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House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks to reporters after McCarthy was nominated by fellow Republicans to be their leader or the Speaker of the House if they take control in the next Congress, following House Republican leadership elections at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Nov. 15.MICHAEL MCCOY/Reuters

Political gridlock

Re GOP Wins Slim House Majority, Complicating Biden’s Agenda (Nov. 17): As a lifelong close observer of American government, I believe historians will come to judge the first two years of the Biden presidency to have been the most constructive in decades.

Often overlooked achievements include: the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccines; an economic recovery act which has helped lower unemployment; a massive infrastructure program, after years of announcements and inaction; massive military aid to Ukraine.

But as the smoke clears around the U.S. midterm elections, the legislative process will likely grind to a halt with a Republican-controlled house. Congressional investigations may pore over such vital matters as Hunter Biden’s laptop. There may be failed efforts to impeach the President and other senior officials. Ukraine may well see efforts to cut off further military support and funding.

It will likely be a difficult time to be an American, and an awkward time to be America’s neighbour.

Gordon Ritchie, Former ambassador and Canada-U.S. free-trade negotiator Ottawa

Yours to discover

Re Mask Wearing A ‘Personal Choice,’ Health Minister Says Day After Top Doctor’s Advice (Nov. 16): Doug Ford and his ministers seem to care about Ontario’s kids when they can use them as a stick to beat unions, but not when they are sick in ICUs.

He seems passive when it comes to anything but building roads and helping developers.

Michael Levin Toronto

School safety

Re John Tory Calls For Meeting With Police, TDSB After Toronto High School Student Stabbed (Nov. 16): I believe the Toronto District School Board would be mortified to ever admit a problem with violence.

On the other hand, many teachers are aware that in some schools, violence is close to the surface, but these voices are often ignored. A recent walkout by teachers at York Memorial Collegiate who feared for their safety is an admirable exception, a courageous reaction to a climate of violence.

Long out of the teaching game, I can be more candid. At one school, students told me that some classmates come to school “packing” (i.e. carrying weapons). I also witnessed gangs fighting in hallways and the parking lot.

Undoubtedly, John Tory will learn from the TDSB that the vast majority of students are wonderful kids, and this is absolutely true. What he probably won’t hear, though, is that a small number are anything but – and should have no place in our schools.

Lorne Hicks Georgina, Ont.

Anyone home?

Re Vacancy Tax May Be Snaring Some Of The Wrong People (Nov. 12): Halton Region in Ontario is now circulating a survey as to the acceptability of vacant-home taxes.

It asks respondents to indicate if a three-month absence to an 18-month absence would be the trigger. It also asks about having neighbours report their suspicions.

But has anyone considered that absentee homeowners still pay taxes but don’t use services in absentia? That they may not necessarily be “foreign property invaders?”

Vacant-home taxes would also serve to deflect blame from government for failing to plan ahead to less-than-neighborly infighting, as one neighbour blows the whistle on a suspected absentee homeowner who may simply be sojourning at their cottage.

Bev Kennedy Oakville, Ont.

Now playing

Re Cinemas To Condos: Toronto’s Lost Theatres (Nov. 15): One of the side benefits of Toronto’s Uptown Theatre was that, if I timed it well and lingered inconspicuously, I could sometimes see a second movie for free. And in the one theatre where the screen was set at the back of a small stage-like platform, I could sit in the front row and put my feet up (if the usher wasn’t looking).

Grab a bag of freshly roasted nuts from the nearby Uptown Nut House on the way there and I was set. A big hiss to the golden age of condos.

T.M. Dickey Toronto

Cut it out

Re Loblaw, Metro Sales And Profit Grow As Canadian Grocers Face Inflation Scrutiny (Report on Business, Nov. 17): There are numerous companies hiding behind an inflation facade and gouging customers.

I received notification from Apple that its streaming service will now cost $8.99 per month, up from $5.99. Another example of a company dealing with 8-per-cent inflation through a 50-per-cent price increase.

My recourse is to utilize Chrystia Freeland’s Disney+ playbook and cancel this service entirely. After all, it’s non-essential unlike the lengthy list of products and services where prices have skyrocketed but remain indispensable.

I should also point out that many of these companies remain hugely profitable. In the case of Apple, the company’s current fiscal year set new company records with US$394.3-billion in sales and US$99.8-billion in profit.

I do plan to raise the stakes. Since Apple is choosing to play a game of chicken with my wallet and loyalty, I will now be deferring any iPhone upgrade and will be exploring Samsung products.

Vic Bornell Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

We remember

Re This RCAF Photographer’s Wartime Paintings Are Being Brought To Life Through Animation (Nov. 11): “This film makes it accessible to kids to learn about the war without the scary parts.”

We lived in the Netherlands between The Hague and Leiden. “Vader, ze schieten zo” – “Father, they are shooting so much.”

On May 10, 1940, at 4 in the morning, my sister and I crawled into our parents’ bed, hiding under the blankets. Scared.

Eighty-two years ago. I was eight years old. The noise of war is still ringing in my ears.

War is scary.

Jan de Vries Vancouver

Re We Have To Believe In A World Without War – And Science Should Lead The Way (Opinion, Nov. 5): I’m not sure that Albert Einstein, “the greatest amongst us,” would support this opinion.

He wrote: “And certainly we should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. It cannot lead, it can only serve; and it is not fastidious in its choice of a leader. This characteristic is reflected in the qualities of its priests, the intellectuals. The intellect has a sharp eye for methods and tools but is blind to ends and values.”

Donald Lang Victoria

Re Peace On Earth? (Letters, Nov. 12): A letter-writer asks: “Are humans a fatal disease?” It reminded me of Winston Churchill’s succinct observation: “It has been said that the dominant lesson of history is that mankind is unteachable.”


R. Bruce Stock London, Ont.

I was reminded of a cartoon called Pogo. It was the creation of the brilliant Walt Kelly and ended in 1975.

Its most enduring quotation of many was this one: “We have met the enemy and he is us.“ Brief, but timelessly so sad and so true. History is filled with substantiating evidence. But we didn’t listen to Mr. Kelly then and too many of us aren’t now.

Jim Regan Hamilton

On Remembrance Day, my daughter and I were travelling along Highway 401 to Toronto, listening to a service on the radio. I noticed a couple standing on an overpass, looking over the westbound lanes, with small Canadian flags in their hands as their act of remembrance on this solemn day.

I reached toward the windshield with my right hand, fingers spread, twisting from side to side. My daughter did likewise. The couple noticed us, smiled and waved back with their flags.

I was touched by this couple, standing there in the cold and noisy location. Many thanks. I shall remember them.

Peter Macnaughton Ottawa

Perfect company

Re Retirement Has Brought Magic Tricks And Movie Cameos For This 77-year-old (Report on Business, Nov. 5): A retiree mentions that he looked after his wife for a few years before she died. His cat gives him great comfort now, but that may sound silly to some people. Not at all!

I looked after my mom for several years before she died. We lived together and were best friends. I live alone now, but not really because I have our rescue cat, too.

I woke up one recent morning kind of sad but Sweetie, hearing me stir, came to snuggle under the covers with me in the crook of my arm, purring. It made me feel much better, and I thought of this story.

I know exactly how he feels. Not silly at all.

Claire Bouchard North Saanich, B.C.

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