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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is seen in Edmonton on June 27, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta’s rude awakening

Re To Alberta’s Public Sector: Buckle Up (Sept. 6): Successive decades of primarily Conservative governments in Alberta have chosen to consistently ignore the widening gulf between spending and revenues.

It’s true that soon, as columnist Gary Mason notes, Premier Jason Kenney must make difficult but targeted cuts in the public sector, and consider some form of sales tax. But he should also consider rolling back some of the corporate tax cuts given away over past years – industry should pay its fair share in returning the province to some semblance of fiscal balance.

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Edward Carson Toronto

Columnist Gary Mason suggests that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, and by extension other governments, should negotiate with public service unions to reduce compensation packages. Good luck with that.

In an age of entitlements, generous pay scales and high job security, exactly what leverage do governments have – other than proposing legislation to compel unions and their members to agree to even minor reductions or freezes?

Richard E. Austin Toronto

Losing their religion?

Re Singh Is Right To Put His Identity At The Forefront Of Campaign (Sept. 6): Race and religion are not synonymous.

Columnist Campbell Clark is right to suggest that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s race should not be an election issue. Religion, on the other hand, is a defined system of beliefs. People don’t choose their race any more than they choose their shoe size. But in much of the world, including Canada, we can and do choose our religious affiliations, or not, in much the same process by which we decide our political ones.

Voters should dismiss Mr. Singh’s race (or shoe size) as a valid consideration at the ballot box. Religious conviction, on the other hand, is often known to affect political decisions. Members of Parliament are elected to make decisions on Canadians’ behalf. It’s entirely reasonable for voters to scrutinize how a candidate’s religion might affect eventual policy.

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That’s not racism. It’s reason.

Scott Gardiner Toronto

When in Quebec, will Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, an Anglican, continue to display her frequent neck-piece: a cross? It is not as conspicuous as a turban, but a crucifix is still a religious marker.

Shirley Callard Ottawa

B.C. enters second phase of plan to force patients onto cheaper versions of biologic drugs

Far-right party deepens its hold in eastern Germany

Relieved but worried Canadians return home from Kashmir

The high cost of pricey drugs

Re B.C. Expands Plan To Force Patients Onto Cheaper Versions Of Biologic Drugs (Sept. 6): Mina Mawani, the CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, said that “[governments] have to take into account patient-centred health,” rather than just drug budgets. That is in fact what the B.C. government is doing in expanding the use of biosimilars, in which Canada is lagging internationally.

Although patients with inflammatory bowel disease have their medical costs largely covered by provincial health-care plans, I urge Ms. Mawani to speak to other patients with, for example, mental-health conditions. Their needs are largely not funded to an acceptable degree by those same health-care plans. With finite dollars, money wasted on unnecessarily expensive drugs cannot be spent more wisely elsewhere on other health-care needs.

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Health-care reform does not have to be harsh, but it does need to be smart.

Jeff Whitehead MD (retired), Ottawa

Examining opioid overprescriptions

Re Canadians Fill More Postsurgery Opioid Prescriptions Than Sweden, Study Finds (Sept. 5): Further analysis of doctors’ decision-making seems to be essential to finding some root causes of postsurgery opioid overprescriptions.

It would be useful to know, for example, if 79 per cent of doctors prescribe opioids postsurgery 100 per cent of the time, or do 100 per cent of doctors do it 79 per cent of the time? If we can point to a segment of doctors, could we establish common identifiers such as region, training or approach? If overprescribing happens on a case-by-case basis, which patients or surgical circumstances result in opioid prescriptions?

It would also be interesting to note if the medical outcomes in Canada and Sweden were comparable. Do Swedish patients suffer higher pain levels with more cautious, but seemingly laudable, prescription patterns?

Chester Fedoruk Toronto

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What’s growing in east Germany?

Re Far-right Party Deepens Its Hold In East Germany (Sept. 2): The lessons of Donald Trump’s rise in the United States, and of other populist leaders around the world, seems to have not been learned. In Germany, the situation is similar, but more complex.

A factor in the popularity of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), and their strong showing in eastern state elections, is namely the lack of economic opportunity in east Germany. It seems many “supporters” of the far-right party have no other choice if their voices are to be heard.

They can hold their noses and vote for the AfD, knowing that in Germany’s proportional representation system, the party would most likely not gain a majority, and therefore be unable to enact the more extreme parts of its platform. Such voting should send a message to the major parties that they must make adjustments to their policies that take into account these citizens’ needs – and maybe their fears.

Those fears also often manifest as anti-immigrant sentiment. Surveys have shown that in many countries, anti-immigrant feeling is higher in areas with the least number of immigrants. The takeaway for governments such as Germany’s appears to be a need for different strategies to support immigration: more balanced information on its costs and benefits; a more nuanced approach in dealing with “irregular” immigrants; and providing additional financial support, both for immigrants and the areas they wish to settle in. Such pivots might begin to change the perspectives of the disaffected.

What won’t work are attempts to vilify those who have serious doubts about economic opportunities and high immigration numbers. This will not make them less likely to vote for extremist parties. Instead they could be pushed further to the right – not by their beliefs, but by a wish to simply be heard.

Colin Lowe Nanaimo, B.C.

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Kashmir: on the outside looking in

Re ‘It Was Like A Prison’: Canadians Reflect On Visiting Kashmir Amid India’s Communications Blockade (Sept. 3): I am a Kashmiri Hindu settled in Toronto. While Kashmiri Muslims living abroad have generally been able to return to the region, I have not visited my birthplace since 1988, when conflict broke out. Canadian Saleema Sahibzadi says she visits Kashmir every summer, but I cannot safely take my children to visit their ancestral home.

I do believe the removal of articles 370 and 35A was overdue, and that the special status of the state in Indian law has been misused by the Kashmiri leaders.

In the end, I would like Ms. Sahibzadi and others to consider themselves lucky that they have been able to visit their birthplace regularly, unlike the hundreds of Kashmiri Hindu families in Toronto and the thousands more still camped outside the state.

Maharaj Khazanchi Scarborough, Ont.

On reflection

Re China Urges New Envoy to Reflect On Canada’s ‘Mistakes’ (Sept. 6): Perhaps while our new envoy to China penitently reflects on Canada’s mistakes, the Chinese should soberly reflect on Hong Kong.

Dorothy Watts Vancouver

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