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Today’s topics: double bunking, double bunkum?; all about spin – wind turbines and politics; digital wallets; what doctors earn ... and more

THOMAS PORTER/Canadian Press

Double bunkum?

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has his priorities backward (Toews Says Double-Bunking In Cells Designed For Single Inmates 'Is Appropriate' – July 12). The question is not whether or not the tough-on-crime laws have increased the prison population, but whether or not they have decreased it.

Boris G. Freesman, Thornhill, Ont.

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Given the statistics, people in prisons appear significantly less likely to be double-bunked than patients in hospitals. People in hospitals have generally tried to be more or less law abiding and self-supporting, while people in prisons … need I say more?

Mary Lazier-Corbett, Milford, Ont.

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I might take Vic Toews more seriously if the Conservatives instituted a policy of double-bunking for all politicians, civil servants and others living or travelling on the taxpayers' dime. While this would in no way compare to the grotesque prison overcrowding, it might show that the minister and his cohorts are willing to share the impact of their callous policy.

Bill Engleson, Denman Island, B.C.

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All about spin

Referring to the government's sudden interest in the possible health effects of wind turbines (Pipelines, Turbines And Politics – July 12), Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre says: "In all cases, science and facts should rule our decisions."

Taking Mr. Poilievre at his word, I rejoice that there will be no repetition in Ottawa of past evidence-free policy-making, such as lowering the GST (advice of economists ignored); abolishing the mandatory long-form census (advice of statisticians ignored); increasing mandatory sentencing and duration of incarceration (advice of criminologists ignored); restricting health care for refugee claimants (advice of the medical profession ignored); and closing the Experimental Lakes Area (advice of environmental scientists ignored).

Mark Bisby, Ottawa

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It is reasonable to assess the Canadian health experience with wind turbines. However, knowing this government's propensity to ignore information if it doesn't fit its agenda, we hope scientific rigour will be applied.

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It is important that proper control populations are included for the findings to be statistically valid. The prevalence of symptoms said to be caused by wind turbines, including headaches and sleep disturbance, is extremely high in the general population.

Control populations should include a group in similar locations without wind turbines, a group in noisy locations, such as living near a busy street with continuous heavy traffic, or perhaps near a railway where 60 to 100 trains a day go by.

The populations need to be large enough to compare the different types of headache or sleep disturbance or other symptoms that are being assessed. What questions and how they are asked is also important.

We'll wait and see, but I'm not holding my breath.

Nicholas Diamant, professor of medicine, Queen's University

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Whatever Health Canada may uncover, we need to remember that scientific data does not have a corner on the market when it comes to "fact." The value of people and of place – of communities, rural or otherwise – is also a kind of fact, though you can't measure it in decibels.

So as we work to devise greener methods of energy production, let's listen carefully to what the scientific community has to say about the appropriate siting of wind turbines, but let's never simply abdicate to science our responsibility as citizens to make decisions about the well-being of our communities.

Andrew Steeves, Black River, N.S.

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The irony of the Harper government studying the health effects of wind farms is not lost on most Canadians. This is the government that is is fully in support of the tar sands – without further study. The blatant political ploy of a "study" is only an attempt to woo rural Ontario voters and support Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's anti-renewables position.

John Gregory, Toronto

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Virtual, everywhere

On a recent trip to Kenya, I was surprised how widely used digital wallets were (The Wallet Goes Digital – Report on Business, July 11). Everyone from a taxi driver to a street vendor to executives used digital wallets. The secret to their popularity: a low per-transaction cost – less than a penny. If digital wallets are to be successful here, banks need to avoid excessive charges.

John Francis, St. Agatha, Ont.

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Back to the table

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Your editorial (Negotiate, Don't Litigate – July 11) asserts that the OMA should have brought a more constructive approach to negotiations. Not only were Ontario's doctors prepared to accept a two-year pay freeze, we offered an average 2.5-per-cent reduction in physician incomes that would save the province an additional $250-million. Had the McGuinty government accepted our offer, it could have trumpeted the fact that it had achieved one of the best settlements of any provider group in the country. We also agreed to find more efficiencies and eliminate unecessary duplication.

Instead it came with only one offer – cut $1.1-billion in health programs and services. Our frustration was reignited when we learned that the government was quite willing to have meaningful negotiations with teachers, but not with doctors.

We agree that we need to get back to the table and that we can and want to be a part of the solution. But these have to be meaningful discussions and real negotiations. Together, we can reach a deal that is good for patients and fair for doctors.

Doug Weir, president, Ontario Medical Association

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Your editorial contained this line: "To get those reforms right, Ontario will need the engagement of doctors, who after all know the system better than anyone else." My immediate thought was: Won't Ontario need the engagement of voters, and why do they (we) not know the system better? On reflection, I was shocked to realize that I am not prepared to discuss the matter since I have no knowledge of the renumeration given to medical professionals.

To find out if others are as ignorant on the matter, I surveyed 50 friends, relatives and acquaintances with this question: What is the OHIP fee that a GP charges for a simple office visit (10 minutes or so)? No one knew the answer. I conclude that we don't know and don't care because we never pay the bill from our own pocket. If we did, we'd be more interested in the cost.

How can we, as voters, contribute to a discussion if we have no knowledge of the fee schedule? I know the information is publicly available (but rather obscure). It needs to be more "transparent" to taxpayers – politicians love that word, transparent, don't they?

George Dunbar, Toronto

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Close call

Re Ottawa Halts Plan To Acquire Military Trucks (July 12): I was interested to read the reason for the halt was that, "The refinements in the requirement were necessary to identify the interface control constraint between the vehicle and the payloads it must carry."

Phew, glad that Public Works cleared that one up. For a minute, I was concerned it might be for a reason I could not understand.

Chris Phillips, Ancaster, Ont.

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