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June 10: Deleted e-mails, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Say, write, delete

Our political leaders and their staff have an obligation to keep records of key events and decisions. This does not mean they are not permitted to have any discussions or exchange ideas verbally. It is obvious that I would never suggest politicians should be required “to disclose every passing thought.” Such a proposition would be ludicrous (Let Them Talk – editorial, June 7).

In fact, I often encourage my own staff to stop sending everything via e-mail and have more discussions in person. Cabinet deliberations, as well as the advice and recommendations of staff to senior political leaders, are protected by Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. You can have both verbal exchanges and written records – not just one to the exclusion of the other.

Unfortunately, your editorial reflects classic zero-sum thinking. It is eminently possible to maintain confidentiality, while recording key decisions and policies for the public record. Openness and transparency are key to holding our governments accountable – none of which is possible without access to government records.

Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario


Some things can’t be deleted, just ask Ontario Liberals. The Ontario Privacy Commissioner outed two chiefs of staff this week for deleting e-mails, which may have obliterated evidence in the cancellation of two gas-fired power plants.

I’m sure Liberals wish this matter would just go away, so it won’t follow them into the next election. The former premier ran away, oh, I mean resigned. But things have a way of finding the light of the day. Some of our decisions cannot be deleted, and we and those they involve – in this case, taxpayers – will have to live with the fallout.

Renae Jarrett, Ajax, Ont.


Big Brother

Re U.S. Tracking Millions Of Calls (June 7): With the FBI and the National Security Agency tracking my phone calls to the U.S., Google engineers and my Internet provider doing analytics on my web searches, Apple tracking my every movement using iPhone tracking, and Gmail having access to all my e-mail, I suspect there is an obscure website that knows and lists how many times I got up to use the washroom last night. Check it out. It’s there somewhere.

Marty Cutler, Toronto


Since 9/11, personal information in the U.S. can be collected and modified, according to the whims of the government’s requirements. The Constitution doesn’t seem to get in the way of doing this. But change the gun laws? The right to guns, according to the Second Amendment, is sacred. Privacy, not so much.

Coimbatore Janakiraman, Calgary


Here’s the tax rub

I wish I could have as much confidence as economist Jim Stanford that The Tax Cycle Is Turning, For The Better (June 7). He argues that higher taxes can be good for our wallet. But here’s the rub. The implicit assumption in such thinking is that government (at whatever level one chooses) will spend/invest our taxes efficiently, effectively and equitably.

I and many other Canadians are prepared to pay our taxes, but in return we expect transparency in addressing the needs of all Canadians. As the saying goes, follow the money. In Canada, doing that points to lots of examples of sheer waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars in either propping up dying industries, or feathering powerful institutional interests, while the needs of many communities and vulnerable people go unaddressed.

It’s also said that if you want the music to change, talk to the organ grinder, not the monkey. When it comes to taxes, Canadians need a different tune, but no one appears to know how to change the music – at least not yet.

Leo J. Deveau, Halifax


Jim Stanford writes about the supposed benefits that higher taxes bring, including, apparently, higher disposable income. Missing from his analysis (and indeed from all government “job creation” schemes) are the counteracting negative effects.

Every dollar confiscated through taxes is a dollar that can’t be spent by the taxpayer elsewhere. I wonder if Mr. Stanford would care to speculate on how many such taxpayers will forgo repairing a leaky roof, taking a badly needed vacation, buying new clothes, or eating out. Any discussion of increasing taxes that doesn’t include this forgone economic activity is a disingenuous Keynesian fantasy.

Fred Caprilli, Toronto


Parents? Divorced

As a child of divorced parents, I object to the way divorced families are portrayed in the essay Stuck In The Middle Alone (Facts & Arguments, June 6).

Divorce is no picnic – for the couple, or their children. My parents’ divorce remains for me, 15 years later, a painful loss. But have we not, in this new century, moved past simple equations about what formulas make families work? Great families are not constituted by miserable parents, forcing themselves to “do everything [they] can to stay married.”

I, too, have juggled multiple birthday parties and attended several Thanksgiving dinners in a row, and I agree it isn’t easy. But my family members – all of them, some related, some more recently acquired – support me every opportunity they get. Some of us have great relationships with our parents, and some don’t. It is erroneous, and offensive, to correlate those relationships with marital status.

Moberley Luger, Vancouver


All parents – together, separated or divorced – should read this essay. If ever there was a cry from the heart, this is it.

Chris Graham, Port Hope, Ont.


Inside the baby box

Re Canada Should Think Inside The Box On Healthy Babies (June 6): Two of André Picard’s statements jumped out at me: Parents who choose to forgo daycare receive a cash subsidy; women who opt out of the maternity package can opt for a cash payment. This is egalitarian. It is not social welfare geared to low-income earners. It is not social engineering that favours dual-income families. It is an obvious and universal good which lends itself to widespread support.

Social engineering should occur through the income tax and social-assistance systems. When it gets muddled into other well-intentioned initiatives, we get politics, class warfare, inefficiency, abuse and stupidity.

Darryl Squires, Ottawa


Pyramid scheme

Re How The Pyramids Got Built (Life & Arts, June 7): We’re told that the workers at Giza who built the pyramids were each given about four litres of beer a day.

I wonder how long it will take the breweries to make good use of that finding.

Andrzej Derkowski, Oakville, Ont.

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