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Israel's 'best friend'

Re Israel Welcomes 'Best Friend' (Jan. 20): I'm proud that Canada has always been a good friend to the Israeli people.

However, Canada's government has now aligned its Middle East policy with that of a foreign government. That is not true, principled friendship.

I long for the return of Canada's independent and wise voice on the world stage. The world, including all of Canada's friends in the Middle East, needs this.

Duncan Bees, Delta, B.C.


Re No Room For Nuance In Harper's Support Of Israel (Jan. 18): Jeffrey Simpson has managed to turn a very positive accomplishment by Stephen Harper into something dark and sinister.

Mr . Harper should be lauded and applauded for his efforts to help Israel maintain itself as one of the few democracies in a very unstable region. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, Mr. Harper has shown "great moral leadership."

Val Stephanson, Calgary


I believe Jeffrey Simpson was correct in his assessment of the Harper government as lacking nuance in its support of Israel and this frightens me.

The Manichean mindset Stephen Harper has adopted can only lead to the creation (if it has not already occurred) of a troubling situation wherein those deemed good can do no evil and those deemed evil can do no good. This dichotomy between black and white is unhealthy when dealing with a location that is blurred by so much grey.

If this is a ploy for votes at home, as Mr. Simpson has hypothesized, then shame on the Harper government. The situation in the Mideast is too delicate and complex to be indiscriminately used as a strategy in the political game.

Daniel Duyvelshoff, London, Ont.


The North

Bravo. Your series, The North, which began Saturday, deserves an award. l am torn between hanging my head in shame for my ignorance or being grateful that The Globe sent its journalists into this incredible region to educate those of us who live in the South.

This is about the only thing I have agreed with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on in a long time: It's Canada, damn it, and it's ours.

Arthur Halle, Victoria


Prime Minister Stephen Harper contends that Canada should be strongly assertive of its territorial rights in the Arctic. But an alternative Canadian policy might yield more benefits.

Given that Canada and Denmark are less powerful nations than some which border the Arctic Ocean, given that both have (or used to have) a history of negotiation and compromise to settle disputes, and given that both claim sovereignty over Hans Island, these two countries should agree to share that sovereignty.

They should concurrently take the lead in seeking a fair territorial-claim compromise among the countries that border the Arctic.

If our PM thinks that he can stare down Russia's Vladimir Putin (whose Arctic policy features action, not just words), he has another think coming.

Robert H. Barrigar, Victoria


If you behave …

American unhappiness over NSA surveillance, as lamented in your editorial Too Many Eyes, Still Prying (Jan. 20), echos the worries of many British people a few years ago as the use of closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) proliferated.

The answer then, as now, was that if you've nothing to hide, there shouldn't be a problem.

As long as you're simply having a dalliance with someone from the office, no government is likely to haul you in for interrogation. By the same token, if you're planning a terrorist act, you're likely smart enough to use means of communication that are beyond the reach of any authorities.

Bottom line: As long as you keep your nose clean, you have nothing to worry about.

Dave Ashby, Toronto


Gold-plated pensions

Re Public-Sector Packages Simply Unaffordable (Report on Business, Jan. 20): Gwyn Morgan's lecture about whose pension is unsustainable didn't note that the average annual pension for people who deliver public sector services to Canadians is $24,000. He calls that "gold plated"?

Mr. Morgan, meanwhile, squeaks by on a meagre pension of at least $1.7-million a year. Gold plated, anyone?

Ken Georgetti, president, Canadian Labour Congress


Danger, on the move

Re Moving Oil is a Dangerous Business (editorial, Jan. 18): Calls for increased regulation of the rail industry to improve the safety of transporting hazardous oil have encountered resistance from industry and the Harper government. The consequence will be a very slow replacement of fragile tank cars and an even slower rerouting of rail lines around urban development.

However, this is one instance where the marketplace might provide a faster, more efficient solution. A rule assigning oil sellers and buyers 100 per cent liability for accidents during shipping would put the squeeze on the transportation industry to better serve some demanding customers, and create a very competitive market for safe oil transport.

A similar change in liability rules in the U.S. following the Exxon Valdez oil spill quickly eliminated single-hulled tankers from U.S. coastal waters. While maritime oil spills have not been eliminated in the U.S., they are less frequent and less severe.

Peter Hodson, School of Environmental Studies, Queen's University


Unhinged in the NHL

Re Tortorella Unhinged (Sports, Jan. 20): Sadly, thanks to the NHL, it may be time for a more appropriate moniker: Ice Boxing Day in Canada.

Dave Nonen, Victoria


Ian Brown's 'view'

Ian Brown's writing is a national treasure. The fanciful similes dotted throughout his article The View Up Here (Focus, Jan. 18) are by turns elegant, witty and bold, all of them bursting with descriptive life.

He characterizes the Northern Lights as "green spikes springing suddenly out of the blackness of the sky like a fence erected to protect the meaning of the Arctic" – but his lyrical prose has served to swing that fence wide open, providing a "view" that is both revealing and enlightening.

Kathryn Wallace, Woodlawn, Ont.


Ian Brown's similes are so exquisite, they could originate songs.

"As for the walrus, they boil it, or eat it raw, or bury it raw to ferment in walrus hide in a hole on a limestone beach, and dig it up months later, and eat it as a treat. It smells like toejam and tastes like radioactive Roquefort cheese. According to my sources, walrus meat makes you fart like a shift whistle for days on end."

We are fortunate that fermented walrus meat is unavailable to southern teenage boys.

Ken Leavens, Stirling, Ont.

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