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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference after touring a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Ottawa, on, July 2, 2021.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

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Twenty years

Re Two Victims Of 9/11 Attacks Identified Days Before Tragedy’s 20th Anniversary (Sept. 9): On September 11, 2001, my high-school buddy Brian Clark – the small forward on our basketball team – survived the attack on his company’s floor of the World Trade Center.

He walked down a staircase, even though he was told to go up to the roof. He did that to save the life of a complete stranger, whose pleas he heard from within a stairwell wall.

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Brian is that guy on our basketball team, the glue guy. He is so special and, for all the right reasons, he was one of the truly lucky ones that day.

I’ll never forget the feeling when I heard about the attack and I knew he was working that day. I’ll never forget the moment when I knew he survived. Never.

Gregory Ast Broadmead, B.C.

Early voting

Re An Election Doomed To Low Turnout? (Editorial, Sept. 9): Another place to vote is a local constituency returning office.

My wife and I will be away during the election, so we dropped by our returning office and voted. There was no lineup, and the whole process took about 10 minutes. It was open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Very convenient.

Stephen Crocker Edmonton

Spending spree

Re COVID-19 Brought Back Big Government. How Will We Pay For It? (Report on Business, Sept. 4): “The pandemic alone could leave us with a debt of half a trillion dollars that will take at least a decade to pay off.” It should be noted that the platforms of all the political parties reveal no intention to pay off even a cent of the pandemic-induced debt surge.

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Indeed, over the decade that writer Ian Brown refers to, all parties envision piling on more deficits and debt.

Don Drummond Stauffer-Dunning Fellow, Queen’s University; Kingston

Pedal power

Re Paris’s Vision Of A Car-free Future Could Trigger Social Division And War With The Suburbs (Report on Business, Sept. 4): I would like to challenge the assumption that suburbanites will not adapt to less dependency on cars.

Improved transit will, of course, be helpful. But good bike infrastructure, as some cities are building, would be a cost-effective means of enabling people to travel into city centres. If people feel safe on bikes, they can easily cover 10 kilometres or more with only a modest level of fitness.

There is also a new generation of e-bikes that enable commutes of 20 kilometres or more. Cargo bikes assisted by battery power can help haul significant loads.

Ed Janicki Victoria

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We need only look to Montreal for Canada’s version of Paris’s mayor. Valérie Plante is a strong proponent for building safe roads for cyclists.

During our August visit to Montreal, we participated in the Tour la Nuit and Tour de l’Île along with 8,000 and 9,000 cyclists, respectively. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of streets with added bike lanes, including well-known ones such as Saint-Catherine, but also others in outer residential districts.

Not to be overlooked is Ottawa, which has adopted a program of “complete streets” to reduce and slow vehicular traffic, and provide safe biking. We believe these changes are inevitable to protect the environment. They should be achieved in parallel with an extensive transit system and self-sufficient communities that reduce the need for vehicles.

Alistair Hensler Ottawa

About the arts

Re In The COVID-era, The Liberal Arts Are More Valuable Than Ever (Opinion, Sept. 4): I agree with the importance of the liberal arts and mourn their demise. There are two critical developments that likely ensure their decline.

Over 30 years, the government has cut financial support to postsecondary institutions. As a result, they are increasingly dependent on wealthy individuals and corporations to cover costs.

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This money comes with many strings attached and questionable goals. Institutions today are often run like corporations, driven by business models, marketing and branding.

However, the arts would not be waning if students were flocking to such courses; they are not. They see themselves as consumers, their grades as more important than what they learn.

Higher education today is linked to jobs. The arts were never about producing “employment-ready” employees, but that is what students want.

The education “cauldron” that contributor Michael W. Higgins refers to forges, for the most part, bright, smart, self-interested consumers, but not necessarily world citizens.

Mark Muldoon Victoria

I was struck by one sentence in contributor Michael W. Higgins’s excellent opinion: “Words as conduits of meaning have been suborned.” Anyone who has struggled through an academic treatise on the arts knows that this horse left the barn long ago.

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Dense, opaque and convoluted, these texts seem more designed to obscure meaning than to elucidate it. Students eagerly take them up like bright, shiny packages, only to find that there is little or nothing inside.

If academics want to raise the level of discourse, they should start with themselves.

Douglas Campbell Victoria

Shouldn’t anybody with their sensibilities intact nowadays be engaged with what’s going on, not bent on “dispassionate analysis,” as contributor Michael W. Higgins argues? Filing things away (however skilfully, as the liberal arts are prone to do) may provide passing psychological relief, but should be no substitute for getting involved constructively, especially given the climates of opinion (“health protocols, labour laws, political priorities, deepening levels of social anxiety”) that are at the root of Prof. Higgins’s unease.

His reference to the Netflix series The Chair and the “messy business” of collegiate life today is promising, this being the interface of traditional lore and the preoccupations of the young. However, any exploration is soon subordinated to the “uncluttered truth-telling” of liberal arts, the “final guarantor of our freedom.”

All this at a time when the young want nothing more than to be on the inside and to create a better world.

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Patrick O’Neill Toronto

At a time when those described by contributor Michael W. Higgins as “quasi-literate political leaders” are increasingly demanding more STEM programs in place of the humanities and social sciences, how refreshing it was to read such an eloquent and erudite defence of the liberal arts.

To quote Bruce Cockburn: “Pay attention to the poet. You need him and you know it.”

Chris Phillips Ancaster, Ont.

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