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The natural garden at the front of 66 Hillcrest Drive in Toronto is photographed on Aug. 28, 2020.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

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Oil futures

Re How Canada’s Oil And Gas Industries Assist In Indigenous Reconciliation (Sept. 4): I believe that if the Trudeau government respected Indigenous communities and the goal of reconciliation, then it would be a full supporter of Canada’s oil and gas industry.

If the industry is shut down, it would not only be destroying a key sector of our economy, but also depriving Indigenous people an opportunity to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.

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Russ Koehler Calgary

Drastic measures

Re Why The Postpandemic Recovery Will Require Political Collaboration, Not Politics As Usual (Aug. 31): Grave public challenges can transcend the importance of daily parliamentary debate and political manoeuvring. In times of major military conflict, governments in several democracies have appointed opposition members to wartime cabinets.

Economic recovery from a pandemic, like winning a war, is crucial. For a limited period, couldn’t Canada’s political parties, in the national interest, agree to put aside a subset of pandemic issues for a joint cabinet committee, where posturing isn’t an effective tactic? This would enable varied perspectives and rapid action, while retaining vigorous parliamentary debate over the remaining range of public issues.

Eric LeGresley Ottawa


I believe the real culprit is our first-past-the-post electoral system. We can’t solve crises when elections cause radical policy lurch.

After an election where a new party takes control of government, they often proceed to undo as much of the previous government’s work as possible. Canadians have come to consider this normal, but it should be viewed as wasteful and erratic, making real progress impossible.

Most democracies use proportional representation so that elections do not result in a complete change of players in power. Instead they return a rejigged coalition, with many of the same players back in their seats, that can continue work started beforehand.

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First-past-the-post, with its fostering of hyper-partisanship and knee-jerk opposition, should be the real target of columnist Adam Radwanski’s criticism.

Joyce Hall Markdale, Ont.

Where the wild things are

Re Ecologist’s Garden Is A Challenge to Lawn Order (Aug. 29): The confusion between naturalized plant gardens and unkempt lawns should be easy to solve.

A wildflower garden is planned, planted or seeded and always nurtured. A lawn ignored is rife with invasive species and amounts to no more than a vacant lot with, one assumes, a house on it.

Bylaws should be aimed at lazy owners who refuse to mow and maintain their lawns, not the responsible citizens who add to our pollinator corridors.

Mark Cullen, Gardener, Markham, Ont.

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Lawns are often ecological deserts while a yard like Nina-Marie Lister’s is a haven for birds, bugs and bees, all of which are otherwise seeing huge declines in their numbers. Using urban spaces to help the environment and its creatures is more important than ever, and cities – and neighbours – should change their thinking and bylaws to help instead of hinder.

Since introducing certain plants into my garden, I have had huge numbers of native bees in my yard, while also attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and other birds. To Prof. Lister: Carry on the good fight.

Maura Hamill Calgary


In Toronto, the natural garden exemption process can be daunting. One submits an application to Municipal Licensing Services before a public hearing at an “appropriate community council.” Even with a completely native plant garden, the process can still be subjective. The exemption targets “overgrown plants” but councillors, not all of whom may be environmentalists, have the final say.

When MLS inspectors target natural gardens, they sabotage Toronto’s environmental initiatives by discouraging gardeners who want to go native. If one replaced a lawn with butterfly magnets such as milkweeds, hyssops and goldenrods and a neighbour complained, I’ll bet inspectors would swarm the garden.

Additionally, the city allows lawn-maintenance contractors to operate noisy, gas-powered mowers and blowers. Again, neat lawns are prioritized over nature.

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Harold Smith B.Arch, LEED AP, former director, North American Native Plant Society; Toronto


We live in what some would call a country space, surrounded by forests and wildlife. Yet, in a neighbourhood with around 70 homes, one would not know that.

Every day, gas-powered lawn machines come out; deafening noise and fumes make it impossible to be outside. Recycling bins are topped with chemical weed killer, and lawn care companies plant signs that warn neighbours and pets to keep off.

What we see is the opposite of a natural environment. How is it possible that, in 2020, our neighbours ignore what natural gardening advocate Lorraine Johnson describes as “the beauty and abundance of nature?” Tragic.

Rozanne Stein Collingwood, Ont.


As someone who frequently walks my dog through Nina-Marie Lister’s neigbourhood, I can say with confidence that the professor’s yard does not provide “birdsong, cricket song, pollination and habitat” for any wider range of species than any other garden in the area.

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No one is asking Prof. Lister to believe in lawns. A well-planned and maintained garden with a wider variety of plants (native and otherwise) would do a better job of attracting fauna, and could be considered aesthetically pleasing by all. I know this because I am an avid gardener who has dissented from the “clipped and controlled, formal look” with nothing but appreciation from neighbours, not to mention bees, butterflies, crickets and the occasional skunk.

I believe Prof. Lister’s yard is a case of neglect disguised as a naturalized garden. She owns a large yard that is a perfect canvas to create a new standard of beauty for urban-residential naturalized gardening. Wouldn’t that be a better way to spend one’s time and money than challenging a city citation in court?

M.J. Walker Toronto

All for one

Re The Power Of One: A United Disability Bloc Would Ignore Our Vital Differences (Opinion, Aug. 29): As the parent of a child with a neuromuscular disease who is disabled by failing infrastructure and dismally under-resourced institutional supports, I applaud the increased attention given to the politics of disability. I am grateful to contributor Steven Fletcher for his public service and presence in Parliament, but I don’t agree with him.

A unified disability movement need not exist as a substitute for individual efforts – indeed, a unified movement should exist as a complement to the many highly targeted efforts that collectively capture diversity within disability. Examples include everything from family-run crowdfunding campaigns to legacy organizations such as Easter Seals and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

As an avid cyclist, I am quite familiar with the phrase “safety in numbers.” Power can also be found in a collective response to our nation’s legacy of neglect on the matter of disability.

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Ron Buliung Toronto


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