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Pedestrians walk past Google headquarters in New York.

JEENAH MOON/Jeenah Moon

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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Inequality taxes us

In order to reduce its foreign tax bill, Google moved nearly €20-billion ($30.6-billion Canadian) through a Dutch shell company to Bermuda in 2017 – a tactic that has apparently been going on for more than 10 years and which “has allowed Google owner Alphabet Inc. to enjoy an effective tax rate in the single digits on its non-U.S. profits” (Filing Shows Google Moved Money Via Bermuda To Cut Tax Bill – Report on Business, Jan. 4).

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Google uses the subsidiary in the Netherlands, we’re told, to “shift revenue to Google Ireland Holdings, an affiliate based in Bermuda, where companies pay no income tax.” (Don’t try this at home. These guys are pros.)

This tax strategy, known as the Double Irish, Dutch Sandwich – cute – allows Google to avoid triggering U.S. income taxes or European withholding taxes on the biggest part of its overseas profits.

All of this is yet another example of profound wealth being skewed to favour the profoundly wealthy. And it’s all perfectly legal – which is no surprise: After all, the tax code is engineered by the “big boys” to take care of the “big boys.” The net result is gross inequality, with the working class paying the real taxes.

Even the guy who was elected on his promises to “drain the swamp” provided American corporations with more tax breaks last year. Do that long enough and often enough, and suddenly you are dealing with a crisis, and with the nightmare scenario that has now arisen across the border (Inequality Fuels Economic Failure – And Frustrations Are Spreading, Jan. 4).

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

No way to run a business

Re Idaho Joins Washington In Rejecting Hydro One’s Avista Purchase (Report on Business, Jan. 4): Political interference has again reared its ugly head in the business of Ontario’s electrical utility, this time with the Progressive Conservative government interfering in the business dealings of a publicly traded company – as a 47-per-cent minority shareholder. The result looks like the end for Hydro One’s $4.4-billion acquisition of a U.S. utility.

The previous Liberal government stuck its finger into the pie by privatizing Hydro One, to pay for transportation infrastructure – even though the utility was returning $700-million to the government annually. Polls showed that this was a highly unpopular move among taxpayers.

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Way back in 1992, the NDP government under Bob Rae appointed businessman Maurice Strong as chairman of Ontario Hydro, to clean up the utility’s unfunded liabilities. In 2002, we taxpayers started paying off $19.5-billion of “stranded debt,” with a separate fee on our hydro bills listed as a “debt retirement charge.” This in addition to paying some of the highest rates for electricity in North America.

Just when we had almost paid off the stranded debt, Hydro One was for sale on the stock market.

Is this any way to run a business?

If the Ford government wishes to act as a majority owner of the utility, then it should buy back 4 per cent of the stock, whose share price will surely drop after the Avista acquisition is scuttled.

Jim Hickman, Bracebridge, Ont.

5G security

Looking at your front-page Friday headline – Thirteen Canadians Detained In China Since Huawei Arrest – and in light of all we have learned recently, I am convinced we must immediately remove Huawei from all Canadian university research programs, end all related IP-ownership transfers, and absolutely ban the use of Huawei and all other Chinese equipment in our 5G network roll-out.

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The sadly misplaced investments in Huawei equipment by Bell and Telus should simply be written off as bad business decisions.

China’s blatant disregard for the rule of law, its multiple mindless recriminative moves regarding the Meng Wanzhou U.S. extradition-request arrest, and aggressively self-serving China-first policies should be all the evidence we need to do everything we can to ensure 5G security, in concert with our Five-Eyes Alliance partners.

Michel Clarke, Toronto

In 2019, I’m the greatest!

Re In 2019, Say Nice Things To Yourself (Jan. 4): What made Muhammad Ali’s “I’m the greatest!” quote appealing was partly that he was, indeed, outstanding at boxing, and at one point perhaps the greatest boxer of all time, and partly – the telling smile that accompanied this remark let us know he was in on the joke – that he was breaking social conventions by publicly praising himself.

By contrast, President Donald Trump’s “I’m a very stable genius” comment illustrates a deeply insecure man who repeats self-praise to shore up his fragile ego, and only ensures that everyone realizes he is neither stable nor even remotely a genius.

We all need to feel good enough, but telling ourselves delusional things won’t make us happier – and it certainly won’t make us better people.

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James McCall, Toronto

Coffee’s eco costs

A letter writer advises java drinkers to do their part in saving the environment by bringing their own reusable cup when they buy their daily to-go coffee (Solution? Not Really – letters, Jan. 4.)

An estimated 400 billion-plus cups of coffee are consumed annually worldwide. Cultivation means removing other species to gain access to sunlight and easier harvesting. Deforestation, erosion, increased blights and pests result. The cultivation of coffee requires immense amounts of water. An NGO concerned with water has estimated that 140 litres of water are needed to grow, process and prepare one single cup of coffee. This is closer to the actual cost of a daily cup of coffee: 365 X 140 litres. You do the math.

Cherryl Katnich, Maple Ridge, B.C

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I try to use a refillable coffee cup to reduce the waste of the coated paper fast-food cups. While visiting a fast-food outlet in Burlington, Ont., I was told that a reusable cup could not be used. The clerk told me, “We will put the coffee in our cup and you’re welcome to pour it into your cup.” When I said, “Do you know how ridiculous that is?” I was told that it was a policy at that outlet.

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After providing feedback on the corporate website and again being given excuses which in my opinion were nonsense, I have decided to never purchase coffee at the chain again.

Sheldon Ort, Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ont.

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I agree about the need to resolve the disposable coffee-cup issue.

Beyond that, how about drawing up a form letter to be sent to manufacturers? As in:

Dear Sir/Madam:

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I have purchased and enjoyed your product for many years. However, I am environmentally aware and love the planet. Your packaging doesn’t meet today’s standards. It is non-recyclable and superfluous.

I shall therefore look for a similar item with packaging more in keeping with my planetary values.

Yours etc.

Helen Godfrey, Toronto

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