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Laureen Harper holds up one of her adopted kittens on March 6, 2013 at 24 Sussex, the official residence of the Prime Minister in Ottawa. (Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail)
Laureen Harper holds up one of her adopted kittens on March 6, 2013 at 24 Sussex, the official residence of the Prime Minister in Ottawa. (Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail)


March 11: Laureen Harper’s cuddly Conservative image, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Conservative catnip

I was disappointed to see the piece about Laureen Harper (Don’t Call Her First Lady – Focus, March 9). She’s the partner of the man with the top job in Canada and we get cuddly kittens on the front page? A full spread in Focus to tell us she likes animals and volunteering?

Of course she doesn’t want to be compared to Michelle Obama. She’s been in the political game long enough to know what brand she’s selling and it’s not the image of a woman with inconvenient intellectual heft. This “rare, intimate chat” is just more Harper government deliberate image management; they may be selling the cute kitten image but it doesn’t mean we have to lap it up.

Susan Mehta, Richmond Hill

This/that vote

Once again, B.C. voters are faced with an unwelcome but all-too-familiar scenario in the coming election – having to hold one’s nose while voting for what one hopes will be the lesser of two evils (Cuts Coming Back To Bite Redford – March 8).

The issue is made even more perplexing by the fact that we also seem to be perpetually motivated to vote more on the basis of wanting to remove a party from power than for putting a seemingly more trustworthy alternative in place. American author Gilbert Highet (1906-1978) might have been describing the “carrot-on-string” nature of politics in B.C. when he said, “What is politics but persuading the public to vote for this and support that and endure these for the promise of those?”

Ray Arnold, Richmond, B.C.

Ever-shorter arm

The federal government is once again moving to limit democratic principles and accountability, by secretly wiggling the selection of the new parliamentary budget officer away from an arm’s-length process (Selection Panel’s Independence Queried – March 8).

Even after the F-35 fighter incident showed the huge savings to the public purse provided by independent auditing, the government’s reaction is to further limit arm’s-length institutions and curtail opportunities for public involvement.

The government of Norway has championed a different approach. It commissioned an investigation of how well democracy was functioning in the country, leading to a “state of democracy” report that now provides the standards for improving governance.

Instead of taking time out to make hypocritical announcements about the limitations of democracy in Venezuela, I suggest the Prime Minister check out the Norwegian report, an English translation of which was posted on the Internet, and begin cleaning up our own house.

Greg Michalenko, Waterloo, Ont.

Hmm …

Rather interesting that, on International Women’s Day, in your lead editorial (The Horror That Is Child Marriage – March 8), you would write “half of girls between the ages of 20 and 24.” And at what age do they finally become women?

Jim Hickman, Mono, Ont.

NDP bait

You deride the NDP for advocating a “50 per cent plus one” vote to trigger negotiations on Quebec independence, comparing this with the two-thirds vote needed to amend the NDP’s own constitution (Taking The Bloc’s Bait – editorial, March 8). The more appropriate comparison is between the support required to amend the NDP and Canadian constitutions.

In the Quebec secession reference, the Supreme Court identified a legal route for a province to secede through an amendment to the Constitution. It found that other governments have a legal obligation to negotiate with a province that proposes an amendment to secede.

An NDP government would be bound by the constitutional amending procedures. An amendment to secede would require the approval of either Parliament and the legislatures of seven provinces with 50 per cent of the population, or Parliament and all 10 provinces.

In Canada’s system, a referendum is a political, not a legal, instrument. The political significance of a referendum is that the size of the vote would influence how seriously other governments treated negotiations.

The NDP’s threshold of 50 per cent plus one to trigger serious negotiations is high by past Canadian standards. A Yes vote of 40.4 per cent in the 1980 Quebec referendum triggered three rounds of very serious constitutional negotiations, one directly leading to the Constitution Act, 1982, and two others around the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown initiatives.

Barbara Cameron, associate professor of political science, York University

Easy as pie

On reading your editorial (Childhood Obesity Report Blames Everything But Parents – March 5) I was struck by the phrase “the onus on parents to say no.” It reminded me of Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” campaign to support the U.S. war on drugs in the 1980s. We all know how far that got us.

Issues such as drug use and obesity are caused by a complex web of social and environmental influences far beyond the control of the individual. Blaming the victim is not helpful. Parents have been left on their own to cope with the difficult food environment for far too long and the result is obvious. Surely your editorial board could have come up with something better than a repeat of a 1980s mantra.

Anne Carter MD, Portland, Ont.

6° of separation

CBC Radio (or any other broadcaster) rarely reports anything about winter weather north of the 49th parallel. Unfortunately, the only weather deemed worthy of “breathless” reporting on a national basis occurs in the 6 degrees of latitude between the 43rd and 49th parallels, where 72 per cent of the Canadian population reside (In Defence of Canadian Winter – Focus, March 2).

Those of us fortunate enough to live north of the 49th parallel (i.e. the Rest of Canada) still expect, and embrace with great vigour, all the snow, cold and wind that Old Man Winter sends our way.

Peter Marshall, Dryden, Ont., 49.78 degrees N

Right on ... queue?

Re Anywhere But Here – March 9: The caption reads: “Travellers crowded into cues to board planes ...”

Pooling their resources to do so, one suspects.

Laurie Johnston, Winnipeg

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