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Against backgournd of a huge portrait of former Liberal leader, Sir Wilfrid Laurier behind the platform, Louis St. Laurent, receives an ovation, other cabinet ministers behind him, just after the announcement of his election as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, late Saturday afternoon, August 7, 1948. (The Globe and Mail)
Against backgournd of a huge portrait of former Liberal leader, Sir Wilfrid Laurier behind the platform, Louis St. Laurent, receives an ovation, other cabinet ministers behind him, just after the announcement of his election as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, late Saturday afternoon, August 7, 1948. (The Globe and Mail)

What readers think

Feb. 4: Parliament’s glory days, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Final score 3:16

Re God Knows Who’ll Win Super Bowl (Feb. 1): America’s worst blasphemy – even if there were a God, he still wouldn’t give a damn about your sports team.

Doug Paul, Toronto

Mandatory voting

Fixing Parliament from the state of “a hollowed-out democracy” (Ignatieff: It’s Time To Fix Parliament – Focus, Feb. 2) requires above all a change in the Canadian electorate itself. Attempting to interest Canadians in “the big picture,” especially if that means seeing how much is wrong, is countered with “I have the right not to know.” This is really based on, and sanctioned by the right not to vote. The citizen’s moral duty to vote, and consequently the moral duty to know (and care) are, unfortunately, insufficient. Our governments get away with more and more that merits public knowledge and involvement.

Take away the right not to vote, and civic education has a better chance. The first thing to fix Parliament is to make going to the polls, even if the ballot is left blank by some, a legal obligation.

Theo Geraets, professor emeritus, University of Ottawa


So Michael Ignatieff thinks that Parliament is dysfunctional. I wondered when I would hear that charge once again. I’ve heard it all my life (which is about 15 years more than Mr. Ignatieff). The story line is familiar – once upon a time, Parliament meant something. Issues were debated in the House of Commons; the oratory dazzled (was not Laurier silver-tongued?); and reason prevailed (except when the Grits/Tories – choose one – were in office). But now all power is in the hands of (name of Prime Minister at whatever time the story is being told) and Parliament is a mere sideshow. And so on.

I am reminded of the immortal words of the Member for Kicking Horse Pass. “My opponents tell you that when the Prime Minister says to vote ‘Yes,’ I vote ‘Yes.’ But they don’t tell you that when he says to vote ‘No,’ I vote ‘No.’”

So far as I can tell, Mr. Ignatieff has not the ghost of an idea about how actually to make Parliament functional. The answer however is quite clear. Wait thirty years. Then the commentator will nostalgically look back to the time when Messrs. Harper, Mulcair and Ignatieff (and Ms. May) were in their prime, and Parliament meant something.

David Gauthier, emeritus professor of philosophy, Toronto

Colonial attitudes

Doug Saunders says Canada is recreating a colonialist, counterinsurgent dystopia in Africa through its companies, which “make the local population tolerate [their] forceful acts.” (Canada’s African Adventure Takes A Colonial Turn – Focus, Feb. 2). Regrettably, Mr. Saunders’s frame of reference is itself colonialist. By positioning the Canadian firms as the agent on whom the responsibility of development relies, he dismisses the most important actor: the Africans themselves. But Africans have lobbied actively and successfully for more reforms in their resource sectors.

National resource companies in Gabon and Liberia, and proposed in South Africa, are building the institutional framework that will allow countries to take equity stakes in their resources. Windfall taxes help countries maintain the upside in boom times, like now. And the development of capital gains taxes ensures governments have a stake in all transactions.

Taken together, these reforms, when done right, provide the institutional framework to ensure that the continent’s growth is inclusive and equitable. Arguing that that responsibility falls primarily on investors not only misses the point, but falls into a frame of thinking that has benefited neither Africa nor Canada.

Eliot Pence, Washington, D.C.

A different tune

Re The Next Premier Promises She Won’t Be Like McGuinty (Feb. 1): Ontario premier-designate Kathleen Wynne could be a poster person for the remarkable value of having empathy and acquiring communication/negotiation skill training. She sings a different – lovelier – tune.

Other politicians, please join this choir. Our world will be a better place.

Frank Sommers, Toronto

Watery slope

Margaret Wente suggests (Can You Ever Argue About Torture? – Jan. 31) that only 10 seconds of waterboarding might not be torture and that depictions of torture in Zero Dark Thirty weren’t “all that bad.”

Perhaps we should heed the truly wise C.S. Lewis, who said: “Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts …”

Linda Bondoc, Calgary

Female reader asks

I’m puzzled by the addition of a gender qualifier before the occupation in the headline New Trial Ordered For Man Convicted Of Killing Male Nurse (Jan. 31). In no way do I wish to detract from the seriousness of the case, but such writing practices do nothing but perpetuate stereotypes.

The Globe has done a fantastic job lately explaining language used in its pages, including RIM/BlackBerry and hunger strike/fast. Perhaps readers will be offered an explanation for male nurse/nurse?

Andrea Wishart, London, Ont.

Taking action

All acts of violence against women and girls are crimes, serious abuses of power and severe violations of their dignity and human rights. One form that’s garnering more attention is honour-motivated violence (Coming Together To Prevent Crimes Of ‘Honour’ – Jan. 30). So-called honour killings are only the most visible and extreme examples.

I have met with ethnic community leaders from across Canada and asked them to take action. I also issued a call for grassroots organizations to develop innovative projects to help stop these acts in their communities. The government has also funded the first national conference dedicated to finding solutions.

In addition, our new citizenship guide is clear: Canada’s openness and generosity does not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, honour killings, female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence.

Rona Ambrose, Minister for Status of Women, Ottawa

Editorial magic

Globe editorial writers have found a way to quantify the unknown – “13 per cent of global undiscovered petroleum and 30 per cent of undiscovered natural gas” (The Greater Arctic – Jan. 29).

Are these resources known unknowns, unknown knowns or unknown unknowns? And how is it that you’re able to quantify them?

David Langlois, Russell, Ont.

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