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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 29, 2020.ALEXANDER DRAGO/Reuters

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Re Ottawa Steps Forward As COVID-19 Crisis Puts Provinces In Desperate Straits (April 2): Columnist John Ibbitson worries that “a pandemic is a bad reason for creating a guaranteed annual income." I believe that guaranteed income already has many good reasons to be supported; the pandemic merely illuminates another one, and the opportunity to create something valuable out of this crisis should not go to waste.

The immediate post-crisis period will be a golden opportunity to address the crucial design issues raised by Mr. Ibbitson: federal-provincial jurisdictions and, of course, funding. Funding through increased public debt seems to be our default solution, but that feels inter-generationally unethical and impractical for a permanent program such as this. It would require a much-avoided, but long overdue, discussion of income and wealth redistribution through tax reform.

Creating a sustainable guaranteed annual income would be challenging, essential and well within our capabilities.

John Dorland Kingston

Idle hands

Re Crops In Peril As Temporary Foreign Workers Yet To Arrive (April 2): I almost laughed when I read this story. Can’t anyone ask Canadians to do it? Like, really ask? There are so many young people out of work and school now. They can socially distance as they do it, as well as the migrant workers could.

I would go and work on the farms if I didn’t have elderly relatives to take care of. Do people have no imagination any more? With all the people sitting here, is there no one to mobilize them?

Erin McMurtry Toronto

I read broadcaster Gordon Sinclair’s autobiography years ago. One of his many stories I remember took place during the First World War. Mr. Sinclair was not old enough as a young teen to join comrades overseas. Instead, he went to a farm north of Toronto, and rolled up his sleeves to get the work done. Based on Mr. Sinclair’s small physique, the farmer wasn’t sure he’d last – but he did.

Perhaps going “back to the land” can become a new fixture in the curriculum for young students.

Michael Schultz Acton, Ont.

Re How Did You Win The War? I Stayed Home (Editorial, March 31): In addition to reinforcing the message to stay home and highlighting what not to do, could we also report on how to engage Canadians in positive action?

A call for volunteers in Britain resulted in 500,000 responses in 24 hours, a staggering number to effectively organize, but it conveys the scope of effort required and the breadth of public duty. Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison, but a charitable volunteer-response team in Toronto had only thousands of responses as of April 1.

Ideology and obsession with tax reduction have reduced the scale and role of government, and may also have eroded our sense of public service in the common good. Understandably, government is prioritizing critical medical and financial aspects of this crisis. However, I believe there is a missed opportunity to safely energize and organize the resources of those who stay home, and especially the massive number of recently unemployed.

Could government help co-ordinate and communicate volunteer efforts?

Chester Fedoruk Toronto

Compliance department

Re Over Two Weeks, 158 International Flights Landed In Canada With At Least One Confirmed Case Of Virus On Board (April 2): I’m just back from an abbreviated vacation. I listened to Justin Trudeau castigate returnees for stopping on their way home for food and admonish folks with symptoms for boarding planes. While social distancing and self-isolation are necessary responsibilities, I believe we have good evidence that finger-wagging and threats are not effective. The problem, it seems, is compliance.

We should create contexts that maximize compliance; give people the means to behave appropriately. For instance, if we want returnees to go straight home, let’s offer small packages of food and essentials on their arrivals so they have some provisions in hand. If we do not want sick travellers to board planes, they should have more options while abroad than the excruciating dilemma of choosing between their own health and the good of others.

These are the things that government should be doing to promote compliance with essential behaviours that protect the community.

Adam Horvath Professor emeritus of education, Simon Fraser University; Burnaby, B.C.

With great power…

Re Save Grandma Or The Economy? It Depends (April 1): The U.S. debate about the COVID-19 response seems larger than economics versus public health. To me, it is about whether experts or political leaders should dictate policy.

Public-health officials decided that shelter in place is in the U.S. best interest. But does expertise justify power? On the other hand, political leaders brave enough to challenge experts remind us that a more sophisticated accounting of society’s objectives may be a better guide to balancing economic and social losses with slowing the virus.

So who should lead us, the experts or the politicians? America is asking.

Nicholas Kandel Barrie, Ont.

So far, the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has flared most virulently in flourishing cities such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle, centres of finance and technology. But as the virus moves into the coal towns and smaller cities of America’s industrial heartland, in states such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, it will find already weakened individuals in already weakened communities. There, the life expectancy of middle-aged white Americans without a four-year college degree has been falling, as analyzed by economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton in their book Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. The causes? Suicide, opioid overdoses and liver disease amid falling wages, unemployment and declining participation in religious and community life.

I believe Donald Trump has done little to help these Americans during his presidency. People are vulnerable in different ways and are found in unexpected places. My heart and hopes go out to them all.

George Fallis Professor emeritus of economics and social science, York University; Toronto

Who let the dogs out?

Re Who’s Enjoying Self-isolation? Our Pets (March 28): Could someone please explain to me why, if someone is over 70, healthy and has a dog, they can go gaily trotting out every day for walkies? However, if one is over 70, healthy and has outlived all their dogs, they have to stay cooped up inside. This is surely discriminating against non-dog owners.

Perhaps our leaders would consider, like stores, setting aside an hour each day for non-dog-owning seniors to get out and stretch their legs. But please don’t make it between 6 and 7 in the morning.

Elizabeth Thompson Oakville, Ont.

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