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Stephen Harper, Conservative leader at the time, listens to a question from the media as he makes a campaign stop in Fredericton, N.B. on Aug. 17, 2015.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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Who knew what?

Re Joly Says She Didn’t Know Kyiv Embassy Staff Faced Russian Threat (Aug. 4): Did the Foreign Affairs Minister ask anyone?

John Moore Toronto

I accept Mélanie Joly’s explanation that she and her department were ignorant of the situation in the Kyiv embassy. I do not find it comforting.

That and her statement – after Kabul and now Kyiv – that “I know there have been conversations” tells me she is breathtakingly late to start paying attention. She should resign.

Doug Wiens Edmonton

Go deep

Re In Defence Of The Deep State (Opinion, July 30): Columnist Andrew Coyne advocates a system in which cabinet ministers rely on “measurable benchmarks” to assess the effectiveness of their departments in meeting government policies. If only it were possible to do that.

Departments typically do not have documentary data to measure benchmarks and not all policies can be reduced to quantifiable ones. Furthermore, changes in government policies often require new benchmarks and corresponding data systems to evaluate success.

The performance assessments would never be able to keep up.

Linda Hoffman Toronto

Generally, I agree that limited government is preferred and separation of powers supports democracy. An independent Bank of Canada will usually protect our economic stability. But democracy is the byword.

When an incompetent leader or board is appointed, they can put our financial welfare at risk. Surely, even with clearly delineated powers, there should be a mechanism for change. If there is no recall provision during a seven-year tenure, Parliament can and should exercise appropriate discretion to protect the country.

In a parliamentary democracy, a duty of diligence against mismanagement or misconduct should be exercised by the people’s representatives.

Larry Sylvester Halton Hills, Ont.

It took years before I understood strategic planning.

By using common language, we communicate better. Vision, mission, then goals, objectives and operations.

In theory, the difference is that a vision is what members (in this case, the public) imagine for their future, and that is ideally articulated by government. Mission is what we believe is needed to achieve that vision. Then we hand it off to management (the public service and crown corporations) who establish goals and objectives and manage their organizations to achieve them.

It frustrates me that phrases such as “steering and rowing” are used because of a perception that we’d all be lost with the right language. Not using the language that applies to boards and governing bodies helps keep us dumb, perpetuating opportunities for dysfunctional government because people don’t understand the planning process – what I think Andrew Coyne eludes to.

Jamie Brougham Ottawa

Excellent as Andrew Coyne’s insights are in defining the guiding principles of democracy in action, by turning a page, Doug Saunders’s unnerving commentary distills a creeping, dangerous reality (Why Do Conservatives Still Support Viktor Orban? – July 30).

Why should we care? A wolf may already be at our door. Stephen Harper, as head of the International Democrat Union, not only congratulated Mr. Orban on his electoral win, but also showed his flag by visiting him in 2019.

Now it is 2022 and Mr. Harper is endorsing Pierre Poilievre for Conservative leader. As our next federal election approaches, we should demand that leadership-in-waiting be transparent in defining plans for Canada’s future.

Of ourselves, we should ask: Do we return to order and stability, or will the spell of populism lead us to disruption and, ultimately, destruction at home and on the world stage?

Marian Kingsmill Hamilton

Crowd pleaser

Re Poilievre Populism (Opinion, July 30): Over the past few centuries, “native-born Canadians” have been largely replaced by European immigrants. Now some of these descendants are worried about being “replaced” by immigrants from other parts of the world.

Isn’t that just continuing the tradition?

Mik Bickis Saskatoon

At the same time that Social Credit was establishing itself in Alberta (and to a lesser extent in British Columbia) under William Aberhart, the progressive Social Gospel movement coalesced around J.S. Woodsworth and Tommy Douglas in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Mr. Woodsworth went to Ottawa as an MP leading the populist-socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, while Mr. Douglas built the party in the Prairies. Mr. Douglas even formed an alliance with Mr. Aberhart: Neither party would run candidates against the other in their respective home provinces, so they could defeat Conservative and Liberal candidates. It took Mr. Douglas longer to become premier of Saskatchewan than it did Mr. Aberhart to take the post next door, but his moves to establish universal health care in the province prompted Ottawa’s Liberals to introduce a national program.

So Canadians owe much to its leftist populists, while today cautiously watching contemporary populists on the right.

David Balcon Producer, Social Gospel and the Public Good; Toronto

Shine a light

Re Facing The Sun (Opinion, July 30): Some people have the rare gift of taking difficult experiences and weaving them into beautiful, haunting prose. Novelist Claire Cameron does just that. In addition to sharing her personal odyssey, she brings ice caves to life and acknowledges the wild nature in all things, including her cancer cells.

Ms. Cameron speaks of her talented English professor father who succumbed to the same melanoma. I couldn’t help but marvel at her fortitude and how her every word proves her father’s legacy is strong.

She speaks of Old English kennings as being compound descriptions that replace a noun. I can only offer “treasure-giver” to describe the generous character of Ms. Cameron in sharing this part of her life.

Wendy Morton Ottawa

The subject of Claire Cameron’s lyrical essay caught my attention as someone who had cancer and lost a dear friend to melanoma. When I reached the sentence explaining that her father was a professor at the University of Toronto, I was taken back to 1976.

I took Old English as a requirement for a master’s degree in English, and I luckily signed up for Angus Cameron’s class. Professor Cameron was a gifted teacher, full of enthusiasm for his subject, encouraging to his students, deeply learned and very, very tall. Ms. Cameron made me remember his teaching and, above all, his Nova Scotia accent which, as someone new to Canada, I found quite wonderful.

I am grateful to Ms. Cameron for bringing her father’s voice and presence back to me so vividly.

Lisa Vargo Distinguished professor emerita of English, University of Saskatchewan; Saskatoon

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