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Ontario Premier Doug Ford has a drink of water while speaking in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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Water: public or private?

Re Water Is Priceless, But What Should It Cost? (Dec. 14): The Wellington Water Watcher’s campaign – like those of water movements globally – is not first and foremost about the haggling over the price that should be charged for water, but about the more fundamental question of whether water should be in public or private hands; whether it should be a common good or sold for profit.

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Water utilities that have remained in public hands (Costa Rica) or that have re-municipalized their water after years of privatization (Paris and Berlin) all charge water prices that can be quite high. The point for movements, however, is that the money gets re-invested in public infrastructures and not pocketed by private corporations.

Andrea Muehlebach, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Toronto

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The excellent article by Denise Balkissoon points out, once again, how our water is being manipulated by multinationals like the Nestlé company.

Nestlé is continuing to pump our water on “expired permits” and paying very little for the right, both things with the province’s permission.

Our precious resource is as good as being “stolen” away from under us, and water safety is being sacrificed because of outdated legislation. Will it take another Walkerton fiasco for our provincial government to smarten up? We need our water and we need it “safe” to drink for all of us.

Jeffrey Manly, Toronto

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Diminished protection

Ontario’s Conservative government has decided that the way to Make Ontario Great Again is to allow municipalities to pass “Open for Business” bylaws that give developers permission to circumvent the Provincial Policy Statement of 2014, the Planning Act, the Clean Water Act, the Great Lakes Protection Act, the Greenbelt Act, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, the Places to Grow Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Nutrient Management Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act, and plenty of other, less well-known legislation that was designed to protect the people of Ontario (Ontario: Open For (Monkey) Business – editorial, Dec. 13).

Buried in that (regrettable) run-on sentence are protections for farmland and the environment, steps to limit urban sprawl, rules to conserve heritage and archeology, and requirements for honouring treaty obligations to First Nations communities.

Successive governments over the past 50 years have recognized the need to protect those things because they are precisely why Ontario is a great place to live. The notion that business success can only come at the expense of environmental and social justice was abandoned by planners and developers ages ago.

Why are the Conservatives still hanging on to it?

Paul Racher, principal, Archaeological Research Associates, Kitchener, Ont.

7,382, and counting

Re B.C. To Be First In West To Tackle Inactive Wells (Dec. 14): Paul Jeakins, chief executive of the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, addressing the subject of abandoned oil and gas wells in British Columbia, tells us he is “not worried they’re going to pull a fast one on us.”

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Presumably, “they” are the oil and gas corporations that have already abandoned 7,382 wells in B.C. while routinely trying to sell these same wells to companies that don’t have the financial capacity to either reactivate them or restore the lands these wells have fouled.

I can only think that the corporations responsible for these wells and land reclamation projects must take their own sweet time when abandoning them …realizing that if they try to pull a “fast one,” Mr. Jeakins will stop them in their tracks.

Right.

Esther Shannon, Vancouver

Via’s choice rankles

Re Via Rail Picks Siemens Over Bombardier For $989-Million Train Order (Dec. 13): I can appreciate that there may be a variety of reasons for Via Rail’s choice of Siemens over Bombardier, given the latter’s track record, no pun intended, of failing to deliver on time, on budget. However, I was taken aback by a statement attributed to Transport Minister Marc Garneau, in reference to our free trade agreements with the EU and U.S., that Via Rail couldn’t favour Bombardier because it couldn’t consider economic benefits in its evaluation of tender bids. I would have thought that economic benefit would be an overriding consideration in awarding such a contract. What’s wrong with this picture?

Don Parkinson, Ottawa

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A billion-dollar contract to Siemens and not to Bombardier? We need a Trump in this country.

Sannu Mölder, Port Carling, Ont.

(More) read in Canada

Re Canadians Reading Fewer Domestic Books, Report Shows (Dec. 13). It’s ludicrous to blame website algorithms for falling Canadian book sales. If anything, the internet makes it easier to find, sample, and buy new (and used) Canadian books.

Fingers might better be pointed at a prize-obsessed industry that focuses precious marketing dollars on a handful of books, and declining book coverage by Canadian newspapers (including The Globe and Mail) and magazines.

One solution might be to clone Rupi Kaur and Esi Edugyan to ensure a constant supply of bestselling teenybopper poetry and globalized, two-dimensional novels.

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Stephen Gauer, technical writer, Vancouver

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Canadian independent booksellers are maintaining their presence, despite huge challenges.

Distribution issues and high property taxes are just a few of the issues we face that are addressed in this report. Grants and other subsidies to produce Canadian content are wasted if there is no way to showcase these books in a more meaningful manner. A unified digital platform for online orders linking to other Canadian authors would be such a benefit.

On the front lines, I can attest to the desire from book buyers to buy Canadian, and that implementing the recommendations in this comprehensive report would go a long way toward achieving positive change.

I agree there are opportunities for those willing to open bookshops across the country. For me, I see more opportunities than I have energy for at this stage of my career.

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Black Bond Books has been in business for 55 years this fall; with seven locations, we experience the cultural importance that having a bookshop in your community brings. Funds to help bring authors and readers together would be welcome, as would relief from property taxes.

I hope more young people consider this fabulous and rewarding career and business. I can attest to it rarely being dull – and the wonderful book lovers one meets in small bookstores make every struggle worthwhile. Canadian books, publishing and independent booksellers are worth saving. I hope someone is listening.

Cathy Jesson, Black Bond Books, Book Warehouse, Surrey, B.C.

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