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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a reporter's question during his daily news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic outside his residence at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, on May 9, 2020.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

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Terms and conditions, Pt. 1

Re Ottawa Unveils Loan Program To Help Large Corporations (May 12): It was gratifying to see that government will not simply bail out large corporations. Providing loans will make them operate as normal, with a debt to be repaid. However, there could still be another way.

When automakers needed bailing out during the Great Recession in 2008, Ontario and Ottawa bought equity as a way to finance General Motors. When the company turned around, Ontario, for one, gained $1.1-billion when the province sold shares.

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Shares of the Big Five banks are down dramatically, as are Air Canada’s. It’s clear to me these blue-chip companies will recover. I suggest government turn some of its loans into equity financing to help bring the deficit down in a hurry, and in the long term.

Peter Fedirchuk Kanata, Ont.

I believe the government is right to require strict conditions for large corporations in exchange for public money, and including climate-change concerns is a no-brainer. It’s also worth highlighting that these loans will require annual disclosures of risks and opportunities arising from climate change.

This explicit link to recommendations from the federal Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance is most welcome. Once companies start to report, it will be awfully hard to roll back.

Alex MacKenzie Peterborough, Ont.

Re Ottawa Is Quick With The Sales Pitches, But Slow To Explain Programs (May 12): The financial promise to large corporations is an enormous Band-Aid, a spreadsheet large enough to paper the prairies. The mind boggles at the proportion of administrative hurdles to be cleared.

COVID-19 looks like a tunnel without a light. If the Phoenix pay system is any lesson, the time has come for prayer.

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Hugh McKechnie Newmarket, Ont.

Just watch how much of this money will likely still, despite federal restrictions, get parked in bank accounts, used for stock buybacks and paid out to executives and investors, and not invested in new research or equipment, green economies or better wages for essential workers. This makes me pig-biting mad, as Ed Anger used to say.

Craig Proulx Fredericton

Walk away

Re Sidewalk’s Departure Is Toronto’s Loss (May 9): I believe columnist Marcus Gee is dead-on about the departure of Sidewalk Labs.

I was so looking forward to seeing this community of future possibilities, and so disappointed Toronto lost a golden opportunity for a showcase because of technological fears. It is happening, like it or not – just in some other city now, not Toronto. Yes, Sidewalk is connected to a large corporation in Google, but is that any different than Apple, Bell, Starbucks or Microsoft? Fear of big business seems misguided.

I am old enough to have seen large and small companies operate both well and poorly. There is no guarantee one is better than the other. What we look to have accomplished is the delay of desperately needed, energy-efficient housing, and an exciting opportunity to be a part of the future.

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Winnie McDonagh Toronto

I couldn’t agree more with columnist Marcus Gee. As a former urban planner, I’ve seen too much small thinking on behalf of Ontario’s municipal councils. Most seem so risk-adverse and lacking innovation that nothing much gets done. Councils, more often than not, get paralyzed by new and bigger ideas. Years pass. The status quo persists.

Whatever happened to thinking big, putting faith in experts, working closer with entrepreneurial businesses and taking on acceptable levels of risk? Sidewalk Labs walking away was always a given, in my view.

Jeffrey Brookfield Rockwood, Ont.

Re Sidewalk’s Withdrawal Is A Fresh Chance For Smart Toronto Design (Report on Business, May 8): I believe architecture critic Alex Bozikovic rightly breaths a sigh of relief at news of Sidewalk Labs running away from the Toronto waterfront. In any city-planning process, if technical wizardry is to play any part, it should be subordinate to the pursuit and establishment of crucial community objectives. In Toronto, these goals would be affordable housing located in diverse, compact neighbourhoods, investment in public transit, bike paths, recreational spaces and walkable streets.

I found that these were all referred to in passing in Sidewalk’s 1,500-page “brochure”, but never pursued in an imaginative, persuasive manner.

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Alan Waterhouse Toronto

A to B

Re Cities After The Coronavirus: It’s Time To Rethink What Was And Embrace What Could Be (May 11): In Toronto, transit carried about 1.6 million passengers every weekday last year. The requirements of physical distancing mean that, when Ontario reopens, the system cannot possibly accommodate previous volumes of passengers. Does anyone believe it could provide six times the number of subway cars, streetcars or buses?

Reality means that, until we have a vaccine, cars will likely be necessary to achieve physical distancing.

Brian Casey QC; Dartmouth, N.S.

In my course, “Mental Health and Physical Activity,” we examine the link between physical and mental health, including study of how the built environment can be a barrier to physical activity. It seems the pandemic is going to lead to greater use of active transportation such as walking and cycling.

In Copenhagen, about 60 per cent of people commute by bicycle, even in winter – those living in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada could too. As columnist André Picard once wrote: “One of Copenhagen’s lessons is if you create an urban environment conducive to travelling on two wheels (and two feet), it becomes self-perpetuating” (Toronto Can Transform Into A Bike-friendly Metropolis. Yes, Really – July 24, 2018). Now should be the time to put that lesson to use.

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Anne Barnfield London, Ont.

No frills

Re Renovating Harrington Lake Is Reasonable. Covering Up Plans Is Not (May 12): Robyn Urback’s column about prime ministerial perks presents an opportunity to correct a long-standing myth about Brian Mulroney and the “flying Taj Mahal.”

Yes, it’s true his government authorized the retrofitting of an Airbus A310 when a small shower and office were installed. But anyone who flew on that plane knew it was still anything but opulent.

The kicker is Mr. Mulroney never flew in it. Oh wait: He did once – when then-prime minister Stephen Harper invited him to fly to the funeral of Nelson Mandela in 2013, 20 years after Mr. Mulroney had been PM.

J.D.M. Stewart Author, Being Prime Minister; Toronto

Terms and conditions, Pt. 2

Re Airline Bailout Should Come With Conditions (May 12): How about we change the bailout amount a couple of times, continuously delay it for a while, then pay it all in hotel and meal vouchers?

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Robert Reaume Toronto

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