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Politics meets science

Thomas Homer-Dixon and his colleagues express their concern about the rift between the federal government and science, and point out that the consequences "are becoming disastrous" (Fix The Link Where Science And Policy Meet – June 23).

Our government might learn a thing or two by taking note of the American experience with government scientists. Their national laboratories were strong and productive, and scientists in the government labs got good backing from both the administration and top politicians. Scientists were encouraged rather than prevented from speaking out, and some became national fixtures in public life.

In one case, then-secretary of the interior Stewart Udall stood resolutely behind a former government scientist who was subjected to a sustained, withering attack by industrial lobbies, and the scientist soon became a revered figure around the world.

Her name was Rachel Carson.

But perhaps that is exactly what Prime Minister Stephen Harper views as a disaster.

Greg Michalenko, Waterloo, Ont.


The Harper government's disdain for any science that attacks its political goals has given a whole new meaning to "political science."

Allan Q. Shipley, Toronto


TFW pain vs. gain

Most aspects of the overhaul of the temporary foreign worker program are to be applauded (Foreign Workers Decision Hogs Spotlight – June 23). But for users of the program who play by the rules, the latest reforms will make things needlessly difficult.

It's not just the fees but the complex application process, with its attendant delays in the all-too-common situation where skilled workers are needed quickly. I am not referring to fast food outlets when I talk about users who play by the rules. I mean companies and unions, like our own, that use the program to plug temporary gaps in the availability of skilled workers.

Without TFWs to keep projects moving in these situations, our members and other Canadians would lose jobs. This is what the program was supposed to prevent. There is no question of exploitation in our program: TFWs get the same wages and benefits as Canadian members.

The chronic mismatch of labour supply and demand is a systemic problem that should be addressed proactively and collaboratively by governments, unions and employers. What we would like the rules streamlined for those who play by them.

Joseph Maloney, international vice-president, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; Edmonton


The Alberta government encourages families to continue to care for their disabled adult children by providing family-managed funding. This allows families to hire staff to provide care in the family home. It's cheaper for the government; for some people with disabilities, it may mean better care and programming.

Our daughter has high medical needs as well as cerebral palsy, so we need caregivers with a high level of training, such as a nursing degree. We are unable to hire Canadians with the available funding so a live-in caregiver from abroad is the only reasonable option. The $1,000 fee should be waived for families of a disabled person. In such cases, it is an unfair penalty.

Laverne M. Bissky, Calgary


White. Male. Judge

Re Mysteriously Missing Women Judges (editorial, June 23): While I have no argument with your editorial regarding the inequities in the process of judicial appointments, and it is my belief that our Justice Minister's musings on the topic are unacceptable, I also believe it is both incorrect and borderline insulting to suggest white males cannot distribute justice equitably simply because they are white males.

We white males probably can be justly blamed for a lot of things but unless there is evidence to support that justice is not being dispensed fairly, the white male judges may be owed an apology.

Ken Duff, Vankleek Hill, Ont.


What girls wear

Re Girls Are More Than The Sum Of Their Parts (June 23): Why is it unfair to teach our young people, of all genders, that school is a place of work?

Making a distinction between clothing choices for the beach, or a night out on the town, or a day at work is a non-gender-specific life skill in our society.

I'm sure we could examine the sensitivity with which workplaces apply their dress codes and find a wide range of management styles, some of which are undoubtedly offensive, but singling out schools and berating them for having workplace dress codes seems like a misdirection of energy.

Heather Beckett, Abbotsford, B.C.


While I agree that school dress codes often send the message that girls who wear revealing clothing are causing "a problem" when the real problem, so to speak, is that boys see girls as objects, I think Elizabeth Renzetti should push her analysis further.

A more complex, arguably more troubling, issue is that many girls have internalized their sexual objectification: They see themselves as they believe the boys see them and dress provocatively as a result. This reveals the power of the sexist discourse in which they and we are immersed and which most of us, unconsciously, help to perpetuate.

We need both to teach boys not to objectify the opposite sex and to convince girls that their social standing and self-worth should not be measured by their appearance. The latter lesson, given that it flies in the face of messages conveyed in the media, by toys, by popular music and so forth, may be harder to teach than the former: Convincing our children of both will require a profound change in social and cultural attitudes. Until that broader transformation occurs, schools will doubtless continue to reflect the society of which they are a part.

Geoff Read, London, Ont.


Oil and typewriters

Konrad Yakabuski's appeal for Canada to spend billions of dollars innovating in the 19th-century fossil fuel industry (with "a singularity of purpose and a sense of urgency") rather than the 21st-century renewable energy and clean-tech industry reminds me of the U.S. Republicans' rallying cry of "drill, baby, drill!" in 2008.

As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman argued at the time, absurdity of this kind is akin to someone on the eve of the Internet revolution calling for more typewriters and carbon paper. Similarly, all I could think about while reading Mr. Yakabuski's column was "typewriters, baby, typewriters!"

Mark Bessoudo, Toronto


Taxman's reach

If the U.S. insists it can tax anyone born within its borders, never mind their citizenship, their residence or where they earned their money, why can't Canada do the same (Not Enough Amnesty – editorial, June 23)?

I look forward to receiving years of back taxes from, for instance, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jim Carrey and, oh yes, Ted Cruz.

Patricia Clarke, Toronto