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Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds his first news conference as leader on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Aug. 25, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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Conservatives incoming

Re A Tricky Test Coming For Erin O’Toole (Editorial, Sept. 2): I believe Erin O’Toole has already missed his chance to showcase his potential as prime minister. The Conservative Leader came out with lead balloons.

The message for Canadians is that the Conservatives will bring forth the same ideas that have dogged them in the past: Open the oil sands, limit abortion rights, ignore climate change, abolish the CBC. How is Canada going to move to the future and all its challenges with those ideas?

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Carl Hager Pontiac, Que.

Re Benefits Remark Indicates O’Toole Doesn’t See The Third Rail Of Pandemic Politics (Sept. 2): Erin O’Toole says that Justin Trudeau got the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit “entirely wrong,” and that funds first should have gone to businesses and employers. This would have left self-employed and contract workers in the gig economy without any income.

I would not have survived without the CERB. It kept my family fed and housed. This is a loud signal to me that the Conservatives couldn’t care less about ordinary Canadians, even during a global pandemic and economic meltdown.

Ordinary folks who still vote Conservative should wake up to this reality.

Melissa Suppa Toronto

Building a history

Re To Deface A Monument Is To Engage Critically With History (Sept. 2): Sir John A. Macdonald was a representative of those Canadians whose votes supported his terms in office, warts and all. If we are so concerned about the dark side of his prime ministership, and so we should be, then may I suggest that Canadians of this era undo history by paying back those victimized by an unsympathetic generation.

We could start by providing Indigenous people with clean water, better health care and decent education and perhaps honouring the treaties that Canadians of that era felt were adequate compensation for using Indigenous lands to form this country.

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Instead of tearing down statues that remind us Canadians made mistakes in our short history as a country, perhaps we can do something constructive. When future generations look upon statues of Macdonald, they might instead appreciate what our generation did to rewrite history.

Neil McLaughlin Burlington, Ont.

Re When We Debate Complex Legacies Such As Sir John A.’s, We Must Not Be Ahistorical (Sept. 1): Further to contributor J.D.M. Stewart’s point that “it is ahistorical to take Macdonald out of his times and thrust our causes and our fights for justice onto him,” those who have not studied history sometimes have a tendency to do that. They believe that the past was like the present, but with people less intelligent and technologies more primitive. This can lead to a failure of empathy.

If the past, that foreign country where they do things differently, is judged so unfairly, what chance do the foreign countries, cultures or ideas of today have? The study of history teaches us to measure people and societies not by our yardsticks, but by the ones available to them – in other words, to apply empathy.

Novelist Ian McEwan said it best in an essay for The Guardian after Sept. 11, 2001: “Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality.” This should also apply to people in the past.

Lindsay Bryan PhD, retired associate professor of history; Welland, Ont.

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Re Up And Down (Letters, Sept. 2): A letter-writer asks: “Has anyone given thought to the fact that without Sir John A. Macdonald, we would not have our wonderful country called Canada?” I would imagine Indigenous people have given it plenty of thought.

Lyse Davitt Waterloo, Ont.

DIY testing

Re Health Canada To Review At-home Tests (Sept. 2): Decision makers at Health Canada may not fully appreciate the potential of rapid saliva-based antigen testing for COVID-19. At this point, these tests should not be thought of as diagnostic tests, but rather as screening tests for individuals who very likely do not have COVID-19.

It can be shown that a negative test can identify uninfected people with more than 99.9-per-cent probability. There will be a very small percentage of false positives, but these can be readily addressed with a rapid PCR diagnostic test. And since rapid, inexpensive saliva tests can be used daily, false negatives (people who are actually infected, but asymptomatic and, often, not infectious) can be quickly identified and isolated.

Approving these tests would allow society (including schools and workplaces) to open up in a safer and more controlled fashion and could greatly assist in controlling the pandemic. Our governments should be more aggressively identifying the best tests and developing the logistics to put them in place.

Marc Levine Professor emeritus, University of British Columbia; chair, UBC Children’s and Women’s Research Ethics Board; Vancouver

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Rent rage

Re Low Rates + High Prices = Housing Risk (Aug. 29): We do indeed need large amounts of rental housing in Richmond, B.C., rather than more condos for sale to investors who often leave them vacant or offer them at unaffordable rents. Rental affordability requires economies of scale to keep down costs.

Recognizing this crisis, the B.C. government gave municipalities power to designate a property as market rental. After our advocacy group urged Richmond to make the Richmond Centre redevelopment 80-per-cent rental, the developer added 200 market-rental units – which council approved – leaving 1,850 units for sale.

Aside from a feeble municipality, the obstacle to more rental housing in this case is ironically not foreign owners, but the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, whose real estate arm owns the project, and its partner, the Alberta Investment Management Corp.

John Roston Co-ordinator, Richmond Rental Housing Advocacy Group; Richmond, B.C.

My wife and I are retired and had considered selling our home. However, when we did the math on renting an apartment for the rest of our lives, at a minimum of $2,000 a month, our savings would steadily erode and we might find ourselves unable to afford it in our elderly years.

If we wish to nudge people away from home ownership, we should ensure that everyone has the confidence to live securely in retirement. We could build vast amounts of affordable rental and non-market housing, as well as create a guaranteed income or substantially increase Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan payments.

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When mortgage payments often cost less than rent and a small part of each payment goes toward building equity, it is tough to persuade people to consider long-term renting over home ownership.

Myles Ferrie Vancouver

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