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Impasse in Ukraine

For thousands of Canadians with personal and business ties to Ukraine what is happening there leaves us incredulous, angry, frustrated and disheartened (Fiery Battles Shatter Ukraine's Stalemate – Feb. 19). After years spent fighting for an independent, democratic Ukraine, we have truly come too far to return to this Soviet-like totalitarian state where voicing opposition to the government gets you killed. Western sanctions are badly needed to help end this impasse.

The conflict in Ukraine, though perhaps ignited by the decision to not move closer to the EU, does not have an East versus West element at its core: This conflict (a self-named revolution) is about deposing a corrupt, dictatorial government where family – and party – ties, wealth and political power coalesce around the privileged few, while the masses are left to fend for themselves.

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Ordinary Ukrainians are fighting to change their constitution and depose a leader they no longer believe in and who no longer represents their interest, in much the same way as Torontonians are frustrated with the inability to dethrone Rob Ford, only the Ukrainian situation is much more dire.

Using an East versus West shorthand for this conflict does a great injustice to those risking their lives on the Maidan.

Katya A.S. Masnyk, Toronto

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T.O.'s honour roll

Re Ford Declares 'War' On Council (Feb. 19): Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has provided on YouTube a list of 17 councillors he wants his supporters to vote against this fall. Sounds to me like an honour roll if ever there was one.

Ross Howey, Toronto

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Paying the bills

How very sensible Premier Christy Clark's approach to B.C.'s finances is (The Discipline To Say No – Feb. 19). With the promise of huge funds to flow in the future from natural gas reserves, she still has a steady hand on the financial tiller in the present.

What a contrast to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's utterances about raising taxes and the minimum wage in this heavily indebted province.

M.K. Housley, Fonthill, Ont.

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B.C. Premier Christy Clark's budget sounds glorious. Too bad she's banking on near-fantasy gains from liquefied natural gas exports and kicking the court-ordered settlement with the teachers back to the courts, hoping that by the time someone has to face reality, it'll be another party in office.

Do unto others and then leave.

Rita Schreiber, Victoria

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What an irony to see Lysiane Gagnon's column, PQ Has Reason To Be Confident (Feb. 10), describing the sure victory of the PQ and decline of the hapless Liberals, placed beside a column by B.C.'s Premier. Throughout Christy Clark's election campaign, the media frequently declared the NDP elected, and her Liberals finished. It ain't over till it's over.

David Winch, Montreal

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It's not about cost

Re Doctors Urged To Ration Testing To Contain Rising Costs (Feb. 19): Choosing Wisely Canada is a campaign to help physicians and patients engage in conversations about tests, treatments and procedures that are not needed and to support them in making smart and effective choices to ensure high quality care.

Choosing Wisely is not about cost-cutting or rationing.

Physicians are providing leadership to support excellent care, based on scientific evidence. When tests are needed, physicians should and do order them. But doctors and patients should discuss when a test might not help or might even cause harm.

More medicine is not always better.

Wendy Levinson, MD, chair, Choosing Wisely Canada

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Baby-steps 'victory'

Re Corporate Democracy, Now With Democracy (Feb. 18): Your editorial praising Canadian shareholders' "victory" when the Toronto Stock Exchange announced a new rule requiring listed companies to compel the resignation of directors who fail to obtain a majority of votes falls far short of what is required to ensure shareholder democracy in public companies. That will only be achieved when shareholders are allowed to 1) approve or disapprove directors and executive compensation and 2) put forward their nominees for directors (rather than the "old boy buddies" selected by the CEO).

Ken Christie, Toronto

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The new TSX requirement that listed companies institute majority voting is a step in the right direction.

What is needed next is an amendment to the Canada and Ontario corporations acts requiring that candidates for election to a board be shareholders for a specified time before their nomination. There are too many candidates for election and even for re-election who have not had the courtesy to hold shares in their companies other than the so-called DSUs (deferred stock units) they got in part payment of their directors' fees. Not being shareholders at the time of their first nomination, they cannot represent shareholders. Moreover, they show no confidence in the business to which they are elected.

Every candidate for election to a board should be required to hold a minimum number of shares for six months before the date of nomination. That minimum should be equal to the largest number of shares held by the 20 per cent of smallest shareholders.

Sylvester Damus, Ottawa

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Election fairness

It is ironic that the government is pressing for elections to the Senate at the same time it intends to weaken long-respected administrative machinery for elections to the Commons – Elections Canada (Conservatives Brandish Their Latest Shield – Feb. 18).

Countless changes to Canada's electoral law in the past resulted from negotiations among parties in the Commons, opposition amendments to legislative proposals, and public participation through committee hearings. In its handling of the Fair Elections Act, the government has chosen to circumvent the fact that Canada's Chief Electoral Officer is an officer of Parliament, not an officer of the government.

Ultimately, consensus about the laws governing elections is needed to guarantee their legitimacy. The government should consult the public and discuss with the opposition the proposed changes to election laws.

John Courtney, Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan (This letter is co-signed by the following Canadian political scientists: Michael Atkinson, University of Saskatchewan; André Blais, Université de Montréal; Ken Carty, University of British Columbia; Elisabeth Gidengil, McGill University; Richard Johnston, University of British Columbia; Lawrence LeDuc, University of Toronto; David Smith, Ryerson University; Jennifer Smith, Dalhousie University; Lisa Young, University of Calgary

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Signalling stupidity

Re Courteous Wave (letter, Feb. 19): Yes, driving instructors should advise students to give a quick wave to say "thanks" to another driver. But I wonder how successful this campaign will be, given that many drivers don't seem able to flick a little switch to indicate "I'm about to hurtle my 3,500-pound vehicle into your lane, so look out for me."

Good luck with courtesy if we can't even tackle stupidity.

David Hughes, Toronto

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