones blatantly disregarding the international effort to limit the rise in average global temperatures to not more than 1.5 C, thereby greatly increasing the likelihood of catastrophic global consequences. These are the companies that are properly the focus of divestment and such a targeted strategy is an application of what has become known as the Toronto Principle.

You say University of Toronto president Meric Gertler, in rejecting our recommendation for targeted divestment, "rightly called for a better way to balance the ethical and financial goals of an academic institution situated in an economy where fossil fuels are inescapable."

With respect, such a better way was exactly what our committee recommended.

Matthew Hoffmann, Peter Burns, Graham Coulter, Andrew Green, Arthur Hosios, Bryan Karney, Mohan Matthen, Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Rita O'Brien, members, University of Toronto Ad Hoc Committee on Fossil Fuel Divestment

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There's a difference

Re Why Is Ottawa Stalling On Reform (editorial, April 4): You take the Liberal government to task for its lethargy in addressing Access to Information reform. However, your assertion that the Information Commissioner "well documented" the abuses by government officials is rather off-target.

When did ministerial assistants become "officials"? Unless things totally spiralled out of control in the past several years, it has virtually always been unelected, unaccountable political aides who delayed or froze ATI responses that had been dutifully compiled by the accountable bureaucracy. Whether the dismaying practice continues under new political management is not clear.

Having said that, it must be asserted that government is not a mysterious black box whose workings can only be guessed at.

The sooner all journalists, including editorial writers, recognize the obvious distinction between the public service and the political machine, the better informed all Canadians will be.

Evan Browne, Ottawa

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Any takers?

Re Trudeau Aims To 'Open' Party, Offer Free Membership (April 4): Perhaps Mr. Mulcair might be interested?

Douglas Cornish, Ottawa

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