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Less is more?
Thank you very much for Margaret Wente’s column supporting Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s legislation to reduce the size of Toronto’s city council. (Doug Ford Is Right About Toronto, July 31).
I strongly oppose some elements of the Premier’s energy and education policies, but am willing to take a considerable amount of water with my wine insofar as reforming municipal government is concerned.
Critics of the Premier’s action are correct that a trade-off arises between quality of representation and efficiency in public decision-making when the number of elected politicians is reduced. I’m with the Premier, however, in arguing that any loss of democratic representation will be less important than the potential improvements to be gained in the efficiency and quality of municipal decision-making. Too many vital issues that need prompt and thoughtful resolution are now being stalled by endless debates in council.
And I am frankly offended by those who say that saving approximately $25-million a year in salaries and support costs by reducing the number of councillors is peanuts. So, Toronto Mayor John Tory, please, call off the lawyers and devote more of your time and the public’s resources on truly important issues.
Bob Publicover, Waterloo, Ont.
How can an act of a democratically elected provincial government exercising powers within its authority be considered undemocratic?
Michael Megale, Calgary
Ms. Wente claims that democracy will be the winner with fewer politicians. I completely disagree.
First, in reducing the number of Toronto wards to 25 from 47, the city will be one of the most unrepresented jurisdictions in North America – one councillor for, approximately, 120,000 people. Currently Toronto barely has the appropriate number of politicians to adequately serve its constituents.
Second, while Ms. Wente laments that Toronto city council is inefficient, even dysfunctional, I’ll take it over anything else, including an oligarchy. Democracy is messy, time-consuming and frustrating but it’s better than having strong-armed policies that the majority reject.
Third, I like politicians. I’ve met with many of them, and can attest that all of them care deeply about their communities, and many work long hours. I’ve always been impressed by their passion and dedication. Yes, there are always bad apples, but they are the exception, not the rule. When we slag politicians or try to make the legislative process “efficient,” we, in effect, chip away at democracy.
Cheryl McNamara, Toronto
The 11th province
Regarding Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s plan to cut the number of Toronto city councillors in half, I think that attack is the best form of defence (City Of Toronto Pursues Legal Challenge To Ford’s Council Cuts, July 31).
First, we should take a page from the Catalonia playbook and hold a referendum, not on his proposal but on whether to secede from Ontario.
Secondly, city council should pass a motion asking staff to ignore any legislation on Toronto that is enacted by the Ford government, and proceed with the municipal election as if nothing has happened. What is Mr. Ford going to do then – lock us all up Trump-style? Send in the RCMP to stop the referendum attempt? I don’t think so. The only thing that bullies respect is a show of force so let’s show Mr. Ford what we are made of.
Adam Plackett, Toronto
The heights of science
Sometimes, science is out of this world. Four students, from Grades 8 through 12, wanted to help solve the puzzle of Lou Gehrig’s disease, so they shipped worms to the International Space Station (Toronto Teenagers Become Published Scientists After Sending Worms To Space, July 30).
The goal: to discover how the worms responded to microgravity. The outcome: unexpected results and a publication in a peer-reviewed journal. It’s a stunning accomplishment for a high-school project.
But the greater achievement might be the teenagers’ exposure to how science works – the unseen process of trial and revision. One of the students found science to be “all about the obstacles. What’s really cool is learning different ways to get around those obstacles.” Designing experiments – teachers, take note – is both cool and critical.
The astronomer Carl Sagan would be proud. The method of science, he wrote, is far more important than the findings of science.
Our future depends on science. To prosper, we will need more scientific understanding. And we will need more understanding of science.
James Schaefer, professor of biology, Trent University, Peterborough, Ont.
Teach them young
In reference to Elizabeth Renzetti’s fine column, I can’t help but think that now, more than ever, there is a strong need to create curriculum at the secondary school level that focuses on changes to communication and the media’s role, particularly as it relates to the political environment (Trump’s Toxic Lies Are Quickly Poisoning Us All, July 28).
Leaving these subjects to the college level to deal with is far too late, as students younger than ever are faced with a continuous string of lies and half-truths from a variety of sources. There does not appear to be any consequence to political lies and any other harmful and fabricated statements that are made by some of our so-called social and political leaders.
It is important that our young people be provided with the tools to root out answers that can be authenticated, and also be made aware of the damages these false statements can cause.
Ron Nunweiler, Duncan. B.C.
Pierre Lizée is correct to note that Canada supported formation of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia (We Must Finish What We Started In Cambodia, July 28). And in fact, a Canadian jurist (Robert Petit) was the international co-prosecutor when the proceedings started in 2009.
But our support for democracy in Cambodia was already on the wane by then and soon faded almost entirely following cuts to the budget for Global Affairs Canada. Our embassy, which had played a prominent role in monitoring Cambodia’s very competitive national elections in 2003, was reduced to a consular office in the British embassy. The Canadian international development agency closed its doors in 2012. Responsibility for our relations with the Cambodian kingdom shifted to our embassy in Thailand, which in 2013 was unable even to maintain Canadian support for independent Khmer-language news coverage of the Cambodian election that year.
Our share in the failure of democracy in Cambodia is small compared to that of much bigger powers. But the fact is, we also gave up much sooner.
Ian Porter, Halifax