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U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., during a press briefing at the White House in Washington Dec. 14, 2012. A heavily armed gunman opened fire on school children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school, killing seven adults and 20 children. (LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., during a press briefing at the White House in Washington Dec. 14, 2012. A heavily armed gunman opened fire on school children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school, killing seven adults and 20 children. (LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)

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Dec. 15: Gun deaths, democracy – and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Guns, democracy

When will the American public come to accept that gun deaths and mass shootings (Up To 27 People Dead At Connecticut School Shooting – online, Dec. 14) are not an inevitable price to pay to live in a democratic society?

It’s disgusting that the National Rifle Association and pro-gun advocates have so much power in the American political system. The fatal stubbornness of the gun lobby remind me of the words of the prison captain in Cool Hand Luke: “Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here …”

Tim Crljenica, Toronto


Misplaced scrutiny?

How bizarre: We have one of the most secretive federal governments in Canadian history trying to pass legislation that would single out labour unions – among all trade, professional and business organizations – and make them more open to scrutiny by requiring them to make detailed financial information public (Unions Vow Battle Over Disclosure Bill – Dec. 14). And why?

Because, as the author of the bill explains, there is a “myth” that union operations are not transparent enough. In other words, in order to satisfy those who believe a “myth,” our legislators must devote valuable time to dealing with a bill that – if passed and if not first struck down by the courts – would force unions to waste time and resources on compliance, and require Revenue Canada to take on the financial burden of monitoring union compliance.

Meanwhile, union members, the people who really have a right to such information, already have access to it. Bizarre indeed.

Marvin Schiff, Toronto


As Canada’s largest union, CUPE has, for 50 years, adhered to rigorous, self-imposed constitutional accountability measures (Don’t Distract The Tax Collectors – editorial, Dec. 14). Each of our 2,500 locals receives an annual written report on elected officer and staff salaries. Each month, each and every local treasurer presents written financial updates.

The Conservative government did not ask us about our current accountability measures and refused to listen when advised of the existence of these protections. We hope the Senate will adopt a different approach and save taxpayers from millions of dollars in needless expenditures.

Paul Moist, national president, Canadian Union of Public Employees


Bread and circuses

Andrew Morton (A Very British Palace Revolution – Dec. 14) reveals that at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation, a substantial minority of her subjects thought she was directly descended from God.

I could never understand people’s fascination with the monarchy. Now I get it. I thought the idea that the Queen ruled “by divine right” was an historical reference, an embellishment, not to be taken literally. Apparently not. In the Middle Ages, people believed that kings ruled by divine right. I would have thought that today, living in a democracy, people would prefer a meritocracy to an aristocracy. It seems “bread and circuses” never grows old.

Manuel Matas, Winnipeg


Cliffs: hockey, fiscal

Perhaps, if the people trying to resolve the NHL dispute swapped problems with the people trying to resolve the U.S. tax dispute, all the hard and fast positions would disappear and solutions might be worked out for both problems (Flaherty Tells Canadians To ‘Fasten Our Seat Belts’ Amid U.S. Fiscal Standoff – Dec. 14).

Steve Wexler, Vancouver


What ails justice

Mr. Justice Richard Wagner is mistaken. Concern about the high cost of litigation is as old as the legal profession and has been the subject of numerous reports (Supreme Court Judge Warns Of ‘Dangerous’ Flaws In The System – Dec. 13). It has gotten worse because of the increasing complexity of the law, the Charter’s impact on criminal prosecutions, longer trials and more frequent appeals. The Supreme Court of Canada is itself a contributor to escalating costs because of its insistence on numerous copies of paper-based notices of appeal and factums when electronic versions would serve just as well.

Contrary to Judge Wagner’s opinion, the key to sound judicial appointments is not to expand the role of public hearings but to eliminate patronage appointments and the still-dominant role of the federal government in the composition of judicial-appointments advisory committees and, in the case of appointments to the Supreme Court, in the membership of the House of Commons nomination committees. These were the recommendations in two key 1985 reports. Nothing has happened since to affect their soundness.

Jacob Ziegel, professor of law emeritus, University of Toronto


They don’t belong

It’s true. Cottages have been in Algonquin Provincial Park for a hundred years (Cottagers Spared The Boot As Province Relents On Leases – Dec, 14). So has logging. But it’s 2012 and neither belongs in a park.

Stan Kozak, Guelph, Ont.


That reset button

On the very day the government finally reached the right decision about the F-35s after months of dissimulation and disarray, I wrote to Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page to congratulate him on how well he had handled the file. Within hours, I received a very polite personal reply, in which he thanked me for my input and wished me well.

In my experience, it takes Defence Minister Peter MacKay a couple of months to answer a simple inquiry on my part with the standard brush-off, while specific questions to my local MP provoke nothing but inane form letters that read as though they were dictated by the PMO.

Mr. Page’s response to my note reassures me that there is at least one corner of Parliament Hill where good sense and civility prevail. Like Margaret Wente (Exposing The Blackest Holes In Ottawa – Dec. 13), I look forward to hearing from someone in that great seat of debate and discussion who can explain why it is we need F-35s (or any similar combat aircraft) in the first place: $600 million per plane seems a bit steep when almost one million of our citizens line up at food banks.

Barry Munn, Nanoose Bay, B.C.


Margaret Wente concludes that Stephen Harper should “forget about the reset button, and press the eject button.” Presumably with Defence Minister Peter MacKay strapped into the seat. Let’s hope that Tom Mulcair or Bob Rae didn’t pack the parachute.

Don Macpherson, Saskatoon

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