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Empty chamber

Keep the Senate to represent the provinces at the federal level (How To Legitimize The Senate – editorial, Feb.23). Really? Tell that to the provincial premiers.

Keep the Senate to improve legislation? Then why do we have thousands of well-educated, specialized bureaucrats and deputy ministers?

No, let's simply abolish the Senate and modernize our federal voting system to ensure equity in selecting Members of Parliament.

Derek Wilson, Port Moody, B.C.


Unless Senators renounce any and all allegiances to a political party, how can they contribute fully to the notion of "sober, second thought"?

Duncan Bath, Peterborough, Ont.


Re Duffy Admits Error, Will Pay Back Housing Allowance – Feb. 23: Senators provide wise second thought regarding national concerns. Then there's Mike Duffy, confused by a form that asks where he lives?

Peter Ashby, Peterborough, Ont.

Union renaissance

Chrystia Freeland's column (A Tech-powered End To The Middle Class – Report on Business, Feb. 22) quotes Al Gore's The Future in which he worries that the link between rising productivity and a rising standard of living for the middle class has been broken. These benefits don't come automatically.

The present tech-powered productivity gains are only the latest in a long list of new machinery used to cut the wage bill of corporations. It is fair comment to say that the benefits of the Industrial Revolution came to most people only after a long, hard struggle to create a strong union movement and accountable political parties. The current decline in union participation in Canada and the U.S. will have to be reversed to stop the trend toward a more unequal society.

Blair Laidlaw, Ottawa

Unbearable logic

Re How To Save The Polar Bears: Leave Them Alone – Focus, Feb. 23: Inspired by Margaret Wente's notion that if polar bears are thriving where you happen to be (i.e. Churchill) they are probably thriving everywhere, I went looking today for polar bears here in Ottawa. Sadly, there are no polar bears anywhere to be seen, so they must in fact be extinct. I am sure some so-called "scientists" will tell me that polar bears actually exist, but I prefer to believe what my eyes are telling me.

Paul Paquet, Ottawa

China warning

Before Trade Minister Ed Fast and his mission head off to China in April, they should read White House Unveils Strategy Targeting Theft Of Trade Secrets (Feb. 21). U.S. companies, said a member of the House intelligence committee, suffered losses in 2012 of more than $300-billion due to trade-secret theft, much of it due to Chinese cyber-espionage. And the U.S. Trade Representative noted that trade-secret theft in China led some U.S. companies to move operations back to America.

Edward J. Farkas, Toronto

Crude confusion

Derek Burney and Fen Osler Hampson offer to clear up some of the "confusion" concerning greenhouse-gas pollution and the proposed Keystone pipeline (Ticket To North American Energy Independence – Feb. 22), but they create some of their own in the process.

The oil sands are Canada's fastest-growing source of greenhouse-gas pollution, with emissions growth from that sector alone projected to cancel out all the reductions that other parts of the economy are expected to make by 2020. And while Canada is "aligned" with the U.S. climate target on paper, few think our government has the policies in place to hit it.

The Obama administration knows the Harper government is ragging the puck on climate-change action. My hope is that pressure from our best customer will get us moving.

Ed Whittingham, executive director, Pembina Institute, Calgary

Upper Churchill

Jeffrey Simpson suggests that Newfoundland has been "ripped off" for decades by Hydro-Québec through the Upper Churchill power contract (New Brunswick's Oil And Gas Dream – Feb. 22). This allegation ignores historical facts.

First, the contract for Upper Churchill power between Hydro-Québec and Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corp. was concluded to the satisfaction of both parties. At the time of the execution of the contract in 1969, the main shareholder (56.9 per cent) of CF(L)Co was Brinco (British Newfoundland Corp.). Hydro-Québec was the other main shareholder, at 34.2 per cent.

Brinco itself was a privately owned corporation whose majority shareholder was a Canadian holding company owned jointly by Rio Tinto-Zinc Corp. and Bethlehem Steel Corp. The terms of the contract reflect that the price was based on the development costs of the Upper Churchill project and that Hydro-Québec assumed all of the risks for the development of the Upper Churchill.

Second, Newfoundland was fully aware of the terms of the Upper Churchill contract when it acquired Brinco's shares in CF(L)Co and became the majority shareholder of CF(L)Co in 1974.

Marc-Brian Chamberland, director, corporate communication, Hydro-Québec

Venezuela a beacon?

Norman Gall (Venezuela Is Still A Lost Opportunity – Feb. 20) describes Venezuela in the 1970s and 1980s, before Hugo Chavez came to power, as "a beacon of stable democracy in a region then plagued by dictators." But how "democratic" was a regime that permitted international capital to siphon off the national wealth for deposit in U.S. banks, while the poor died of hunger and disease?

The more "cautious" approach of Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico has something to do with their experience of American support for the dictators.

Nicholas Tracy, associate, Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society, University of New Brunswick

The granny mom

I had a huge smile on my face after reading your Facts & Arguments essay about older moms being called grannies (Please Don't Call Me Granny – Feb. 21). I was 42 when my twin girls were born, my mother was 46 when I was born, and her mother was 46 when she was born. When people give me the granny look, I couldn't be prouder.

Mary Collins, Toronto