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A GO Transit train sits parked at the Niagara Falls Train Station, on Aug. 26, 2022.Tara Walton/The Canadian Press

Private vs. public

Re “Private matters” (Letters, Dec. 28): A letter-writer suggests the private sector generally does a better job at running things, citing the federal government’s Phoenix pay system. Not a great example, since it was actually developed by IBM. He might also be aware of Toronto’s problems with Metrolinx.

And, as he mentions, Ontario’s Conservative government, which shares his beliefs in the superiority of the private sector, is legislating that wine coolers can be sold in corner stores, where the teenagers who like them will be able to purchase them without anyone bothering to confirm that they are of legal age to buy alcohol.

What he doesn’t mention is that the private companies that the Conservatives mandated to provide home care, replacing some outstanding non-profits, will monitor their own performance in meeting required standards, rather than having outside monitoring. Is that also a challenge to the status quo, or a capitulation that may have as dire an effect on those who need home-care services as COVID did?

Marcia Zalev Toronto

Re “Ottawa, we have a problem” (Opinion, Dec. 27): A long time ago I worked in the federal public service, and I was even involved in a “public-sector renewal” initiative. It didn’t go well.

The prevailing mindset of mediocrity has largely acquired its stronghold because the public service is such infertile ground for innovation and efficiency. If Jim from the operations division finds a way to save $40-million, let’s cut him a fat bonus that matches a Bay Street banker’s. If Sarah from a marine science lab discovers a solution that saves millions of salmon, give her the same rewards.

But the real question comes to us, as the voters: Will we actually celebrate the moment when our MP shakes Jim or Sarah’s hand while handing over the bonus, or will we join the outrage crowd calling for this preposterous gravy train to end? I guess we don’t really want an innovative public service after all.

Pete Reinecke Ottawa

Prohibition doesn’t work

Re “Butting out cigarettes” (Letters, Dec. 29): A letter-writer suggests there should be an outright ban on cigarette sales, not just for those born after 2008. So, prohibition is the answer then? Haven’t we already tried that with almost every substance that is (or thought to be) harmful?

What was the result of this approach? It only led to illegally and dangerously produced forms of alcohol, tainted black market cannabis, and let’s not dare forget the tainted opioid epidemic and what has proven to be the completely failed war on drugs.

No, I’m sorry but prohibition is not the answer in my opinion. It will only produce a more harmful and unregulated black market supply of cigarettes. It is a much more complex issue and will take a multi-faceted approach to lessen the use and harms of certain substances.

Jayce Sale Guelph, Ont.

Yesterday’s hero

Re “Danielle Smith won’t let old resentments be forgot” (Opinion, Dec. 21): I am embarrassed by the treatment of Deena Hinshaw by the Alberta government. Dr. Hinshaw led us through a chaotic, stressful and unprecedented pandemic to the best of her abilities. We should be grateful not spiteful. Who could have done better under the circumstances? She deserves our praise and gratitude, not the political point-bashing we are witnessing. No wonder people shy away from public service.

John Pentland Calgary

Urgent appeal

Re “An Afghan humanitarian worker has helped scores fleeing the Taliban come to Canada. The last family on his list is his own” (Dec. 21): I urgently appeal to the Canadian government for swift action to bring Muhabatullah Samim’s family (husband, wife and three children) to Canada.

Despite completing the required tests, bureaucratic delays and security screening have left them stranded in a precarious situation in Pakistan. The prolonged wait, exacerbated by the recent order for unregistered foreign nationals to leave Pakistan, heightens the risk of their forced return to Afghanistan, where their safety is compromised because of their former work (armed forces prosecutor and women’s right activist).

While I acknowledge the challenges faced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in processing applications, the urgency of this case cannot be overstated. Every day of delay puts the family at greater risk, and their harrowing living conditions in Pakistan only add to the urgency.

Time is of the essence, and the potential loss of this family is a distressing prospect that should keep us all awake at night.

Norma Pike Ottawa

Ethiopia déjà vu

Re “In the aftermath of a catastrophic war, northern Ethiopia faces famine that could rival the worst of the past” (Dec. 28): As a CBC correspondent in northern Ethiopia during the 1984-85 famine, I spent months covering what still stands out as one of the most catastrophic disasters of the 20th century. It was a time when drought, crop failures and political turmoil produced a death toll from starvation and disease that killed up to an estimated one million people, and left millions more as homeless refugees streaming across a barren landscape in a desperate search for very limited food aid.

The Globe and Mail is to be commended for running this shocking story by Samuel Getachew, which brings rare and urgently needed attention to rising famine outbreaks in the same northern Tigray region that is still devastated from the recent “disastrous two-year war in which Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers fought against Tigrayan soldiers.”

In the 1980s, the world was largely unaware until television news coverage revealed the full horror of the famine, inspiring an outraged public mobilized behind volunteer famine relief operations. A few Western nations, foremost among them Canada under then-prime minister Brian Mulroney, leapt in to make Ethiopian relief a priority crisis for the world. Mr. Mulroney and others galvanized relief efforts at the United Nations, and lobbied the United States and Britain to join in what became, at the time, the largest peacetime relief effort in history. Millions of lives were eventually saved.

Canada has an honoured record for reaching out in the past to lead anti-famine efforts in Ethiopia. Is it too much to hope the current government has the conscience and the vision to live up to that standard at a time of such profound need?

Brian Stewart Toronto

Taiwan’s fate

Re “China’s Xi Jinping says ‘reunification’ with Taiwan is inevitable” (Jan. 1): Perhaps the response to Xi Jinping’s statement should be: “Yes, let’s reunify but only after holding a verifiable, free election in the whole of China.” I’m not sure that is what the Chinese President is after.

Stephen Gill East Gwillimbury, Ont.

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