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Safety derailed

Re Derailed (A Globe Investigation, Dec. 2, Nov. 30): Kudos to The Globe for an excellent, respectful personification of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. When governments fail to adequately regulate for the greatest public good – whether because of ideology or an obsession with tax cuts – real people inevitably die.

It's that simple.

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Ron Hartling, Kingston


The failure of governments in Canada and the U.S. in the past five years to address dangerous practices introduced in the transport of huge amounts of oil are shocking. It may require a change of government here to erode the corporate welfare involved.

Harold Suderman, Guelph, Ont.


In 1974, when I was hired on at CN as a brakeman, a freight train crew had four members, two people in the engine – an engineer and a brakeman – and two people in the caboose – a conductor and a brakeman. Over time, technology has reduced those numbers to two – an engineer and a conductor at the head end, no crew and no caboose at the tail end.

When I first heard that the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic had Transport Canada's permission to operate trains with one employee I was shocked. How does one employee effect on-line repairs where coupling and uncoupling are required? How does one employee copy orders en route from the Rail Traffic Controller?

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Does that employee bring 72 oil tankers to a dead stop to receive a "crossing protect" order? And how does that employee protect that faulty crossing while at the same time inching the engine onto the crossing to ensure full protection?

I still can't figure out how the hundreds of tasks related to freight train operation can be accomplished by just one person working alone. Frankly, I think it's madness. Sheer madness.

Daniel J. Christie, Port Hope, Ont.


Privacy but …

Re Privacy Online (letters, Dec. 2): We welcome the fact that government is taking action against cyberbullying; we are also pleased to see that the government has not repeated some of the more privacy-intrusive aspects of previous lawful access legislation – in particular, access to personal information without a warrant.

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However, after a preliminary review of the legislation, we have a number of questions, specifically with respect to proposed new investigative powers and thresholds for their use, as well as the potentially large number of "public officers" who would be able to use these significant new powers. We also note there is a lack of accountability and reporting mechanisms to shed light on the use of new investigative powers.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will make its full comments to Parliament in due course, with the goal of contributing constructively to the eventual study of this bill.

Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada


Not an action plan

Re Hustings Hyperbole (letters, Dec. 2): While Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau argue over who has the greater right to use the word "hope," they need to be reminded that, as virtuous as hope may be, it's not an action plan.

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Lyman MacInnis, Toronto


Mideast democracy

Re Harper Announces First Visit To Middle East To Support Israel (Dec. 2): To suggest, as our Prime Minister does, that the Middle East is a "region of darkness" except for Israel insults millions of citizens of other countries and aspiring nations who, along with Israelis, are just as interested in democracy as Stephen Harper purports to be.

Andrew Wainwright, Halifax


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Stephen Harper and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both follow a political and religious ideology that leaves little room for compromise or trust when dealing with the Iranians and Palestinians.

Many Canadians, including, I suspect, many in the Jewish community, want more emphasis on diplomacy and respect and less on ideology and the military. Opening the Canadian embassy in Tehran would be a start.

Jim McMaster, Burlington, Ont.


Problem that isn't

Re A Values Horse Race (letters, Dec. 2): Surely part of the reason so many people in Quebec are in an uproar over the niqab – the main target of the Charter of Values, as is now apparent – is that the Catholic Church's powers were curtailed by government during the Quiet Revolution.

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Quebeckers therefore tend to see religiosity in the public sphere as a harbinger of a return to that rejected past. The niqab doesn't excite nearly as much fear and opposition in the rest of the country.

Once Quebeckers come to understand that Canadian Islam is not out to turn back their clock, the charter will be seen as the solution to a non-existent problem that it truly is.

Tariq Alvi, Toronto


CBC's future

Re The CBC: What's It Good For? (editorial, Nov. 30): I'd like to nominate as the next CBC president the author of your editorial. It was such a pleasure to read a simple, clear and succinct statement of values and purpose.

I see only one fly in the ointment, and it is the usual one in Canada these days: Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, who lack the values, vision and sense of public good that is needed to make this happen. Perhaps your CBC-president-in-waiting could address that issue next.

Trevor Hancock, Victoria


Absent advertising revenue, funding must come from somewhere else. The current parliamentary appropriation is far below the level that would be required to offer the quality and range of CBC programming that you propose.

To put the funding issue in its proper context, it is useful to note that, from 1985 to 2010, the CBC's annual parliamentary appropriation went from $905-million to $1-billion, a nominal increase of 12.5 per cent, but a real decrease of 62 per cent after inflation. During the same period, total annual federal government expenditures went from $100-billion to $274-billion, a nominal increase of 174 per cent, or a real increase of 50 per cent after inflation.

Your prescription for what the CBC should be doing would carry more weight if you were to also address the funding issue.

Tony Manera, former president, CBC


Wolfe Wednesday

Re James Wolfe, Between The Lines (Dec. 2): I'd vote for making U.S. Thanksgiving "Wolfe Day" in Canada. Then we could give thanks for Wolfe's victory – a victory that ultimately saved us from becoming American. If Wolfe had lost that June day in 1759, Napoleon would have likely sold his Quebec colony to the United States, just like he sold them Louisiana in 1803.

Maybe we could have Wolfe Wednesday to beat the Black Friday sales to the punch.

Tom Hope, Toronto

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