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Students arrive for in-class learning at an elementary school in Mississauga, Ont., on Jan. 19.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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Putin’s poker

Re Should We Call Putin’s Bluff? We Already Have (March 9): The actions and threats of Vladimir Putin leave me little doubt that he is itching to use his military might beyond Ukraine. The Western world should be utterly circumspect in supporting Ukraine, to avoid any interpretation of military participation.

There is no time to lose: Every means of removing Mr. Putin should be explored with vigour including, and perhaps primarily, through the Russian people themselves. They should be exempt from whatever sanctions ought to remain in force; they should understand that the West has no issue with them.

They should be enabled to hear the truth, even if an information campaign had to take the form of massive air drops by drone or balloon. It would be a long haul, but I do believe that, if all else fails, the impulse must come from the people.

William Lambermont Toronto

I, like so many, was frightened at first by Vladimir Putin’s threat of the nuclear option, should NATO interfere with his attack on Ukraine. I, too, thought it best that we hold back, levy sanctions and hope for the best. But after what I have witnessed over these terrible weeks, I am coming around to a different point of view.

Mr. Putin rightly perceives the Western democracies as weak. We are a generation of hippies and peaceniks, impotent in our astonishment. We offer Ukrainians words, when what they need is air cover.

It is a wonderful thing to be antiwar – until war comes to town and one’s own neighbours are killed. The Baltic states may be next, then Finland. China, North Korea and Iran will likely be emboldened.

At what point do we call Mr. Putin’s bluff?

Kerry Wilson Ottawa

Sky high

Re Ontario Won’t Copy Alberta’s Fuel Relief (March 8): For Doug Ford and others ready to complain about rising gas prices, I’m borrowing that snappy new catchphrase: “Learn to live with it.”

Jeff Zuk Hamilton

It is hard to see much good for the environment coming out of the war in Ukraine. But, perversely, one thing might be the increase in gas prices, which might at last persuade people not to buy huge SUVs.

I have long thought that if governments were really serious about reducing carbon emissions, they would put progressively higher sales taxes on these ridiculous vehicles – but Vladimir Putin has done it for us.

Jeremy Gawen Toronto

Masks off

Re What Do Relaxed Health Restrictions Mean For Vaccinated Individuals In The Face Of Omicron? (March 5): As we face months of uncertainty while waiting for our under-5s to be vaccinated, while masks and safe practices blow in the wind, Scott Moe should not think for a second that Saskatchewan’s lack of support for our scientific and health care community will be forgotten.

I can find no letter from the Premier that lays out his support and respect for all their efforts, no encouragement to keep up the good work.

Guess we’re still on our own. We shall remember.

Marena Charron Regina

Re After Two Years, Ontario Set To Remove Most Mask Mandates (March 10): We find that Ontario’s decision to drop its mandatory mask mandate in most indoor settings – including schools – is ill-conceived and puts politics ahead of science.

Children under 5 cannot be vaccinated and vaccination rates for ages 5 to 11 are stubbornly low – just under 30 per cent have had two doses. Many adults in Ontario still lack the full protection of a third dose. The province is also doing away with vaccine mandates for long-term care homes, leaving vulnerable residents at risk.

Doug Ford and Chief Medical Officer of Health Kieran Moore seem to be pushing aside evidence and advice from the science table, major children’s hospitals and long-term-care associations at the expense of people’s health. The government’s actions risk undoing the gains we have made to contain COVID-19.

Our message to the public: Protect yourself at all costs. Wear a mask, get vaccinated and be safe.

Doris Grinspun RN, PhD, O.Ont; CEO, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario; Toronto

We have come 180 degrees. I am in that vulnerable over-70 group.

A short while ago, I could go into most establishments feeling safe with my vaccine passport and mask, knowing all those I would encounter were similarly protected. Now the anti-vaccine and anti-mask crowd will be able to enter most places, while I will not feel safe doing so – and I will become the restricted one.

Donald Sephton Hamilton

The benefit of mandates have been to make it safer for anyone considered vulnerable to go to the grocery, hardware store or any other establishment. Other jurisdictions have lifted mandates and seen spikes in cases and deaths.

Despite strong evidence that masks help, it feels like we’ve been abandoned to placate a loud few who find masks a “burden,” with government telling people at higher risk that we are now on our own.

Why not wait at least until nicer weather arrives in three to four weeks? I know who’s not getting my vote next election.

Michael Slodovnick Toronto

Real value

Re Commercial Real Estate Sees Record-breaking Land Rush (Report on Business, March 1): What good is Ontario’s plan to build more housing if people can’t afford anything more than 400-square-foot condos? Rising land prices have been permitted by our politicians to become the greatest cost in residential prices.

The Ontario report assumes normal competitive markets which increase our standard of living, as producers become more efficient with better technology and organization. But land is an exception: It is not something we produce, it is a gift of nature.

A Bank of Montreal report, Canadian Housing Fire Needs a Response, lists measures which would keep the lid on land prices and permit this dysfunctional market to work.

Joseph Polito Toronto

Full rights

Re Ontario Labour Minister Weighs Full Employee Status For Gig Workers (March 4): The justification given by Uber and other gig platforms is that their workers prefer the flexibility of app-based work. They claim that such flexibility is impossible if people are classified as full employees. This does not stand up to my scrutiny.

Health care in Ontario has for decades made use of a category of worker titled “casual.” Casual employees choose when they want to make themselves available, then share in the shifts that employers choose to make available. They have full employee rights, including the same rates of pay and benefits and the right to unionize.

There is no reason these rights cannot apply to drivers for Uber and other apps. Hopefully the government will quickly make this clear in legislation, so as to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation before the Ontario Labour Relations Board and likely the courts.

Shalom Schachter Lead, employment policy working group, Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition; Toronto

The blues

Re Sad Music Helps Beat The Winter Blahs, Experts Say (Feb. 15): Neuroscientists affirm what so many musicians already know, all the way from classical to blues and rock.

It is no surprise to me that many great musicians suffer from major affective disorders and pursue self-destructive lifestyles, which often shorten careers and lifespans. Music by artists ranging from Beethoven to Robert Johnson, Hank Williams and Freddie King, to Jimi Hendrix, Chris Cornell, Etta James and Amy Winehouse, remind those who listen that we are not alone.

That is how, in the universal language of music, it can help us in times of spiritual darkness. It gives us connection to others who understand.

Freddie King did not write Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.

David Hughes Glass Saugeen Shores, Ont.

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