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Anti-mask protestors demonstrate against measures taken by public health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19, in St. Thomas, Ont. on Nov. 14, 2020.

Geoff Robins/The Canadian Press

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Get down

Re Open Or Closed? (Letters, Nov. 18): A letter-writer, worried about how “harsh” and “cruel” a new lockdown would be, seems to live in a different world from most Canadians.

“Imagine if residents in Ontario were denied the right to isolate at their cottages in Muskoka and Georgian Bay?” he wrote. “Imagine having a cottage in Muskoka?” I could reply.

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We’ve pursued a “balanced” approach for months now. How has that worked out? Record (and still increasing) cases across Canada, more than 50 deaths a day and hospitals teetering at the edge.

Continuing with this approach will likely mean more deaths and businesses continuing to founder regardless, with no end in sight. It doesn’t sound like much of a solution to me.

Luke Mastin Toronto

Public feedback

Re Experts Named To Review Pandemic Early Warning System (Nov. 18): Health Minister Patty Hajdu should be commended for initiating an investigation into the Public Health Agency of Canada. That said, the terms of reference and timelines for the review panel need not be complicated nor lengthy.

Canadians want to know: Why did the public-health agency let us down? Who is responsible? How do we fix it so that Canada won’t be caught flat-footed again by another pandemic? Thanks to reporter Grant Robertson’s investigation into the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, much of the groundwork is already done.

With the world in a pandemic, there should be considerable urgency in getting responses to the above questions. For if something needs to be done now, Canadians shouldn’t be waiting until spring to learn about it.

Cecil Rorabeck London, Ont.

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All in the family?

Re A Refresher For Confused MPs And Family On Their Payroll (Nov. 18): I find it rather brazen that the Conservatives are also concerned about the ethics of a now former Liberal MP hiring a family member at taxpayer expense.

My former Conservative MP, Maurice Vellacott, for years hired his brother to run his office, as previously reported during the Harper era. (When a constituent wanted to connect with Mr. Vellacott, it was often through his brother.) It is also known that other Conservative MPs had children and relatives hired by fellow MPs.

I think a further probe into the party would show that Andrew Scheer is not an exception.

Louise Buhler Saskatoon

Free lesson

Re Unfettered Freedom Is Creating Tragedy (Nov. 16): As a historian, I would like to clarify some points.

Firstly, the idea of a secular state predates the French Revolution by at least 100 years. In A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), which may have been an inspiration to the French, John Locke argued that the practice of religion was the private concern of citizens.

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Further, Immanuel Kant’s idea that freedom is of two kinds – freedom to and freedom from – allows us to understand that revolutionary France had won freedom from a despotic government. It should be seen as a freedom still worth maintaining, not as outdated “foundational ideology,” as contributor Erna Paris describes it. By contrast, Americans are fixated on freedom to; for example, the freedom to not wear masks.

Most importantly, I do not believe that teacher Samuel Paty was relying on "unfettered free speech to teach about Islam through ugly caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.” Rather, he was teaching free speech to get his students to debate the subject. Isn’t debating in schools the very mark of a free society?

Michele Cohen PhD, London

Climate plans

Re Brutal Reality: If Left Unchecked, Our Use Of Concrete Will Shape The Future (Opinion, Nov. 14): Concrete’s green credentials are not “theoretical.” They are being used by many builders, designers and architects to significantly reduce greenhouse gases.

Experience shows that optimized concrete mixes can reduce concrete’s GHG emissions by up to 60 per cent; waste products such as non-recyclable plastic, construction and demolition waste are replacing fossil fuels in cement manufacturing; concrete’s thermal mass reduces GHG emissions from heating and cooling; concrete, over time, naturally absorbs substantial amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Lower-carbon cement is on the World Economic Forum’s list of top 10 emerging technologies. The Canadian cement and concrete industry continues to take important steps to reduce GHG emissions, which account for 1.5 per cent of all GHG emissions in Canada.

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Contributor Mary Soderstrom could help shape a zero-carbon future by asking why governments are not mandating the use of lower-carbon cement and concrete for infrastructure and building projects.

Michael McSweeney President and CEO, Cement Association of Canada; Ottawa

Re Shell Canada To Offer Carbon Offset Program At Pumps To Help Meet Paris Accord Target (Report on Business, Nov. 12): Beyond being solely driven by what consumers will benevolently give, Shell’s new net-zero initiative does not take into account “the end-use emissions from the products it sells – by far the largest share of emissions connected to the company,” and which it only plans to reduce by 65 per cent through 2050, through the gradual replacement of petrol by hydrogen and biofuels.

Not only do many experts agree that net-zero should be reached by 2050, but to invest in hydrogen fuels today, as a solution to replace combustion-engine cars, is seen as a way to delegitimize lithium-ion battery cars that have already proven effective.

Gas should be heavily taxed at the pump in order to discourage the use of conventional cars and effectively encourage electric vehicle production, charging station installation and investments in public transport systems. Shell should not pretend that any solution lies in voluntary donations from its customers to sensationalist tree-planting projects.

Théo Tremblay Montreal

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Stand tall

Re Backlog For Children Needing Surgery Grows In Pandemic (Nov. 17): I am here, at 68, to tell the young boy with one shorter leg that surgery, when it happens, is still worthwhile and his future is bright.

My own surgeries as a child were at St. Joseph’s hospital in Toronto. The lengthening worked (for other reasons, my foot was later amputated). The limb supported me through hikes in the Rocky Mountains, a lifetime of swimming, a marriage and career, four children and now grandchildren. All in all, not much different than anyone would want.

I also hope to calm the fears and “what ifs" faced by his parents. Maybe hockey and soccer aren’t good ideas for the child, but volleyball or swimming may suffice.

Yes, there are certain growth times that are preferred for surgery. However, it is not the end of treatment if dates are missed. Keep plugging on.

Bruce Craig Hamilton

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