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Firefighters work at the scene of a fire at a retirement home in L’Isle-Verte, Que., on Jan. 23, 2014: 32 people are dead or missing. (Christinne Muschi For The Globe and Mail)
Firefighters work at the scene of a fire at a retirement home in L’Isle-Verte, Que., on Jan. 23, 2014: 32 people are dead or missing. (Christinne Muschi For The Globe and Mail)


Jan. 28: Deadly fire frailties – and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Deadly fire frailties

Re Quebec Won’t Rush On Sprinkler Law (Jan. 27): The terrible tragedy in L’Isle-Verte is a sharp reminder of what happens when there is no law requiring seniors residences to have sprinklers.

Guess what – there is no law requiring them to have defibrillators either. Seniors are left to die of heart attacks when they could have been saved.

Shirley Stutz, Toronto


As a retired administrator of an eight-storey, 200-resident retirement complex, I say without reservation (and modern technologies of sprinkler systems notwithstanding) that any retirement facility of any size built of “frame construction” is a tragedy waiting to happen.

In fairness to the elderly and their families, concrete/masonry/steel, with fire-resistant unit doors (including sprinklers, of course) should be a prerequisite for all new construction.

Phillip S. Utting, Aurora, Ont.


Merit pay? Bad idea

Re The Best Teachers Should Be Paid Better (editorial, Jan. 27): As a soon-to-be-retired teacher, with no pecuniary stake in the issue, I can tell you “merit pay” would have the opposite effect of what its proponents envisage.

How do you determine who is a “better” teacher? Standardized tests? That means teachers teach to the tests and are reluctant to accept less capable students. Or perhaps we could go by consumer reports from former students. That way, merit pay would be based on a popularity contest.

Once teachers start to compete for whatever criteria are selected to determine merit, collegiality, the sharing of resources and lesson plans will be sabotaged. Why would I lend my teaching aids or handouts when they represent my edge to earn merit pay?

Imagine you have four children. You reward one for having the cleanest bedroom. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Right. Tune in three weeks later. One doesn’t give a damn about his room any more. The other three are constantly sniping at each other, or even actively sabotaging one another’s rooms. Merit pay is a simpleminded ideology that does not work in the real world of education.

Bob McCulloch, Walkerton, Ont.


As a long-time teacher, I agree the issue of underperforming teachers needs to be addressed, but the solution proposed by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives to link pay to performance will not correct this situation.

The CEOs believe teachers will be motivated by money. Most teachers are motivated by far less tangible rewards. This is the nature of a profession that deals with the growth of young people.

The mechanism for evaluating teacher performance – even agreeing on what constitutes “performance” – is fraught with problems. Test scores? Student feedback? Parents’ input? All will create more problems than they solve. School administrators are already overworked just keeping the school running and do not have the time needed to evaluate staff thoroughly.

The CCCE should spend more time examining teachers’ actual jobs before making assumptions that money always improves performance.

William Dart, Toronto


Singalong politics

Re Award-Winning Singer Sets Sights On Alberta Conservative Nomination (Jan. 25): Just when I thought we’d stepped in all the political cow flaps possible, I read that George Canyon would be seeking the Tory nomination in the new federal riding of Bow River, Alta. Mr. Canyon wants to pursue his country music career at the same time; he isn’t hung up on any particular political issue, but wants to enter politics to en-sure the good times keep rolling.

I can already hear the message constituents will get when they call his constituency office: If you’re hurtin’, if you’ve bin wronged, just leave a message, and as soon as I get back from my recordin’ session in Nashville, I’ll stampede to the phone and call you right back.

Grant Peart, Wolfville, N.S.


George Canyon’s wanting to become an MP reminded me of his hit song Drinkin’ Thinkin’, which would be the perfect campaign song for Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s re-election bid.

It includes the lines:

That’s just drinkin’ thinkin’

And here’s where the trouble starts,

The more you drink, the better you think you are.

Ken Torrance, Medicine Hat


Fowl import deeds

Re In Protecting Agriculture, We Sacrifice Other Trade Gains (Report on Business, Jan. 27): The importation of chicken disguised as spent fowl (former egg-laying chickens) is illegal, harms the economy and harms legitimate businesses in Canada and the U.S.

Canada is importing more spent fowl than is produced in the entire U.S. If that doesn’t make it clear there is illegal activity, nothing will. We estimate this has cost 9,000 potential Canadian jobs.

Supply management provides Canadians with fresh, high-quality Canadian chicken. Canada is also the third-most important market for U.S. chicken exports. Fraudulent importation puts that at risk. That’s why industry stakeholders – farmers and processors, Canadians and Americans – are fighting this illegal trade.

Mike Dungate, executive director, Chicken Farmers of Canada


Telemedicine’s limits

Re How One Hospital Is Dealing With Canada’s Aging Population (Jan. 24): Telemedicine will not walk my dog, do my laundry, wash my dishes, or prepare my meals when I temporarily cannot do these things myself.

Telemedicine will not assess my home to ensure it is free of trip-and-fall hazards or perform my physical therapy.

Telemedicine will not do wound care, ensure medication compliance, fill out forms, or take me for daily exercise. These are the gaps in the system that turn people into “bed cloggers.” With the exception of physical and occupational therapy, these hands-on services could be provided more cost effectively in the community than in the hospital. They reduce the risk of secondary infection and improve patient satisfaction.

Telemedicine solves an occasional patient problem but it doesn’t fix their daily lives. Co-ordinate care, provide discharge support, and give people assistance with daily living and you’ll see more cost-effective medicine.

Cathy Dumas, Vancouver


Pass the Marmite

Re Canada Cracks Down On British Imports (Jan. 25): This strikes fear into the heart of all who have grown up with Marmite as an essential part of their daily diet.

I’m sorry for anyone who has never come to know and love the delights of buttered toast finely spread with a delicate layer of this yeasty manna from the gods, and who, thanks to a draconian regulation, might remain ever de-prived on this side of the Atlantic.

Fiona Hanley, Montreal


Why should I worry that the federal food inspection agency has banned the importation of Marmite into Canada?

I have several years’ supply left – at least half a jar.

George A. James, Port Hope, Ont.

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