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Electricity pylons in the hydro corridor that runs through the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood in Toronto.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Power and people

Re “Ottawa’s vision for electricity’s future is about to clash with Ontario’s” (Report on Business, May 1): Both Ottawa and Ontario’s discussions around clean electricity seem dominated by a focus on expanding clean production. Missing, however, is any clear focus on increasing Canadians’ energy productivity and efficiency – the ability to provide the same goods and services while using less energy. The cheapest, lowest-risk and lowest-carbon energy option is the energy that’s not used.

Decarbonizing the economy needs to be about more than creating clean energy markets and electrifying everything. Rather, it needs to be about how to better use all energy sources to create wealth, heat buildings, produce and transport goods and services, and meet the needs of Canadian businesses and citizens. The potential for Canada in this space is enormous. Canada has one of the worst track records for energy consumption per capita and the lowest energy productivity (wealth-creation per unit of energy consumed) in the world, according to International Energy Agency data. Energy efficiency and productivity should be at the forefront of Canada’s and Ontario’s strategies to support the resiliency and competitiveness of our economy in a net-zero world.

Mark Winfield, co-chair, Sustainable Energy Initiative, faculty of environmental and urban change, York University Toronto

Even the name of Ontario’s Electrification and Energy Transition Panel betrays blinkered vision. The proper objective is not to maximize electrification, but to minimize carbon emissions.

District heating is an easier and cheaper way to get to zero emissions. The infrastructure would be about a quarter the cost of equivalent capacity in the electricity system. Better yet, it wouldn’t be paid for by the electricity rate payers. It will be paid for by heat customers.

Using electricity to heat buildings is like using a chainsaw to cut butter – a very expensive chainsaw. Bring on the Decarbonization and Energy Transition Panel.

John Stephenson, director, Boltzmann Institute Toronto

The International Energy Agency says that solar and wind are the cheapest forms of new electricity generation. And yet, Ontario is commissioning new natural gas capacity. Why?

James Worrall Ottawa

Price of medicine

Re “Ottawa resumes long-running battle over prescription drug prices” (May 1): I recently returned from a trip to Portugal, during which I purchased the medication Synthroid from a local pharmacy. I got a package of 100 for less than the cost of dispensing fees in Ontario.

Canada’s prescription drug prices are some of the highest among developed nations. Arguments that regulating drug prices will limit access simply don’t wash. There is no shortage of medications in Europe, or of pharmacies. New Zealand has some of the lowest prescription drug prices in the developed world. That government centrally negotiates drug prices for the entire country. It shows what can be done. Our federal regulators need to do more. Government medical care must include affordable medication.

Achim Krull Pickering, Ont.

Best-laid plans

Re “Moving the Ontario Science Centre is bad science, and bad policy” (Opinion, April 28): As the architect and planner for the Ontario Science Centre, I recall a few facts on the project.

The science centre was conceived by another Progressive Conservative: the brilliant and legendary John Robarts. Requesting “an institute of international stature,” he directed that it be outside of downtown Toronto, giving a new cultural focus to the city’s northeast. It became famous as an informal education centre for the young and the old with a hands-on approach.

As architects, we were instructed to use concrete to last far beyond 100 years. We guaranteed that, with proper maintenance, the life of this project will last far beyond 250 years.

With a new subway terminal at its doorstep, visitor numbers will increase, especially with new programs and exhibits. Attractive-sounding low-cost housing on the science centre site, even if the site were available, would not be a planning-prize winner.

Raymond Moriyama CC, O.Ont, ORS Toronto

In harm’s way

Re “‘A beacon of protection’: Girl’s death sparks training for judges in Ontario” (May 1) and “What to avoid in a divorce to prevent financial harm” (Report on Business, May 1): Still in 2023 it is overwhelmingly women and children who experience domestic violence. And it is overwhelmingly women and children who experience financial harms from failure to disclose income and assets in divorce. Pressure for financial disclosure too often retriggers a cycle of coercive control, sometimes escalating to outright domestic violence.

Laws intended to be neutral, including federal no-fault and alternate dispute provisions of the Divorce Act and provincial financial disclosure requirements, affect women and men differently. Judicial training may help. But it looks like it will take a section 15 Charter equality challenge and statutory revision. At a minimum, recipient spouses should be able to obtain payors’ tax records and bank loan records as of right before the split. That would be a good start.

Ellen Anderson Summerside, PEI

Money in flames?

Re “The naked politics of Calgary’s new arena deal” (Opinion, April 28): Great news: The taxpayers of Alberta and Calgary will underwrite the purchase of ruinously expensive tickets for the wealthy to enjoy sports and entertainment events in the city. The province and city could have created thousands of affordable housing units where 15,000 of them are desperately needed.

“Let them eat hockey.”

John Seigner Calgary

Please don’t tell any of my friends I was ever on side with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, but I am with it in being opposed to public money being gifted to finance a new Saddledome for the Calgary Flames. An organization that can afford to pay multiple employees multiple millions in salary can afford to pay for its own accommodations.

In the meantime, the benighted citizens of Ottawa are in suspense as they wait to find how much their treasury will be plundered to fund a new hut for the Senators – the hockey team, that is.

Ian Guthrie Ottawa

Does not compute

Re “Making ChatGPT detectors part of our education system prioritizes surveillance over trust” (Opinion, April 25): Large language models of artificial intelligence, like ChatGPT, are trained to imitate humans by reading a huge quantity of texts and, on that basis, produce language as a statistically probable sequence.

In other words, such software generates a facsimile of human expression by using a mathematical process, a kind of averaging which sands down all style, idiosyncrasy and uniqueness of thought. From this perspective, such programs are the opposite of creativity.

One may argue that one of the greatest harms that such software presents – beyond questions of plagiarism, factual error, political bias, propagandistic potential and economic disruption – is that that it is designed to eliminate what makes us most human.

Ryan Whyte Toronto

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