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Trumping Brexit’s turmoil
Re Before Sneering At Trump, Britons Should Look In The Mirror (June 3): Putting Donald Trump and what is happening in the United States on the same plane as what is happening in Britain is unfathomable.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s mandate was to uphold a democratic decision made by the people of Great Britain after a misguided referendum produced a result with unwinnable consequences. She is an honourable woman who has worked tirelessly, shown great grace under pressure, and sacrificed her own career to do the right thing. The referendum itself should be blamed for the terrible situation that has befallen Britain.
On the other hand, most of the United States’ woes can be blamed on a man who lacks personal integrity, demonstrates poor leadership skills, makes decisions based on his own narcissistic needs of the day, holds his allies hostage, and makes friends with the worst dictators on the planet. He has made a laughing stock of the once-revered presidency of the free world.
Carol Victor, Burlington, Ont.
The political chaos in the U.K. occasioned by Brexit, the inability to deal with regional issues (Northern Ireland market access, Scottish independence and a North/South divide) or even discuss pressing social and economic issues other than Brexit, together with the likelihood the situation will only descend further into the abyss, seems to begin to meet some of the characteristics of a Failed State. So there is something appropriate, yet horrifying, in the visit of Donald Trump, the stable genius who has single-handedly consigned the United States to much the same fate.
Richard Cooper, Ottawa
China’s way, Canada’s way
Re Canada Must Learn To Co-Operate With – Not Fear – China (June 1): Chandran Nair has his prescription for Canada-China relations a little backward. It is China who should not fear – but co-operate with – Canada.
Why is it that the megapowers of China, Russia, India and the United States have sought to insult and intimidate little Canada in recent years? Because they fear the examples of human decency and civil government that we have been trying to project. Why is it that millions of Chinese, Indians, Ukranians (from Soviet days) and, yes, Americans, would prefer to live in Canada than in their own homelands? Because our more humane way of life is a threat to the bullying, nationalist regimes that govern those homelands.
Fear not, megapowers, we only want the best for you, and for the rest of the world. It’s the Canadian way.
Richard Belliveau, former consul general in Shanghai; Ottawa
On June 4, 1995, I stood with 14 Winnipeg high school students in Tiananmen Square (What Has Changed – And What Remains – 30 Years After Tiananmen, June 1). We were on a cultural/educational tour of China, and I was one of three teacher chaperones. It was the sixth anniversary of the military action against prodemocracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.
There was a very noticeable police presence in the square, and they were not allowing any groups to congregate or speak to Chinese citizens in the square. My students were very curious, though not afraid of these serious police actions because they were not directed against us.
After visiting Tiananmen, we attended a question-and-answer session with our guide(s). My students pressed them as to why the government was against democracy. Our guide explained that Westerners think democracy is the most important thing in the world, and that in China, “harmony” is the governing concept, and that is what was behind the clearing of the square. He explained the cultural significance of harmony in Chinese life, the importance of Confucius thinking, and its influential presence in all levels of society, and how the presence of protesters upset the cultural underpinnings of society.
Neither my students nor I were totally convinced, but the whole experience has stayed with me.
Robert Milan, Victoria
Duelling debt measures
Re Italy Is Possibly The Next Greek Crisis … Times 10 (June 1): Eric Reguly chose to use gross debt to GDP as a measure of the fiscal health of countries. The problem with this approach is that each country can – and does – apply different assumptions and methodologies in reporting its debt.
That makes comparing economies difficult, and can misrepresent the economic truths behind the numbers.
Mr. Reguly compared Italy, which has a particularly high gross debt to GDP ratio (133 per cent) to healthier countries such as Canada (84 per cent) and Germany (56 per cent). This comparison leaves out the fact that in calculating gross debt, Canada accounts for its unfunded liabilities – such as a deficit in a public pension plan – which other countries often omit. Gross debt also fails to account for a country’s assets, which can be a significant part of a country’s balance sheet.
Many financial experts, including those at the International Monetary Fund, agree the most accurate depiction of a country’s fiscal health should focus on net debt, not gross debt, and take into account a country’s unfunded liabilities and assets. That’s the approach we take in Canada.
By that measure, Canada’s net debt to GDP is just under 28 per cent, using the latest figures from 2017-18. That gives us the best fiscal results of any G7 country. The next-best G7 balance sheet is Germany at 41 per cent, and the United States at around 78 per cent.
More importantly, Canada’s strong fiscal position is set to improve, with net debt to GDP expected to decline every year over the next five years.
Bill Morneau, Federal Finance Minister
Re Lower Wage Sets The Stage For Student Success (June 1): Alberta has cut the minimum wage for students by more than 13 per cent. By Jason Kenney’s logic they don’t need the money as much as other minimum-wage workers, since they are only saving for their education? Could the real reason these workers were targeted have more to do with the fact that since they are under 18, they are too young to vote?
Why not lead by example, and cut the pay of all Alberta’s MLAs by 13 per cent? Perhaps all public-service pay should be cut by 13 per cent? Taxpayers could use the break – but it will never happen because those workers can vote.
Steen Petersen, Nanaimo, B.C.
My dad was a Second World War veteran who served in Europe during the conflict. He had a small injury, having his finger crushed by a truck. He subsequently received a letter in 1947 from the Canadian Pension Commission informing him he would receive a pension. I quote, “ I have to inform you that the Commissioners have granted you an entitlement in respect of the middle phalanx of the right middle finger resulting in arthritis, and hemorrhoids.”
Nothing further needs to be said …
Jeff Greenberg, Ottawa