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Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Today’s topics: religion, politics and the PM; the risk in bulk pharma-buying; destination defined in Canada; weathering the Games … and more

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Religion and politics

Lawrence Martin is right: Canadians have every right to know what Stephen Harper's personal beliefs are, religious or otherwise (Religion's Fair Game If It Motivates Politics – July 31).

When it comes to making important decisions about issues related to the environment, health, human rights and foreign affairs, the worldview of the people elected to public office to make decisions on our behalf really matters. Particular beliefs shouldn't be given a free pass just because they are cloaked by the word "religious."

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Mark Bessoudo, Toronto

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"Fundamentalism" is not "evangelicalism" or even "conservative evangelicalism."

The Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) has a long history in North American Protestantism as a leading force among conservative evangelicals. From past involvement in dialogue with CMA pastors and historians, I know that there is a rich history of careful thought among its members. Few if any informed observers would place them among the ranks of "fundamentalists."

The religious beliefs of our political leaders are indeed fair game for public scrutiny and comment but that comment needs to be informed by careful research.

Rev. John Stephenson, Markham, Ont.

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Lawrence Martin's observations about Stephen Harper and his religious affiliation are fair. Nevertheless, Mr. Harper's distaste for research, statistics, environmental assessment, pipeline opponents, scientific assessment of climate change, and, I should add, civil servants with a spine, is entirely evident without reference to his religion, and no less repugnant.

Voters have adequate information to justify voting the man out of office, but refuse, likely because doing so requires them to vote someone else into power.

Patrick Cowan, Toronto

.........

Politics has always been mostly about gaining power so that you can impose your values on everyone else. It would be comforting to believe that our most prominent politicians are motivated by altruism but there is little, if any, room for that in the back rooms of politics.

The only way we can level the playing field to any degree is by thoroughly educating ourselves about the background and belief systems of those running for public office. But, given our track record in this regard, it is highly unlikely that the voting public will ever find the energy and/or inclination to do what is necessary to foster the kind of informed debate that Lawrence Martin suggests we so badly need.

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Ray Arnold, Richmond, B.C.

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One plus none: risk

One of the biggest concerns about bulk purchasing is the issue of supply (Provinces Must Unite On Drugs – July 31). When large purchasing bodies, such as provinces, centralize purchasing, provision of supply tends to concentrate with one manufacturer. If that manufacturer has production problems, supply is threatened.

The House of Commons health committee identified sole sourcing as increasing the risk of shortages in its June report; sole sourcing was suggested as a reason for hospital procedure delays in the wake of chronic problems at the Sandoz manufacturing plant last spring.

If governments move forward with a generic-drug bulk-purchasing plan, they must ensure multiple sources of supply are maintained to protect against the risk of shortages. Conditions of contract may not be sufficient to protect supply – at the end of the day, if the only producer of a drug cannot supply it, patients will suffer.

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Pharmacists are supportive of measures to ensure the financial sustainability of health care, but also want to ensure that supplies are maintained.

Jeff Poston, executive director, Canadian Pharmacists Association

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Destinations defined

I've just returned from a vacation in Central Europe, where I was attracted to places and things that I couldn't see, do, or have back home. Every major city in Canada should have a retail "Canada Lane" – a place where only Canadian made items are available (Destination Canada – letters, July 31).

We need to showcase our designers and make it easy for people to find them. We need to promote our artists and make our cities interesting to visit.

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The most photographed item in Bratislava is an outdoor sculpture of a man popping his head up out of a manhole cover. Outdoor art, whether it be sculptures, murals, fountains or beautifully landscaped gardens that capture the humour, sensibilities, aspirations and cultural icons of a nation make cities more visually interesting.

Just being clean and well-organized doesn't make a city a destination: Our cities need a creative plan focused on what makes us unique. The solution lies in a collaboration of our arts community, government and like-minded business leaders.

Sally Plumb, Toronto

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Re Canada, The Brand, Needs Some Polishing (editorial, July 30): International travellers want to visit Canada more than any other place in the world, according to the international market research firm Future Brand. Converting this desire into bringing a greater number of international visitors to Canada has been an important focus of our government's jobs and growth plan for many years now.

One of our recent accomplishments includes issuing a record-breaking number of visas to international travellers this year. Our government is looking to build on this momentum by increasing the number of visa application centres worldwide from 60 to 150 by 2014.

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Canada has the best brand in the world; after 11 straight quarters of growth in tourism revenues, record-breaking numbers of new visitors to Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal and Toronto last year, and great upcoming opportunities, including the Pan Am Games, we will continue to position the tourism industry to create more jobs, growth and prosperity.

Maxime Bernier, Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism

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Weathering the Games

Traditional media producers regularly blame declining audiences on the emergence of new media, rather than asking whether there is something wrong with their product (Broadcasters Struggle To Adapt An Old Model To A New World – July 30).

Television provides little continuous coverage of the actual sporting events at the Olympics. Athlete profiles, anchor desk commentaries, flying logos with vainglorious anthems and all-too-frequent commercials (needed to generate the cash to pay the too-high fees for Olympic broadcasting rights) decimate the coverage to the point where many fans interested in the sports simply give up.

A large-screen TV in front of the living-room couch is still a great way to enjoy sports. If audiences are dwindling, it may partially be the product, not just the online alternatives.

Vic DiCiccio, Kitchener, Ont.

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From Vancouver to London: a place without winter for the Winter Olympics, to a place without summer for the Summer Olympics.

James Cameron, Chatham, Ont.

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After watching the impressive opening ceremony the British put on in a beautiful venue, I couldn't resist posing the question so often asked by visitors to the country: "If they can do all this, why can't they make ice cubes?"

Lorraine Williams, Kitchener, Ont.

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