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Emergency planning

Re COVID-19 Outbreak A ‘National Emergency’ (March 12): Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province has “no immediate plans to bring in tougher measures” unless community spread develops. The federal government is also taking a wait-and-see approach. Meanwhile, epidemiologist David Fisman says “waiting to act before more cases pop up could put Canada in a situation similar to Italy."

Let’s see now, whom shall we trust?

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Peter Lewis-Watts Barrie, Ont.

On sex-assault law

Re Chief Justices Voice Objection To Mandatory Training In Sex-assault Law (March 11): I am appalled by the opposition put forward by the Canadian Judicial Council regarding mandatory training in sex-assault law for judges. I believe their circuitous argument is based upon false premises and it makes me wonder what other training ought to be mandated as well.

Roderick MacDonald QC Radville, Sask.

How disheartening! Why would chief justices across Canada protest mandatory education in sex-assault law and its social context?

I do not believe the proposal tells judges how to think or what to decide. The independence of the judiciary in Canada is well-established and would be unchanged by this new law. It would require them to provide reasons for their decisions. It would encourage less reliance on myths and stereotypes.

The judges want any education to be voluntary. I do not believe this is the right answer to a deep problem faced throughout the justice system, in which many women are so petrified by how the courts will treat them that they often fail to report the crime in the first place.

Canadian sexual-assault laws have improved since the 1970s, to the point that they are envied elsewhere. But these laws must be properly applied. And for that, I believe we need judges to be educated.

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Linda Silver Dranoff CM, LSM author, Every Canadian’s Guide to the Law; Toronto

Democracy and electoral reform

Re The Politics Of Voting In Quebec (Editorial, March 6): In discussing Quebec’s foray into election reform, perhaps we should consider what is happening in Israel. I’ve followed the country’s elections for decades and I’ve found that its proportional-representation system – “pure Athenian democracy” – is nightmarish.

For instance, Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent claimed victory rings hollow, as he still needs to gather a coalition of other parties. However, there are eight parties with seats, and some of those parties are subdivided into smaller parties even with different ideologies, banded together to bypass vote thresholds. So inevitably, there are back-room negotiations; an Israeli Prime Minister buys and sells control, and extremist minority groups often hold outsized power.

I contend that with a Canadian-style electoral system, Israel might have achieved peace, a Palestinian state and harmony with stability – but that doesn’t happen because of proportional representation. If Canada were to adopt such a system, I believe smaller, more extreme parties would control government. The only winners would be those whose undesirable political ideologies can’t make it in the current system.

Woe to us all – proportional representation in Canada would be jinxed.

Allan Fox Toronto

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Re The Era of ‘Joyless Democracy’ (Opinion, March 7): Contributor Nik Nanos’s analysis of Canadian voter malaise suggests the fault is with politicians. He should also consider that attaining voter joy usually requires an electoral system that values it.

In the first-past-the-post system, adversarial wedge issues and negative strategic-voting are encouraged. In the end, it seems only a minority directs what policies and platforms are to be enacted. A proportional system fares even worse: As demonstrated recently in Spain, Israel, Germany and Italy, the electorate often does not see the platform the majority have voted for. Rather, multiple parties huddle together until the politicians arrive at a new platform.

I believe only the preferential ballot system values voter joy. Here, the public votes for their first choice, second choice and so on, such that they – and not the politicians – decide the trade-offs on important issues. In the end, a known platform has been voted for by a majority of voters. Even the elected government should be happy, because a majority has told them what policies to enact.

David Venus Ancaster, Ont.

“A vote is a vote is a vote,” contributor Nik Nanos says. He also says that Canada was founded on compromise and respect for a diversity of views. But if the Doug Fords of the country aren’t listening, others should stop them by moving toward proportional representation, and respecting the political diversity of rural and urban voters in every regional community.

Wilfred Day Port Hope, Ont.

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In a democracy, if the people perceive there to be a problem, then there is a problem, even if it is merely their own misconception. That’s why I believe the deficit in our democracy is education. When the lies and misperceptions I see surrounding its functioning are corrected, our joy within it should rise, and real electoral reforms can be realized.

Gregory Lang Toronto

In 2005, about 58 per cent of B.C. voters favoured electoral reform; in 2016, about 52 per cent of PEI voters favoured a change. In both cases, the government decided to keep the existing system. No matter what voters prefer, it seems that once politicians gain power, they stick to the voting system they think will get them re-elected.

This is why a growing movement in Canada is calling for a national citizens assembly on electoral reform. Given access to experts and a chance to deliberate, such a group could come up with fair solutions for contentious political issues. It should be time for Canadians to lead the way on reforming the voting system, even if it goes against the short-term interests of our elected politicians.

Jason McLaren New Westminster, B.C.

Harmonized taxes

Re This Is How We Do It (Letters, March 9): Columnist Rita Trichur suggests the Canada Revenue Agency provide prepopulated digital tax returns. This is an excellent idea. But it could go even further, by creating a software package based on its own internal interface. Taxpayers have already paid for the development of CRA systems, yet many still have to purchase third-party offerings that do essentially the same thing.

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Whatever costs the CRA might incur would be much less than what Canadians already spend for commercial software. And as a bonus, the calculations would be done in an identical manner to CRA practices.

Brian Quigg Toronto

I believe taxation is necessary, but writing the forms in accountant’s jargon before blunderbussing them onto innocent taxpayers takes things too far. When is government going to reimburse us for doing their job? Crikey!

Rose DeShaw Kingston


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