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Toronto City Hall is pictured in Toronto, on March 4.Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press

Always remember

Re “What Northern Ireland teaches us about ending the Ukraine war” (April 25): As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, another anniversary has been less marked: the 155th anniversary of the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee on April 7.

McGee, a Father of Confederation, was likely killed by a Fenian due to his opposition to Irish revolutionaries operating in Canada. His life and death should be a reminder to Canadians that we are not immune to violence like we saw in Northern Ireland.

The end of the Fenians in Canada and the Good Friday Agreement should remind us that violence is never inevitable and peace is always possible.

Ryan Hamilton Oxford, England

Party down

Re “The solution to Toronto’s electoral dysfunction? Political parties” (Editorial, April 24): Vaclav Havel‚ the former president of Czechoslovakia, said that everyone should be encouraged to join a political party – unless they were running for public office.

French philosopher Simone Weil wrote a book titled On the Abolition of All Political Parties.

William Lyon Mackenzie thought that those elected should vote with their conscience, not with their party.

Look at the harm political parties have done to political decision-making in Ontario and Ottawa, where members of parties are often ostracized if they do not do what their leaders want.

I believe independent candidates offer the best hope for new ideas and new coalitions to address public challenges.

John Sewell Former mayor Toronto

I don’t think there is enough of a division between left and right in Toronto city politics to sustain political parties, the reason being that key issues are mostly granular rather than ideological. If councillors were interested, they would have already tried it.

A simple solution would be to reintroduce a ranked ballot system. Every political party in Canada elects leaders with this approach. London, Ont., used it successfully in 2018, and a number of other Ontario cities, including Toronto, were seriously exploring its use. Unfortunately, an amendment to the Ontario Election Act to do away with this practice was included in the 2020 COVID-19 recovery bill.

If more stringent requirements for mayoral candidate were introduced, the field could be cut to five or six, thus promoting greater interest. And if ranked ballots were reintroduced, we would be assured of electing the candidate that best reflects Toronto’s hopes and aspirations.

Adam Plackett Toronto

Education and equity

Re “Unfairness in the name of equity” (April 22): Imagine if organizations hired people the way the Toronto District School Board chooses students for specialized schools: Ignore credentials, training and experience, then just put all applications into a drum and draw winners.

How about symphonies and ballets no longer hold auditions for performers? Or the Bank of Canada hiring economists to help, selected solely by lottery? These examples and any others that can be thought of should seem absurd.

But that is what the board is doing in selecting students for specialty schools, all in the name of what I see as a misguided sense of fairness and equality. It should let the best and brightest be all that they can be.

Today, the board looks like it is wasting immeasurable amounts of talent, and we are all going to be poorer for its logic.

David Kister Kingston

As a parent of two kids who attended a specialty arts school after both going through rigorous auditions and interviews, this column rang true for me. The enrolment issue is an example of what I call “strive for the bronze medal” mentality.

Instead of celebrating achievement for a comparative few, we seem to shoot for mediocrity across a great many. Which, in the end, really celebrates no one.

Michael Younder Toronto

There should not be specialized schools, period.

As an elementary teacher for 25 years, I witnessed much collaboration to bring well-balanced, highly stimulating programming for all students: plays, concerts, art displays, computer labs, chess clubs and math competitions, to name a few. Dedicated staff brought expertise to these specialized areas, not to mention the invigorating day-to-day delivery of their subject curriculum.

In a well-funded public system, all schools in all neighbourhoods should provide stimulating programs in all areas, with no need for specialized programming. I believe to do otherwise is inherently elitist and has no place in public education.

Kevin Reid Waterloo, Ont.

Like the other

Re “Suncor has reported dead birds at an oil sands tailings pond, Alberta Energy Regulator says” (Online, April 22): It is interesting, but disheartening, to see the concern of the Alberta Energy Regulator over the deaths of 32 waterfowl at a Suncor tailings pond, while the thousands of annual deaths of birds attributable to wind turbines apparently go unremarked.

Are we really saying that wildlife deaths from renewable energy sources aren’t as culpable?

John Sutherland Calgary

Growing pains

Re “Local lettuce: Amid imported food shortages, greenhouse farming takes off in Canada” (Report on Business, April 24): The president of Kinghaven Farms is highlighted as a visionary who wants to produce food speedily and cheaply, but his local council is objecting on what seems to be a nitpicking basis.

He makes the point that such food production, mainly hydroponic, will go a long way toward fighting the food insecurity we might all face a few years down the road, due mainly to climate change and population growth. He also points out that the energy cost of production will be further reduced by the use of solar panels.

The term “no-brainer” comes to mind. The sooner King Township’s councillors give this some serious thought, the better.

Dave Ashby Toronto

Pitch to plate

Re “The green revolution growing inside an unassuming U.K. football team” (April 22): As a lifelong fan of British football, I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I can only imagine the early grumblings from the fans of Forest Green Rovers when they discovered that all their gameday foods were now vegan.

It was even more fascinating to read that Duncan Ferguson – known as “Big Dunc” – is now the manager and has become a vegan and environmental convert. Mr. Ferguson was a dominant presence in the opposition’s penalty area during his career, and scored almost 100 goals as a professional, many with his head as he soared above defenders.

I sincerely hope that more and more teams will follow the example of Forest Green and make their stadia environmentally friendly, and perhaps even convert a few fans to vegan foods.

Paul Moulton Fort Erie, Ont.

Justice is automated

Re “In an AI future, we will all be middle managers” (Opinion, April 22): If we’re going to have litigator bots filing lawsuits and defence bots defending them, then we’ll need judge bots to decide them, then appellate bots and Supreme Court bots.

One’s day in court? It would be more like five milliseconds, although having a case decided in the blink of an eye does have its appeal.

Of course, Cade and Dick will finally get their wish to “kill all the lawyers.” It would be death by a thousand bots.

Luke Hummel Brighton, Ont.

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