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Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada protest on the three year anniversary of the launch of the Phoenix pay system, in Ottawa, on Feb. 28, 2019.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

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Under the hood

Re Security Flaw Found In Phone App For Olympians In Beijing (Jan. 18): “It’s not a flaw, it’s a feature!”

David Schenck Woodbridge, Ont.

This report is disturbing. What seems to be required of Olympians is not an app with a “security flaw” but rather a tool for surveillance and censorship.

If Olympians are being advised to leave their devices at home but required by organizers to install this surveillance tool, there is clearly a contradiction. The best way to resolve this contradiction would be for Olympians to stay home.

R.D. Tennent Kingston


Re Ottawa’s Lack Of Urgency On Overdoses (Editorial, Jan. 15): “Why is Canada’s deadly opioid overdose epidemic not a top priority for the Trudeau government?” Stigma.

I think the majority of people see it as an issue that does not concern them personally, and would cost taxpayer money to fix. Here in British Columbia, many families I know are concerned about someone who uses drugs.

People don’t even have to be addicts to die. Some families lose a young person they didn’t know had ever tried drugs. Even street drugs not sold as opioids can contain lethal amounts of fentanyl.

More than 7,000, mostly younger Canadians died last year, and about the same will likely die in the coming one – yet this continues to be seen by many as a fringe issue. Incredible.

Grace Golightly Duncan, B.C.

Spending power

Re Liberals Boost Outsourcing Spending By Billions Since Taking Power (Jan. 17): I conclude that our federal government‘s level of efficiency has decreased rapidly under the Liberal tenure, while its overall costs have grown dramatically.

Even if I exclude the noticeable drop in service quality levels during this time, I’d say that our collective return on investment from this government apparatus is nothing short of abysmal.

Cam Kourany Kelowna, B.C.

I was a government contract IT worker for nine years. I believe the main driver for contracting out is that it is cheaper than hiring employees.

There are no vacation days, sick days, parental leaves, pensions nor other benefits for contractors. The bureaucratic process of hiring and firing can be avoided; there is no severance pay and there are no unions. Contractors are disposable.

If they were merely filling “temporary” requirements, then there would not be an IT contractor workforce in Ottawa, which there has been for decades. Many remain for years, as I did. We have the corporate knowledge while some government employees turn over faster than we do.

I find it ironic that government loves to talk about precarious employment in the private sector while ignoring its own thousands of contractors. And, yes, I believe this does have a negative effect on the quality of government IT.

Jim Paulin Ottawa

Re Ottawa Turns To McKinsey To Fix Phoenix, Doubling Spending (Jan. 18): I am appalled at how the Phoenix payroll system is being handled. So much money and resources have already been allocated to it. And we now need to spend more on “consultants” to fix it?

Perhaps we should revert to manual payrolls and writing cheques. This would provide employment to many and not require needless spending of our tax dollars. That money could be utilized to end homelessness.

Nasreen Jamal Kurji Calgary

In defence

Re In A Dangerous World, Canada Needs To Defend Itself (Jan. 15): Canada’s annual trade deficits of more than $50-billion with China; China’s imprisonment of Canadians and other punitive measures; Canada’s chronic lack of defence strategy and funding, and reliance on U.S. protection; the growing risks of Chinese cyberattacks, misinformation campaigns and encroachment in the Canadian Arctic – what do these things have in common? Sleepwalking, and great complacency.

Canada seems ill-prepared for difficult times ahead, whether for our economy or our security. Our leaders should confront our challenges, implement long-overdue strategies and educate Canadians about these challenges.

No more sleepwalking.

Tony Hooper Toronto

Columnist John Ibbitson suggests that we increase our defence spending like Norway, Finland and Denmark. Like them, Canadians can still have our treasured social programs.

However, those countries have much higher taxes to do all of this. It is hard for me to imagine any Canadian political party that would advocate raising our taxes so dramatically while expecting people to vote for them.

Alex MacKenzie Halton Hills, Ont.

Public interest

Re It Will Be Painful. But The Sooner We Reduce Inflation, The Better (Jan.14): Tighter monetary policy is essential to slow inflation. But current fiscal policy, including the federal government’s projected deficit of more than $150-billion, does not make the Bank of Canada’s job easier.

Interest rates will need to rise by more to bring down inflation, if fiscal and monetary policies are working at cross-purposes.

Constance Smith Victoria

Re Bank Stocks Are Soaring. Here’s Why You Should Stick With The Rally (Report on Business, Jan. 14): “Interest rates are likely going up, which is good for banks because higher rates widen the spread between what banks pay on deposits and make on loans.” Why aren’t Canadians more alarmed at the fact that banks largely pay nothing to their depositors?

In many cases, net of fees, we already pay for the privilege of depositing our money with banks. Yet as rates rise, they are increasing rates on loans. Since when should we lend money and receive nothing for it?

I think it speaks to the power of financial institutions, the weakness of our governments to control them and the poor financial understanding of many Canadians. All savings accounts should have a minimum savings rate from dollar zero.

David Hall Portfolio manager, iA Private Wealth; Toronto

Tea time

Re Retracing A Path Through The Heart Of Quintessential England (Jan. 12): I note with interest contributor Brendan Sainsbury’s choice of the Devonshire method of assembling the “cream tea” components of his afternoon tea: namely scone first, clotted cream next, jam on top. The style in the adjoining county of Cornwall demands scone first, jam next, clotted cream on top.

The advantages of one over the other are fiercely contested but, having lived in both counties and enjoyed both versions, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Sainsbury’s assertion that a cream tea does indeed transport one briefly to heaven.

Frank Artés Penticton, B.C.

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