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A panel reviewing Alberta’s COVID-19 response is calling for rule changes to ensure the premier and cabinet have the last word in future crises, with help from a new senior science officer. Former prime minister Stephen Harper, left, and Reform Party leader Preston Manning speak at a conference in Ottawa, on March 22.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Going forward

Re “Alberta COVID-19 panel calls for consideration of ‘alternative scientific narratives’ for future health emergencies” (Nov. 16): This should come as no surprise. I suspect the panel, put together by Danielle Smith and led by Preston Manning, was always going to say what Ms. Smith wanted to hear.

If there is one thing I have learned from the pandemic, it was that public-health mandates would have been more effective coming from federal officials rather than each province and territory with their own guidelines. If every part of Canada had been on the same page, I suspect many more lives could have been saved.

The resulting panel recommendations look like a win for the “me, me, me” crowd in Alberta. I am appalled that a government would put political gain above the greater good of the people it serves. I am dumbfounded that one of the recommendations would be to allow the province to override public-heath recommendations.

God help Alberta.

Joanne Wiggins Victoria

Bad business?

Re “François Legault yearns to make Quebec richer than Ontario. Can he?” (Report on Business, Nov. 15): Missing is mention of the Coalition Avenir Quebec government’s language policies.

Given this absence, one can only assume those economists who consulted the government were forewarned that the very subject was verboten. For most surely, one does not need to be an economic wizard to realize how harmful and misguided anti-English language policies have been for Quebec business since 1976, and have now been made considerably worse by François Legault.

Alan Scrivener Cornwall, Ont.

Fingers pointed

Re “The multimillion-dollar government app with a hole in the middle” (Nov. 15): Politicians often take potshots at public servants, but never before have I seen two senior public servants publicly accusing each other of lying.

Minh Doan testifies that although “my team” made the decision to hire GCStrategies, he was not personally involved in that decision. I guess he isn’t accountable for his team’s actions. Cameron MacDonald publicly accuses Mr. Doan, his boss at the time, of lying and threatening him. I guess he isn’t accountable either.

These are two of the most senior IT mandarins in the entire government. I find them disgraces to the professionalism of Canada’s first-class public service.

Jonathan Massey-Smith Former assistant deputy minister, Ottawa

For me, the major revelation from this tawdry story of passing the buck is that the government has a chief technology officer.

Given abysmal past performance – from the Phoenix payroll system to the ArriveCan scandal and the general conclusions of the Auditor-General about the terrible state of government systems – what have government CTOs been doing? It seems they have not been setting performance standards, project guidelines nor accounting requirements. They have, however, created so much mush that nobody can be held accountable for anything.

Perhaps this was the primary goal of the CTO all along.

Martin Birt Uxbridge, Ont.

Capture attention

Re “Carbon capture moves from science fiction to reality. The next step is the tough one” (Editorial, Nov. 13): I am deeply disappointed by calls for increased investment in carbon capture and storage.

CCS is an expensive, largely unproven technology that so far fails to substantially reduce air pollution. It would only serve to prolong reliance on oil and gas.

CCS would not effectively tackle emissions in Canada’s oil and gas sector, and have no impact on the roughly 80 per cent of emissions resulting from downstream use.

Furthermore, reliance on CCS would continue the production of health-harming air pollution in the form of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and volatile gases. One in seven premature deaths in Canada are attributable to air pollution, and the health harms are disproportionately experienced by racialized, Indigenous and poor communities.

Investing in renewables would immediately reduce such illness and death. Spending more money on CCS would increase costs relative to spending the same amounts on clean, renewable electricity to replace fossil fuel combustion.

Samantha Green, President-elect, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment Toronto

Streaming options

Re “Teaching gaps” (Letters, Nov. 15): A letter-writer sings the praises of destreaming high-school classes in Ontario. As someone with more than 30 years of experience as a teacher, I heartily disagree.

Destreamed classes, especially without adequate support, result in students who need more assistance getting less, and students who are more academically inclined being held back. As a result, neither group is properly prepared.

There is data that suggest otherwise, but the daily experience of working teachers provides a different, experiential take on that carefully prepared and selected data. While I am not one to decry experts, as is so trendy these days, many so-called education experts seem to spend little time in classrooms with kids, and haven’t done so for years.

The equity issues that destreaming is supposed to cope with are real, but I believe they begin far earlier than high school, and would continue regardless of destreamng. Perhaps that is why I saw the destreaming experiment fail about 30 years ago, and why this one will likely fail as well.

Charles Hardmann Barrie, Ont.

Judgment call

Re “As a millennial mom, I’m torn between paying attention to my child and my phone” (First Person, Nov. 14): I feel for this mother. I see this happening all around me on a daily basis, even, to a certain extent, with my own children and grandchildren.

I am old enough that I grew up without the benefits and problems of having a mobile phone. There is nothing like the security of a phone when compared to, for example, coming home late from a hike to worried parents, because one had a dime and no phone booth or a phone booth and no dime.

I still walk down the street looking up and around at birds, trees and anything that interests me. Happily some of this has rubbed off on my family over the years. The grandchildren love nature hikes and being outdoors, but they also love “tech time” at home.

Go for a child’s snail-watching, biscuit-eating and chubby thighs – they won’t be around forever.

Jeff Sutton Ottawa

I have never reached into my pocket for a cellphone. Never had one and never will, I hope.

I manage to get along fine. I can enjoy my grandchildren 100 per cent of the time without being distracted.

My laptop is fine. I check my e-mail before breakfast and after supper.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Steven Brown Toronto

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