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Government flying off course

The obscene purchase of fighter planes is nothing but a gift to the U.S. arms industry and will undoubtedly employ many Americans (Ottawa's $9-Billion Fighter-Jet Purchase Draws Fire - July 17). Canada does not need this for our defence, and the money, in this era of austerity, would be better spent purchasing a modern high-speed rail system for Canada from Bombardier that would employ Canadians as a bonus, or put the money into the health-care system.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is quite right in opposing this purchase of 65 fighter jets. We badly need a regime change in our country. When is the next vote of confidence in Parliament?

Harvey Sarnat, Calgary

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We are told that our government's plan to buy F-35s is about modernizing the Canadian Forces, while benefiting Canadian industry. But at a deeper level, it is a statement on what kind of country Canada wishes to be in the next 50 years. Here, Canada wishes to remain America's close friend and a fully "inter-operable" ally, not a civilian power, peacekeeper, free rider, etc. According to the government's calculus, the desired role is expensive, but it furnishes Canada with privileged access to U.S.-dominated global networks in technology, diplomacy, intelligence and, indeed, commerce.

This theory might suggest that more guns does not necessarily mean less butter, but it is notably silent on the obvious question of whether more guns might mean more - and more comprehensive - Canadian participation in U.S.-led military interventions in the future.

Srdjan Vucetic, assistant professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa

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Why is the Harper government willing to spend $9-billion on fighter jets, and almost that much for their maintenance? Hasn't anyone told the Prime Minister that the Cold War is over? Who is likely to attack us, requiring us to need the protection of 65 fighter aircraft, each costing $140-million? What countries are we likely to attack? Just think how much more productively $16-billion could be used in Canada.

Wendell Fulton, Fredericton

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The Harper government is being overly modest in defending the need for new fighter aircraft. A little-known high-tech feature of these jets is that they are capable of targeting and taking out street protesters who viciously blow bubbles.

Alan McEwen, St. Catharines, Ont.

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Are we suddenly back in the 1970s with all this talk of the Canadian military "defending sovereignty"? We need to defend our territory from our enemies and this is the primary role of military forces. On the other hand, we need to protect our sovereignty from our friends. Military forces are singularly inappropriate in that role.

K.C. Eyre, Annapolis Royal, N.S.

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The other side to the F-35 debate would state that many believe that a credible air defence may be required to meet future potential threats to the homeland that could include hijacked aircraft, drug smugglers and maybe, just maybe, the aircraft of foreign states. Further, fighters dovetail nicely with Navy ships to present a credible defence to seaborne threats. The fact that the U.S. sees fighter aircraft as fundamental to our share of the NORAD agreement is something that political scientists would see as part of the equation. And note that by this point, we have not even mentioned potential expeditionary uses for a future Canadian fighter.

Are there potential uses for Canadian fighters over the planned 30 years we'll have them? You bet, a list as long as your arm. Can Canada afford the 65 we've ordered in order to claim a credible air defence to threats to North America, and to be able to contribute elsewhere? Of course. Do we want to spend this much? No, but it is an expensive tool.

David Newman, Oakville, Ont.

Too hot to handle

"Hottest year since record-keeping began ..." "Bizarre confluence of abnormal weather ..." "International climate experts are at a loss to explain why these local phenomena are happening all at once ..." (The Endless Summer - July 17)

Ever heard of climate change? In the entire article, there is no mention of the science that predicts exactly what is happening now. Why not connect the dots and call it what it is?

Gareth Lind, Guelph, Ont.

That's some sport

Your article reports on the harsh injuries cowboys sustain during the Calgary Stampede (Ride 'Em Cowboy, All the Way To The E.R. - July 17). At least cowboys can choose whether to participate in the events. The animals cannot consent, and are forced to take part in aggressive and brutal events that cause them fear, painful injuries and sometimes death. Any "sport" involving animals entails domination and oppression, plain and simple.

Lynn Kavanagh, Toronto

Deserving of respect

Re For Cancer Patient, Dignity Isn't Something She Can Take To The Bank (July 17): Having dinner at the Indian Rice Factory in the early 1970s remains one of the great culinary experiences of my youth. My husband and I remember Amar Patel as a gorgeous woman whose cooking was so good and of which we ate so much that we and our friends half expected to explode after we left her restaurant.

If only these bankers who required her to attend their offices in person, while she was so ill, had any notion of her contribution to Toronto's burgeoning restaurant scene at the time, they would be seeking not her signature on a document but her autograph.

Cassandra King, Clementsport, N.S.

The other Colombia

It is incredibly discouraging to read another article about "the buoyant, hopeful and utterly entrepreneurial" mood in Colombia without any mention of the ongoing human-rights abuses in that country (Canada's Growing Colombian Connection - July 15). Forced displacement, threats against human-rights defenders and murders of trade unionists continue.

With foreign investment there are not just "pressures on local communities, particularly Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations," but threats and killings of indigenous peoples and threats and attacks against Afro-Colombian communities living in areas of economic interest. This, too, is part of the Colombian story.

Flora Macdonald, Toronto

Where ideas come to life

Northrop Frye lives on. His books continue to inspire readers, scholars of literature and editorial writers. To remember Mr. Frye's legacy, as the editorial Fearful Anatomy (July 17) does, is one way to honour it.

Another way is to maintain a space where ideas that measure themselves against the world and that seek to be as large as literature, culture and the imagination itself can flourish. Frye himself established such a space at the University of Toronto, and the work of the many graduates from the Centre for Comparative Literature testifies to the value of a space between languages and disciplines, where one can see what they share and appreciate their diversity.

U of T is the premier place for studying comparative literature in Canada, and its degree programs in comparative literature are now at risk. That is the important news item here.

Neil ten Kortenaar, director, Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto

On the same (census) page

Regarding Jeffrey Simpson's column PM's Census Policy Is Senseless But Great For The Party (July 17), I wish to make it absolutely clear that Mr. Simpson is wrong when he says Industry Minister Tony Clement argued against changes to the long-form census.

I cannot stress strongly enough that there is no difference of opinion between Minister Clement and the Prime Minister on this issue. Making the long-form census voluntary and putting an end to the unnecessary intrusion into personal privacy that comes with a mandatory long form is a positive change and one that our government will continue to support wholeheartedly.

Erik Waddell, communications director, Office of the Minister of Industry, Ottawa

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Jeffrey Simpson asserted that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to argue against changes to the long-form census process. This assertion has no basis in fact. No such letter exists. In fact, Mr. Flaherty has been in full support of the decision to make the long-form census voluntary.

Mike Storeshaw, communications director, Office of the Minister of Finance, Ottawa

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Jeffrey Simpson points out how the termination of Statistics Canada's basic population study tool is disruptive and baseless. What's really interesting in Quebec is that everyone agrees - at least, judging by opinion polls. Labour/business, franco/anglo, socialist/capitalist, federalist/independentist, Catholic/Jewish/Protestant have all come out against the destruction of this continuous database reflecting our nation.

It's a striking unity of opinion in a society where consensus is almost impossible to find on most issues. Add to that the same consensus coming out of the Rest of Canada and one has to hand it to Stephen Harper. He sure knows how to bring Canadians together.

Michael Hendricks, Montreal

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If Stephen Harper hates "big government" so much, why doesn't he do what any self-respecting employee would do and quit?

Randy Park, Toronto