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Canadian Premiers pose for a group photograph during a meeting of the Council of the Federation, which comprises all 13 provincial and territorial leaders, in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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Hands out

Re Premiers Unite To Ask Federal Government For More Health-care Funds, Economic Aid (Dec. 3): The premiers have demanded a 5.2-per-cent annual increase in federal health-care transfers. What it seems the premiers did not specify is their preferred means of financing: more national debt, more printing of currency or, gulp, more federal taxes?

Columnist John Ibbitson feels that “in a just world, the federal government would transfer much of its taxing authority to the provinces.” (Premiers Need The Money Because They Run The Country – Dec. 3) However, the provinces themselves already can, and do, tax sources such as personal and business income and consumer purchases as they see fit.

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In the end, we are talking about the same taxpayers’ money regardless of whether the funnel for collection is one’s federal or provincial government. If Ottawa is deemed so inept and if the provinces actually do excel in running the country, then why don’t the premiers simply bypass the middleman entirely and take the money directly from the taxpayers?

Jeff Wright Belleville, Ont.

I find it interesting that the premiers were able to all agree that the federal government should give them more money, no strings attached, and patted themselves on the back with respect to national unity. Gee, after dealing so well with such a fractious issue, perhaps they should carry on and deal with the easy ones such as pipeline expansion or Quebec’s Bill 21.

Perhaps the Prime Minister should just send a list of national issues to the premiers prior to their next meeting, and simply request that they all agree to solutions and an amount of federal money in return. Of course, when it then comes to divvying up the money, that great unity might suffer a breakdown.

Peter Belliveau Moncton

If columnist John Ibbitson is correct, how can the challenges that face Canada today – from climate change to anemic productivity – possibly be solved by provincial leaders riding, to borrow from Stephen Leacock, “madly off in all directions?”

I frequently read in this newspaper calls from various experts for a national strategy on everything from apprenticeship programs to vaccinations. Yet our premiers cannot even agree to remove internal trade barriers between their jurisdictions. No wonder Ottawa often resorts to purse-string control to achieve some kind of uniformity, constitutional divisions of power notwithstanding.

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Martha Musgrove Ottawa

During the recent election campaign, Maxime Bernier proposed that Ottawa yield the retail sales tax power to the provinces, giving them added revenue about equal to current health transfers. Ottawa would then withdraw from health care, respecting the constitution in this regard and ending the ceaseless squabbles over money and federal meddling. Each province would spend – and tax – for health care as it saw fit.

Does the arithmetic work? Would diverging standards of care be good, encouraging a search for best practices, or bad? What do premiers and medical stakeholders have to say? This proposal deserves closer examination.

Brian Kappler Montreal

While I agree that the provinces oversee most of the instruments of our daily lives and should receive more funding from the federal treasury, that argument should also apply further down the line.

While true that the provinces control a wide range of services, it is at the municipal level that these things get done. There is significant evidence, particularly in Ontario, of downloading of responsibility for provincial activity without additional funding.

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So, yes, more money from the federal treasury to the provinces – then move it along to where the rubber hits the road.

Ken Duff Vankleek Hill, Ont.

The China issue

Re Meng Says She Has Learned To ‘Accept’ Her Restrictions (Dec. 2): If Meng Wanzhou has any sense of fairness, she would publicly propose to the Chinese government that it treat the Canadians being held in retaliation for her detention in the same way that the Canadian government has treated her. Namely, allow Michael Spavor and Micheal Kovrig to live outside of prison with freedom to meet with family, Canadian officials and legal representation whenever they wish.

Ian MacDonald Victoria

Re Huawei Founder Plans To Relocate Research Centre To Canada From U.S. (Dec. 3): Ren Zhengfei has said that he would never allow his company’s equipment to be used for illegitimate purposes. So when determining whether to trust Huawei and open up our 5G market, Canada need only ask itself one fundamental question: Who is more powerful, Mr. Ren or Xi Jinping?

The answer should be clear and obvious.

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Michael Robinson Toronto

Re Stuck In The Middle Kingdom (Opinion, Nov. 30): Finally we have a thoroughly sensible response to China’s bullying – that is, their imprisonment of Canadian citizens. To date I have seen only weak pleadings from our government.

Adopting all of the recommendations made by contributor Margaret McCuaig-Johnston should be something all of our political parties could endorse. What a good beginning that would be for minority governance.

Gail Hill Nanoose, B.C.

Many articles have now suggested that the federal government show greater courage in responding to China’s arrest and detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. It is hard, though, to know what steps might be taken at this stage that would influence China’s actions. Rather, I believe we need to be more self-analytical in examining the original arrest of Meng Wanzhou.

To invoke the rule of law and suggest Canadian officials had no choice but to seize Ms. Meng when she arrived in Vancouver seems naive or disingenuous. This was an arrest that a number of other governments friendly to the United States were not interested in making. China’s anger at these events is surely unsurprising.

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I believe former deputy prime minister John Manley is correct to suggest that someone involved in the case should have been alert enough to ensure that Canada did not become enmeshed in the political web that U.S. authorities were weaving.

John Hucker Ottawa

Re Ottawa Needs To Find Its Voice On China (Editorial, Dec. 2): And so it has come to this: China smirkingly rubs Canada’s nose in it. Our own greed for Chinese real estate investment and money seems at the root of the poisoned fruit which is trading with China. It is here where a rational policy to confront China should begin; it is past time to cut Huawei out.

Ron Beram Gabriola, B.C.

Re Meng’s Arrest, One Year Later: The Inside Story Of Who Knew What, And When (Nov. 30): Although China and Huawei may well get the short-term result they desire – the release of Meng Wanzhou – the fallout will be that the past 12 months will have left most Canadians with a clear-eyed view of how the Chinese government operates within and beyond its borders.

Overwhelming public sentiment is very likely to be a resounding No to Huawei’s 5G technology.

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Mary Ellen Cooke Toronto


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