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Ontario Premier Doug Ford Doug: The government ordered all postsecondary institutions with provincial funding to develop policies to protect free speech on campus before the end of the year. Failure to so could mean financial penalties, the government said.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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Free speech means …

Re Ford To Schools: Free Speech Or Shut Up (Dec. 20): Denise Balkissoon writes that for “both speaker and students to have absolute free speech is impossible, which highlights a basic tension.” Speaker and students’ rights to free speech are not limited because they are in conflict with one another, but because they are equally subject to the limits imposed by law, those limits having to do with causing physical harm and spreading hate.

Confusing the nature of free speech further enables the conservative appropriation of free speech as a political concept. The right is good at appropriating liberal concepts and language to its own ends, and the left is even better at letting them.

Ryan Whyte, Toronto


Ontario colleges and universities have been instructed by the province to institute regulations to permit free speech, using the University of Chicago policy as a model. The right to free speech is the right to express opinions and opposite opinions, but not the right to prevent opposite opinions from being expressed. Confounding this is hate speech masquerading as free speech.

There is a right to assembly to demonstrate opposition – but these can become campus riots. Anyone who assaults someone or damages property during a riot should be arrested, charged, and expelled if found guilty.

Free speech is fundamental for the freedom of inquiry and learning in colleges and universities. This is one policy of the Ford government that I support.

Reiner Jaakson, professor emeritus, University of Toronto

Leaving Syria

Re Trump Orders Withdrawal Of U.S. Troops From Syria (Dec. 20): Can there be any doubt the Trump-Putin one-on-one in Helsinki included Syria? Donald Trump just bought Vladimir Putin’s continued discretion regarding Mr. Trump’s financial and personal peccadilloes in Russia.

Greg Schmidt, Calgary

Hard truths, hard lines

Re To Build Pipelines, We Must Create Coalition Corridors (Dec. 17): Preston Manning proposes creating a group of “sympathetic coalition partners” (a coalition of the willing?) which he would name the Corridors Coalition. It would use its muscle to push aside “recalcitrant governments” that won’t do its members’ bidding. So 20th-century oil-baron practices would be the blueprint for a prosperous 21st century? Tell that to the millennials.

Here’s a more ambitious idea: Use the assembly of coalition partners to thrash out an honest-to-goodness Canadian energy strategy that gets the whole country behind it. Call it the Canadian Energy Coalition, aim high and long-term, take time to do it well.

Instead of a Coalition Corridor, produce a blueprint for an Energy Corridor for Canada that ramps up the Western provinces as major clean-tech energy suppliers, while they ramp down oil and gas production in lockstep.

Instead of deliberately pitting regressives against progressives in an attempt to push aside Indigenous and environmental concerns, invite them into the big tent and build a real coalition. My betting is that, as Elizabeth May has said, you could get an agreement to transition to a clean-energy future over a 25-year period in return for an orderly scale-down of carbon-intensive energy.

With real social licence, we could even exceed the National Dream as Pierre Berton described it. Instead of rounding up his usual suspects, Mr. Manning should seek out the millennials whose future he is attempting to plot and listen hard. They face a much different reality from his.

Michael McClelland, Barrie, Ont.


Preston Manning is a master of identifying and solving problems.

As the civilized world struggles to lessen its marriage to oil, it is inevitable that petroleum products will be needed while we figure out how to get a divorce. Canada can be there for the duration.

Mr. Manning’s kind of thinking in the PMO would soon propel the Canadian dollar to respectability.

Hugh McKechnie, Newmarket, Ont.


Preston Manning is selective about the “truths that urgently require a co-ordinated response from governments, companies and Canadians.”

One hard truth he didn’t mention: climate change. It is simply not possible to speak credibly about a way forward for these “corridors” without confronting why so many people are opposed to new pipelines – because they cement us on an unsustainable path of fossil fuel extraction.

Another hard truth: Indigenous self-determination. The lands Mr. Manning is hoping to cordon off are not unoccupied; they include the homelands of Indigenous nations exercising political authority. I think he better go back to the drawing board.

Dayna Nadine Scott, York Research Chair in Environmental Law and Justice in the Green Economy; associate professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

Alberta’s feelings

Re Trudeau’s $1.6-Billion Won’t Heal Alberta’s Wounds (Dec. 19): You report that when Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke French this week at a rally – in an apparent plea to Quebeckers for support – he was booed. Quebec’s Premier shrugged off the continuing anger in Alberta by saying that Alberta is heading into a provincial election campaign, “so it might look good to make hay at Quebec’s expense.”

This is the same Quebec Premier who urged Canadians to reject Alberta’s “dirty” oil and buy Quebec’s surplus of clean hydro energy. I may be wrong, but that sounds like Quebec trying to make hay at Alberta’s expense.

Not only that: The reason Quebec has a surplus of cheap energy may have something to do with Quebec’s grossly unfair (but legally binding) agreement to buy electricity from the Churchill Falls generating station in Labrador. I think that qualifies as a doubling-down on hypocrisy, à la Trump.

Nelson Smith, Toronto


Whether Quebec Premier François Legault’s “dirty energy” comment was hypocritical or somehow unfair to Alberta is irrelevant. The fact is that tar sands oil is very dirty energy. It takes far more energy to produce than conventional sources of oil; extracting it leaves behind toxic waste that can seep into groundwater.

Facts still matter.

Alberta’s hurt feelings from hearing the facts do not.

Chris Rapson, Toronto


Quebec’s Premier François Legault said that he’s “not ashamed at all of refusing dirty energy.” He neglected to say he is quite happy and willing to receive any or all of the “dirty money” that comes from “dirty energy.”

Victoria T. Trenchard, Edmonton

Unicorns. And donkeys

Re May Eyes Mid-January For Rescheduled Brexit Vote (Dec. 18): With all due respect to Theresa May, if you advertise unicorns, then return two years later with donkeys in tow, there’s nothing more democratic than returning to the electorate to determine if anyone even wants your donkeys.

Michael Jansz, Duncan, B.C.

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