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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference to announce a new program that offers Canadians grants of up to $5,000 for energy-saving home upgrades in Ottawa on May 27, 2021.


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At loggerheads

Re Fairy Creek Blockade 2021: What You Need To Know About The Anti-logging Protest In B.C. (Online, May 27): In this day and age, when climate change and protection of the natural world is of great concern, it feels irresponsible to allow the destruction of the little that is left of old growth forest and habitat.

Take a time out, defer logging, turn down the heat and engage in constructive dialogue. Find a way out of this mess and create different ways of protecting each party’s interests. It will require compromise, but it is surely more advanced and responsible than bullying protesters and cutting old growth into two by fours.

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That would be one-sided and antiquated thinking.

Hans Verbeek Delta, B.C.

Investment advice

Re Will CPPIB’s Investment Strategy Pay Off? (May 26): Over 15 years, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board spent billions searching for above-market returns and increased the portfolio by about 5 per cent; that annual compound rate of increase amounts to 0.35 per cent.

My conclusion: Revert to a passive investment strategy, retire the active-investment team and invest the cost savings.

Les Corper Calgary

It seems that columnist Andrew Coyne wants to treat the Canada Pension Plan’s management as if it were an ETF.

CPP has a mandated funding mechanism and future payment obligations. The principle metric should be an ability to meet obligations now and on a projected continuing basis. Comparisons to investment vehicles like ETFs can be instructive but should not be primary; they are not equivalent in objectives.

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The fund is also so large that it could move markets through investment decisions, and could expose beneficiaries to inordinate risk by concentrating in, say, only Canadian opportunities. Therefore both private equities and offshore investments are required. Choosing between an equity or bond ETF would vastly oversimplify the issues involved.

Holding the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to account is of course appropriate. However unlike an ETF, their customers are captive. Other, broader metrics should be used beyond index comparison.

John Madill Oshawa, Ont.

Last year, columnist Andrew Coyne was critical of the Canada Pension Plan’s high-cost active management style, calling it “fool’s gold” (Alberta’s Nationalists Have An Odd Love Affair With Quebec – June 27, 2020). This year he cites average costs of $2-billion per year, over the last 15 years, that produced only $28-billion of additional value net of all costs. Most active managers (and their clients) would be thrilled with such a result.

Though CPP assets only returned 20 per cent in the last year while its reference portfolio earned 30 per cent, that shortfall can be explained by the fund being 50-per-cent invested in private assets. Conservative private market valuations run well behind public market valuations, especially when the latter appreciate as rapidly as during recovery from pandemic-related panic. If history repeats itself, the 10-per-cent gap will disappear when private and public market values converge in the years ahead.

Mr. Coyne also worries about the risk of these private investments and whether this “massively costly bet with the country’s pensions” will require the next generation “to pick up the pieces.” In my view, the CPP is investing additional contributions to pay for benefit increases too conservatively. This leaves the next generation with undue risk of lower future benefits or higher contribution rates.

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Now that is something Mr. Coyne should worry about.

Keith Ambachtsheer Director Emeritus, International Centre for Pension Management, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Poor policy

Re The Postpandemic Failure Goes On Your Children’s Tab (May 24): As a well-off senior, I am tired of being bribed by various governments at the expense of people in need and future generations.

Please stop income-splitting, free senior prescriptions (until there is universal coverage) and senior discounts on public services such as transportation. People at any age level should be supported on the basis of need, not age.

I am in favour of increased taxation for those who are comfortably well off, coupled with more targeted support for those who truly need a leg up. I will donate this $500 to our local food bank.

Despite longtime support of the Liberal Party in most elections, I will be making a different choice next time.

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Janet MacPhee Ottawa

If one used the Low Income Measure, the general world standard on low income, Canada’s rate for seniors from 2018 to 2019 has increased from 14.3 per cent to 15.2 per cent, above the overall rate of 12.1 per cent.

There are only less poor seniors encompassed in the Market Basket Measure (our official poverty line), which claims one is not poor if living in most small towns, because less money is generally needed for housing and some other services. Should not Canadians use the same income measure as other countries? In fact, Statistics Canada continues to use the LIM as an additional poverty measure.

I agree that we should raise the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors. I would add that any measures should not just go to seniors 75 and older, but to all seniors 65-plus. Are there two classes of seniors now, as MP Carol Hughes recently said?

John Anderson Former policy director, NDP; Ottawa

That’s it?

Re Judge’s Intervention In U of T Hiring Ruled ‘An Error,’ But His Job Not At Risk (May 22): Is this the kind of standard we set for our judges in Canada?

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Edelgard Mahant Toronto

Mature readers

Re When Is The Perfect Time To Read Great Expectations? (First Person, May 21): Essay-writer Michele Karch-Ackerman is one of generations of readers who were taught to hate Charles Dickens in high school. I implore English teachers to resist force-feeding him to their adolescent students, most of whom are not equipped to absorb his dense narrative.

It has taken me a lifetime to get over my antipathy to Dickens and come to appreciate his genius, and I am an English literature specialist.

Donnie Friedman Toronto

Nothing but a number

Re Inspiration For Golf Nation: Phil Mickelson Scores A Win Against Father Time (May 27): Columnist Lawrence Martin describes Phil Mickelson as a “golfing geezer.” Wow. If we’re geezers at 50, what are we at 80-plus?

I find far too much fussing about age in sports. If Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady, Roger Federer or Serena Williams want to keep on playing, we ought to focus not on their grey hair but on their scores.

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Geoff Rytell Toronto

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