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Flags of Mexico, Canada and the United States fly next to each other in Detroit.

Rebecca Cook/Reuters

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Trade’s truculent future

What gives Donald Trump’s life meaning is to divide his world into friends and enemies, and wreak what he deems to be inexorable revenge upon the latter.

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Whether or not our Prime Minister deserves affection and respect (and one can argue this until the supply-controlled cows come home), it is beyond doubt that he has managed to put himself on Mr. Trump’s long list of enemies. Indeed, there is no other suitable term for someone described by the President as “weak” and “dishonest,” whose conduct “will cost a lot of money for the people of Canada.”

These two men have in common the first three letters of their last names and, beyond that, absolutely nothing, other than the fact Mr. Trump clearly despises Mr. Trudeau, and the feeling is, I suspect – without doubt and quite properly – mutual. It is, therefore, very difficult to avoid the conclusion that, unless and until Congress takes control of these negotiations, they have no future.

Michael Royce, Toronto

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Some time ago, I was part of an international committee tasked with bringing standards to a sector of the telecom industry. Meetings were long, tedious and, to my mind, unnecessarily confrontational. One day, I shared my frustration with a member of the European delegation. He agreed and added that it helps if you remember USA stands for … US Always.

Karl Feige, Merrickville, Ont.

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As a “businessman,” Donald Trump regularly stiffed his creditors, partners and friends, as well as federal, state and local governments. He called this the “art of the deal.” How can any international trade agreement between Canada and a much-larger economy led by a double-dealing cheat not have a dispute resolution mechanism independent of puppet courts appointed by the aforementioned Grifter-in-Chief?

Eoin Kenny, Edmonton

History, on a loop

Re Alberta Reacts To Trans Mountain Ruling (Sept. 1): While a project go-ahead would have been better for the Prime Minister, this setback will be solved with time and other people’s money, two resources Liberal governments have proven historically to have in almost infinite quantity.

Without the shareholder pressure that a profit-driven enterprise would be enduring, our PM is free to continue balancing fatuous platitudes regarding respect, reconciliation and license with promises of rolling up sleeves to get the job done right. With only apoplectic Albertans to worry about, this can drag on for a very long time.

Does anyone believe now that there can ever be a subjectively fair conclusion to meaningful consultation? It is no longer a case of the bar being set high, as much as it is the concept of the existence of a bar itself being too nebulous.

And while $4.5-billion is a lot, it is merely the ante Canadians paid to allow the Prime Minister an ongoing opportunity to blather about how Canadians should feel about respect and social licence. So while not ideal, this Trans Mountain decision will work out just fine for Mr. Trudeau.

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And what of the ultimatum of former ally Rachel Notley – a politician with more integrity, grit and grace under pressure than the entire Trudeau cabinet combined? Mere collateral damage.

Dave McClurg, Calgary

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No one who understands the history of Ottawa’s relations with First Nations should have been surprised when the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (We Have A Duty To Consult With First Nations – Opinion, Sept. 1).

But the federal government was surprised, and that is because it has a 150-year history of failing to consult or listen, of violating treaties and laws, of ignoring court decisions, and of not learning from its own history.

That failure helped produce the 1870 Red River Rebellion, the 1885 Northwest Rebellion, the disastrous 1969 White Paper, the Meech Lake constitutional fiasco, hundreds of unsuccessful policy initiatives, thousands of failed projects on reserves, probably hundreds of thousands of poor administrative decisions by non-Indigenous Indian Affairs officials, the 2016 rejection of the Northern Gateway pipeline, last week’s rejection of the Trans Mountain project, and failure on dozens of legal cases.

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Every federal office dealing with Indigenous peoples should display a plaque stating: “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” Then politicians and officials might start consulting and listening, building the relationship we need with First Nations, and building that pipeline.

Ed Whitcomb, Ottawa

Schooled on attending

The underlying value of going to school doesn’t reside in the specifics of the subject taught, which we all know will soon be forgotten (Unschooled Kids Learn What They Want – No Curriculum, No Homework, No Tests – Sept. 3).

It is contained in the ancillary tasks and expectations within any given day. Traditional education isn’t merely about absorbing a subject but rather about learning to delay gratification, listen to others (as well as the teacher), show up on time ready to go and often, simply realizing that long-term success in any endeavour invariably requires a plethora of crucial tasks that are neither interesting nor immediately gratifying. My grandparents’ generation understood these learned qualities to be the hallmarks of citizenship and character and the essential foundation to a life rigorously lived.

The end result of children who have been “un-schooled” and left to follow their own interests without obliging them to tackle the mundane and challenging isn’t hard to predict. They may be highly successful but in the metaphor of life are these the people who are going to take the direct line to the puck? Take the hit to make the play?

Or as Louis L’Amour put it, are these the people you would want to “ride the river with”? I doubt it.

It is unlikely my students will remember much about the First World War or women’s suffrage but they will learn the value of rigorous study, and disciplined engagement – qualities that will serve them long after the heroics of Vimy Ridge and Nellie McClung have abandoned them.

Rory Gilfillan, Lakefield, Ont.

Ugly tree? no such thing

Re Hey, Urbanites: Ugly Trees Need Love, Too (Sept. 4): There’s no such thing as an ugly tree – and looks are irrelevant anyway. Trees are vital in our increasingly hot, noisy, crowded cities. In importance, urban forestry in Toronto should be up there with the relief line and gun control.

I walked along a major downtown Toronto street recently (College) and was aghast and ashamed at the condition of the street trees, stuck in minimal spaces, surrounded by garbage and weeds. If we take up space on the planet, then it should be a given that on a daily basis, we do something for the planet. Trees are a vital component of our Earth. Out West, they are burning by the thousands. So please, let’s do whatever we can to promote, plant, sustain and love our trees, no matter their looks.

Helen Godfrey, Toronto

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