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The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada sits ready for use at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Dec. 14, 2020.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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Made in Canada

Re Ottawa Caught Off Guard By Early Vaccine Approval (Feb. 5): Don’t government departments talk to each other? How come other countries were ready to start mass vaccinations as soon as approvals were obtained? How come other countries were not caught off guard like Canada?

So many questions, so few answers.

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Roger Emsley Tsawwassen, B.C.

Re Canada’s Pandemic Response Has Been Pathetic (Feb. 3): There are several reasons for this, but I would like to address one of the most important: disjointed, disparate provincial and federal responses, the results of which have been costly, counterproductive and deadly.

Provinces should stop acting territorially and start working together. It’s well known that interprovincial trade barriers are stifling Canadian economic activity. Well, provincial public-health barriers are now causing people to die.

The countries doing the best during the pandemic have a single centralized health authority – the exact opposite of what we have. Can we learn that we should change?

Barry Bortnick Calgary

Australia, the chance of a lifetime

Re Why Can’t Canada Be Like Australia? (Editorial, Feb. 4): At last check, Prince Edward Island has recorded no deaths from COVID-19, Newfoundland and Labrador has four deaths and Vancouver Island 20 deaths – all lower than Australia’s per-capita death rate. The seemingly obvious answer to “crushing” the pandemic is to live on an island.

Perhaps the Canadian government should move everyone north of the 50th parallel and construct a 100-kilometre-wide moat along the U.S. border! But then again, Britain has a death toll of more than 110,000.

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Alan Humphries Victoria

Australia’s imported goods arrive by ship or air, which is much easier to control than our imports that mostly come by truck from the United States or Mexico across a vast border. While we have done a poor job of controlling COVID-19, I think the comparison of Canada with Australia is a bit of a stretch.

Jim Kelly Calgary

Australia certainly did it differently than Canada, and they may have even done it rightly. But we shouldn’t think for a second that lockdowns in Australia were free.

While lockdowns prevented COVID-19 deaths, they may have increased suicide, overdose deaths and trauma for millions of abused women and children. Lockdowns are a necessary evil, but how quickly the media can heap praise while ignoring other costs.

Australia looks good today, but we will not know how successful they really were until we see the aftermath of lockdowns in a few years’ time.

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Tim Ingram Calgary

I find the notion that we are “twins” with Australia, while historically justified, is unfair to Australians in contemporary terms.

For example, while it took the current health crisis to awake Canadians to the embarrassing absence of public facilities almost everywhere in this country, free public toilets have long been ubiquitous in Australia.

There is more. Whether in major cities or small towns, historic preservation in Australia is on par with the best of Europe; in Canada, even outstanding historic landmarks are still being toppled or insulted with the ultimate indignity of facadism.

Regarding public patrimony, free admission is the norm for flagship galleries and museums in Australia; most Canadians have little choice but to view the high cost of admission to comparable institutions as a serious deterrent to accessing our own national treasures.

Public broadcasting: No comparison whatsoever – enough said!

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Our “twin” has eclipsed us, without ever a word of a boast.

Edward Smith Peterborough, Ont.

Re What Canada Can Learn From Australia To Boost Our Dismal Productivity Growth (Report on Business, Feb. 1): I am incredulous at the recommendation that, in order to achieve a 2 per cent gain in productivity against the U.S. benchmark as Australia did over 19 years, Canada should create another agency and an “independent” commission to oversee the work.

The sights are on the wrong prize, and the timeframe seems just right to fund most of a bureaucrat’s career and for them to get a good start on pension credits. Wouldn’t it be more advantageous for Canada to study what the United States does to actually be the benchmark for productivity year after year?

Jim Pecka Toronto

Stuck in the middle

Re The Chasm Between India’s Government And Its Protesting Farmers (Feb. 1): True, India is known for high-value sectors such as IT, while its manufacturing sector is relatively small. But it is difficult to accept that “India has bypassed the industrialization stage” when “somewhere between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of the country’s population” rely on agriculture for their livelihood.

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This labour force distribution makes the task of farm modernization even more difficult, and the plight of Indian farmers – socially, economically and politically – even more serious. Were it not for the accompanying photograph of a protester throwing his arms up, I believe readers would be hard pressed to understand the true despair of Indian farmers as depicted in this scholarly article.

Asad Ansari Oakville, Ont.

Shine a light

Re I Don’t Know If I Can Tough It Out Of My Mental Darkness (First Person, Feb. 1): As someone who has struggled with depression, I cannot imagine finding the strength to share my thoughts and fears before I am able to look “down at the abyss [I] crawled out of.” Essay-writer Scott Lear has captured clearly many of my thoughts when I am in the deep, dark hole into which no light shines and from which there is no escape.

If we hope to address mental illness, we should normalize these conversations and recognize how many of us face similar challenges. Mr. Lear has made a very important contribution to that effort.

Michael Herman Toronto

So often such experiences are not spoken of, as though they are shameful and a sign of weakness. Yet this is far from the truth: They are a feature of our humanness that bears acknowledgement. Scratch the surface and one will find them everywhere, hidden from view but ever-present.

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In my family, anxiety and depression are always lurking behind the social adeptness that most people observe. My sister chose to take her life, after struggling with what she saw as a lifetime of anxiety and self-doubt.

Being honest and open takes great courage. Essay-writer Scott Lear has set an example that bears celebrating. I thank him most deeply for his willingness to share such a vulnerable part of himself – of his humanness – with others.

Lillian Bayne Adjunct professor, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria

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