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Defending our democracy
Our government is working hard to defend federal elections from cyber threats and foreign interference. As federal Minister of Democratic Institutions, I’d like to respond to confusion in a recent editorial about these efforts (Social Anxieties, Aug. 2).
There is a whole-of-government effort under way to protect federal elections from foreign and cyber threats. This includes closing legal loopholes and modernizing elections law through Bill C-76, and co-ordinating resources, skills, and expertise across government to defend our democratic institutions.
We asked security agencies to publicly report on their analysis of threats to our democracy, and to provide updates before the 2019 election. The 2018 budget contains $750-million for co-ordinated cyber defence and increases funding to federal agencies enforcing electoral laws. Just recently, Canada expelled Russian diplomats who were using their diplomatic status to interfere in our democracy.
We are working hard to protect our elections. As threats evolve, so will our efforts.
Karina Gould, Ottawa
Men’s role in #MeToo
Although violence and harassment have long affected women’s work lives, co-workers often don’t know what to say or do to intervene.
As Gary Mason observed in his opinion piece, #MeToo presents an opportunity for social change, and the good news is, men have a crucial role to play (The Many Voices of #MeToo Yet To Be Heard, Aug. 3).
Since 1992, the Ending Violence Association of BC has been working to increase women’s safety, including engaging men as allies to help end gender-based violence. Our Be More Than a Bystander program recognizes that most men are not violent or abusive. Rather than calling men out, we call men in by teaching skills for intervening. Increasingly, universities, unions and corporations are working with us to create safer workplaces.
With #MeToo raising awareness and urgency, we have an opportunity to create real change.
Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of BC, Vancouver
Basic income blues
The Ontario government should be expanding and extending the guaranteed annual income project, not ending it (PCs Roll Back Liberal-Era Social Assistance Changes, Aug. 1).
Research on the social determinants of health shows that low income is related to higher health-care use, costs and increased mortality. In 2013, the Canadian Medical Association published a report that showed that just 25 per cent of a person’s health status is attributable to their access to health care. Fifty per cent is determined by the social determinants of health such as income, early child development, food security, employment, housing, race, aboriginal status and community belonging.
The Hamilton Spectator/McMaster University collaboration Code Red, which examined poverty in Hamilton, showed a 21-year life expectancy gap between low- and high-income neighbourhoods.
The CMA called for government action on a poverty reduction action plan, a guaranteed annual income, affordable and supportive housing, development of a food security program, more investments in early childhood education, including parental support, collaboration between government and industry on a pharmacare program, and a comprehensive strategy for First Nations health.
The provincial government should use their review of social assistance over the next 100 days to develop a plan based on the compelling evidence cited by the CMA and others.
Steve Lurie, executive director, Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto branch, Toronto
I have questions for Ontario Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod with regard to her decision to cancel Ontario’s basic income pilot project in midstream (Callous Politics In Ontario, Aug. 2).
Before making this cancellation decision, did she personally read the academic literature associated with basic income?
Did she fully inform herself about current findings by exhaustively reviewing results of other studies, and reviewing, in careful detail, the associated theories and hypotheses?
What is the empirical evidence on which she has concluded that basic-income policies have an overall negative effect?
As a taxpayer who has already made an investment in this project, I am requesting answers to these questions. With citations, please.
Liz Mayer, Toronto
For Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party, plus ça change. Here are some lyrics from an Ian Robb song that are equally applicable to the last great PC cost-cutting debacle:
Oh, they’re taking it away,
Yes they’re taking it away
They are taking all the good things
You can hear the people say
And they’ll take it all tomorrow
If they don’t take it today
From the poor and sick and helpless,
They are taking it away.
Bruce Henry, Waterloo, Ont.
Appetite for destruction
Letter writer Sid Frankel accurately listed four characteristics of politicians like Ontario Premier Doug Ford – and his brother, Rob, and U.S. President Donald Trump, for that matter (Without Evidence, Aug. 2).
But he forgot the fifth. They just like to smash stuff that other people built.
Smash, bash, trash, crash, crack, crush, sock, destroy, wallop, whack, wreck, ruin, push, pull, blast, break.
Now I feel so great, but the kitchen is a mess and my hand is bleeding, but I have this urge to start over again in another room.
David Crowe, Calgary
Palms here to stay
In response to a story about palm trees being planted in Halifax, a letter writer states that the Nova Scotia city is no place for palms (No Place For Palms, Aug. 3). She says they look “ridiculous” and concludes that just because you can plant them doesn’t mean you should.
Perhaps a lesson from the arborists in Chicago is appropriate here. White oak, the Illinois state tree, is in decline because of climate change and is expected to be extinct from the area within decades. In anticipation of the Windy City having to endure much hotter conditions, the city’s arborists are planting trees such as bald cypress, a species more usually associated with a pleasant walk through steamy Baton Rouge, La.
It’s a fact of life that more southern, warmer climate zones are shifting north as a result of climate change.
So, to the letter writer, I say: Plant those palms, not because you can but because you may have to if you want to retain a climate-ameliorating tree cover in our cities.
Chris Gates, Quinte West, Ont.