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Knowing when to go

It is a volatile time for political parties, and incumbents have not fared well (Vote The Bums Out, But Think About It First – editorial, Oct. 5).

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Still, there are steps a party can take to reduce the fatigue of incumbency without necessarily giving its leader the push – although in the case of former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, it was clear well before the election that she had overstayed her welcome. Whether it was hubris or a failure to speak truth to power, the Liberal backroom interpreted “we’re fed up of Wynne” to mean “we want even more Kathleen.”

A better strategy might have been to have less Kathleen Wynne in the run-up to the campaign, and to focus more on a new team during the campaign itself. That likely would have salvaged official-party status, if not the official-opposition designation.

Politicians, like athletes and entertainers, never quite know when to call it a day. Term limits are one way to refresh a party, but even then, how many of us can say that we are not pining for a third term with Barack Obama in the White House?

David Carr, Toronto

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Including Alberta in your list of populations to be scolded for throwing out allegedly competent incumbent governments is unfair. Removing a government after about 15 years of power, as in Ontario and Quebec, is a case of throwing out the incumbent. But when single party has been in power for 44 uninterrupted years, a record outdone internationally perhaps only by the Communist parties of China or Cuba, then its electoral demise is much better defined as the ending of a one-party state – which surely can only be a good thing for democracy.

Ryan Hoskins, North Vancouver

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How we punish

Your editorial, Tories: Tough On Crime But Soft On Ideas (editorial, Oct. 4), notes that mandatory minimum sentences during the Harper era had the effect of bloating our prison populations. In Ontario, there was also former premier Mike Harris’s introduction of private “no frills” jails. We’re learning what they have learned across the border with mass incarceration there: It’s an expensive mistake. Tough on crime does not mean tough on criminals.

Guy Mersereau, Hamilton

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In her recent argument advocating abolishing minimum mandatory sentences for murder, Prof. Debra Parkes argued that few people have in mind “the 18 year old Indigenous teen who kills her abusive drug dealer.” She then said “such a situation can amount to murder in our law” (Mandatory Minimum Sentences For Murder Should Be Abolished – Sept. 25).

That is correct, however, for a conviction to occur the court must have been convinced that the murder was intentional or the accused was indifferent as to whether her actions would likely cause death, and that none of the available defences, including self-defence, applied. Guilt and punishment are two separate issues.

The question is, what punishment should be imposed on someone after they are found guilty of murder?

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Our Charter protects the guilty from “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.” Our Supreme Court has said that to be considered cruel and unusual, a punishment must be one that “would shock the conscience of Canadians.” Our Charter also declares that everyone has the right to life and not to be deprived of that right except in accordance with principals of fundamental justice.

It is trite to observe that there is nothing in this world more valuable than one’s life. I would suggest that the conscience of Canadians is not shocked by the prospect of a convicted murderer having to serve a minimum 10-year sentence. The victim, whether an “abusive drug dealer” or the nice, older lady down the block, is dead. Victims serve a maximum sentence which has no parole.

John McLean, Vancouver

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Before I retired as a professor, I used to think that it was just the luck of the draw that I was fortunate enough to have landed that job, and that professors never seemed to me to be any better or any worse than your typical Joe.

But reading Benjamin Perrin’s reasoned article, Politicians Can’t Interfere With How Stafford’s Killer Serves Her Time (Oct. 5), and contrasting it with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s ill-informed outrage has caused me to change my mind.

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Maybe the educated “elites” really do have something valuable to offer.

Frank Foulkes, Toronto

Slow to cheer LNG

With LNG’s victory and Trans Mountain now back in the race, one would think fracking and increased tanker traffic is sunny ways for us all (Ottawa Aims To Reboot Talks With First Nations On Pipeline – Oct. 4).

Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is 70- to 90-per-cent methane. When government tells us that natural gas just evaporates into the air, it is actually methane that is being released.

Perhaps we should look at both sides of this “victory” before celebrating it. Pipelines, increased tanker traffic, fracked natural gas will only add to climate change. We are seeing this now in the form of wildfires, drought, rising sea levels, typhoons.

When there are billions of dollars to be made, we convince ourselves everything is great. It’s amazing really: Scientists are saying the Earth’s climate situation is grave, and on the opposite side we have politicians high-fiving each other over a fossil-fuel deal.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver and other climate scientists are not saying no to a growing economy, they are saying the LNG deal is a tough balancing act, and with all the natural disasters we have had lately, we need to be sure – because at this point, we cannot afford to be wrong.

Lisa Ross, Vancouver

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We’re already learning what almost one degree of global warming looks like, however, we must start grappling with the fact that our ongoing emissions have pretty much locked in a greater increase. If Canadians have any aspiration of doing our part, it makes no sense whatsoever to be embarking on the building of more oil and gas infrastructure.

It makes no sense for our governments to be buying/building pipelines, or further subsidizing the fossil fuel industry by rebating taxes or tariffs on steel, or building a whole new LNG infrastructure on coastal B.C.

Where are the visionary leaders who will help direct all of this government support and subsidization toward making Canada a leader, and a leading employer in, clean-energy technology?

Elaine Blacklock, Sudbury, Ont.

About that absurd name

The obvious new acronym, at least in Canada, for the trade deal that replaces NAFTA should be CAMUS, not the initials USMCA.

CAMUS puts Canada first, and strategically placed vowels make it easy to pronounce. Most importantly, it pays tribute to Albert Camus, the French Nobel laureate and philosophic proponent of the absurd. What concept better epitomizes our relationship with Donald Trump?

Ian McKercher, Ottawa

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