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You are right that the question of whether the government is technically in deficit or surplus is trivial – but wrong that it's not important (Why It Just Doesn't Matter – editorial, July 23).
It matters because the Harper government has allowed this triviality to dictate economic policy for the past four years. The Conservatives are repeating the mistake they made seven years ago with their infamous "economic update" that promised austerity and balanced budgets just as the world fell into recession.
Good economic stewards do not start their budgets with a political slogan or confuse economic decision-making with political messaging. The Harper government is in the mess it's in because it doesn't know the difference between campaigning and leadership, and because it learns nothing. The deficit shows this. That's why it is important.
Daniel O'Donnell, Lethbridge
Those who are quick to criticize Stephen Harper for the softening economy should give their heads a serious shake if they think the NDP or Liberals would have done better. We wouldn't be dancing around the R-word, wondering if we were in a recession. We'd know – and it wouldn't be pretty.
Frank Wong, Vancouver
TPP farm tactics
Stephen Harper finds himself between a rock and a hard place on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and has no one to blame but himself. For years, he – and the NDP and Liberals – have supported supply management, a system using quotas and an obscenely high tariff wall (try 300 per cent) to benefit a few thousand farmers at the expense of consumers.
Understandably, other countries are saying the price for Canada's joining the TPP includes dismantling this obstacle to free trade. The decision should be easy, but Mr. Harper and his fellow leaders have pledged to defend supply management, urged on by well-organized farm interests and lobbyists.
What to do? An election approaches and Canada can ill afford to be left out of the TPP: Mr. Harper can't let that happen. An educated guess would predict continued stout defence of supply management and a last-minute cave on the excuse ("we fought the good fight") that it was essential to attain membership in the TPP. Plus ça change …
Michael Flavell, Ottawa
I grew up on a farm. Before supply management, farmers, who had to invest tens of thousands of dollars, had no market security and literally might not be able to sell their milk the next day.
Supply management gives consumers security of supply, regulates the quality of the milk, provides consistent consumer prices and eliminates the need for subsidies. Dairy Farmers of Canada is adamant that retail prices here are comparable to other countries.
The choice isn't between supply management and lower prices. It's between the U.S. model and Canadian model. The U.S. model entails massive government subsidization. If Canadian tariffs were reduced, it would automatically be an export subsidy, which is the worst kind of subsidy.
It would mean a decade of trade disputes, as those subsidies are contrary to NAFTA and international trade rules. It would mean lower quality standards. It would mean a boom-and-bust cycle.
E. Winston Tennant, Ashton, Ont.
Big kids, too?
Re Partisan Payback (letters, July 22): I wonder if our Employment Minister has considered enlarging his child-benefit vote-buying scheme to include parents whose twentysomethings can't afford to fly the nest due to a lack of jobs?
Gabrielle Thompson, Chesley, Ont.
Don't bee fooled
Re Good News: There Is No Honeybee Crisis (July 23): Do not let this count of European honeybee hives in Canada fool you: Pollinators are still in decline and require protection.
The European honeybee is one of the planet's most common insects, managed for pollination and honey production across the globe, including places where it isn't native, such as Canada and the U.S. Pesticides such as neonicotinoids are designed to kill insects which might lower crop yields; there is no doubt that bees feeding on pesticide-contaminated pollen and nectar show lethal and sublethal effects.
Canada has thousands of native pollinator species, including bees, flies, butterflies, moths and beetles. Threats to our native pollinators include habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, introduced disease and pesticide use. There have been no studies showing neonicotinoid use is safe for native pollinators.
There is also no doubt that pollinators are in decline globally and here. The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List has assessed numerous native bumble bees which face extinction. Some have declined by more than 90 per cent in recent decades. The declines of the Monarch and other butterflies are also well-documented.
Native insects provide crucial ecosystem services such as pollination of crops and wildflowers and natural pest control. They contribute to the stability and resilience of our natural and agricultural ecosystems.
Pollinators are in trouble.
They need protection.
Sheila R. Colla, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
Re Howe Sound, LNG (letters, July 23): Anthony Gelotti writes that in the event of a liquified natural gas (LNG) spill, the gas "dissipates" and requires "the right fuel-to-air ratio (5 per cent to 15 per cent)," and a spark to ignite.
"Dissipates" is an understatement, since LNG is heavier than air, so a major disruption would create a rolling, flowing cloud.
Unfortunately, the specific ignition mixture he cites will occur at the edges of that cloud – so if it passes over any ignition source, the result will be a burning, rolling, flowing cloud.
I fully support the development of Canada's hydrocarbon resources, but issues should not be minimized.
Jacques Konig, Toronto
Traffic takes a toll
Re Some HOV Lanes May Be Turned Into Toll Routes, Wynne Says (July 23): Keep the 235 kilometers of high-occupancy vehicle lanes as free lanes.
Toll the others, so it actually acts as an incentive to ride-sharing and still brings in the coin that Ontario's Premier is after.
David Ferry, Toronto
Great: Let's take Toronto's Pan Am traffic nightmare and make it permanent.
This is just a tax grab dressed up to look like it isn't. What's that line about pigs and lipstick?
Sandra Hudson, Kitchener, Ont.
If Kathleen Wynne has her way and implements high-occupancy toll routes – carpool lanes that allow drivers with insufficient people in their vehicle to pay for access – the rich will not only be getting richer, but they will also get there faster.
Will Hendrie, Toronto