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The new oil

In anticipation of water becoming "the new oil," an important, pragmatic distinction needs to be made (In Water War, Canada Could Get Hosed – Feb. 28). If there's a legitimate, short-term, humanitarian need for fresh water, that's one thing. Mechanisms between responsible governments can address this. If, however, water is needed to keep golf courses green in the middle of the desert, that is quite another.

Water became a commodity in Canada many years ago; the pressure to expand this, to make water a transnational product, is dangerous. We have accepted other natural resources as suitable for export for the simple reason that our very existence does not rely upon them: You can't drink oil, you can't eat gold.

Water is different. Anyone who looks at a lake and sees cross-border pipelines and dollar signs is a threat to our country and, frankly, civilization as we know it.

Michael Martyn, Orillia, Ont.

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What needs to be added to the discussion is the astonishing amount of fresh water required in Canada's oil sands, and in oil-and-gas fracking operations in both Canada and the U.S. We have to make some very important decisions about our energy future.

Nancy Lyon, Quispamsis, N.B.

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Dish up food info

Americans can look forward to some sensible guidance in what they eat (U.S. To Revamp Labelling On Packaged Food Products – Feb. 28). Wouldn't it be nice if our government were as firm? Not only in helping us decide what we eat, but where it comes from. Unfortunately, we still live in a fog of illusion and deception.

Frozen, packaged fish is a glaring example. Pick up a box or bag which purportedly is produced by a well-known Canadian firm. But look more closely and somewhere, in tiny print, you'll find the words "Product of China."

Gordon S. Findlay, Toronto

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Dairy's vital role

Re Ending Dairy Quotas Not As Costly As Often Cited: Study (Report on Business, Feb. 27): Although it's seductive to consider this issue using spreadsheets and economic modelling, the key question is one of communities and social impact. Dairy farming is the economic backbone of rural communities across Canada and a key driver for economic growth – a point that the Conference Board has previously made.

Dairy farmers receive their income from the marketplace, not from subsidies. Supply management provides nutritious products at reasonable prices. So, why fix something that isn't broken?

Wally Smith, president, Dairy Farmers of Canada

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Rare-disease leaders

Re Canada Lags Behind On Rare Disease Drugs (Feb. 28): Rather than focusing on the cost of drugs on Rare Disease Day, the spotlight should have been on the amazing achievements to improve the quality and quantity of life for those with under-researched and under-resourced debilitating and life-threatening disorders.

Canadian researchers are among the leaders in genetic screening, transplant technology, multidisciplinary interventions.

Yes, the cost of treating a child with a rare disease is very high. It takes on average six years to get the right diagnosis, multiple specialists to manage treatment and care, and much time and effort from the family.

Yes, it is more costly to develop a drug for a small patient population than for a common condition. Importantly, the cost of the drug is often not the most expensive aspect of treatment and care, but the drug is often the most effective component. How can we afford to make costly drugs available to patients with rare conditions? We can't afford not to.

Durhane Wong-Rieger, president, Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders

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Democratic ironies

Ironically, as the Conservative government entertained the Aga Khan, who is a model for working together and reaching out to others, the invitation to the event did not include members of the opposition parties (Opposition Shut Out of Aga Khan Event – Feb. 28).

This repeats the recent actions of the Conservatives when the opposition wasn't named as part of the delegation to Ukraine, where the Canadian government is projecting itself as a model for democracy.

Monica Cullum, Ottawa

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You can believe Stephen Harper's reasons for not including opposition members in the delegation to Ukraine – or you can see it as part of a behaviour pattern.

To cite just a few examples, he's given the boot to disobedient government watchdogs, muzzled scientists, snubbed Marc Garneau from the Canadarm celebration and often ignored questions from reporters. Has he tried Ostracisers' Anonymous?

Doug Paul, Toronto

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Give unions their due

It's good to see the value of unions recognized in your editorial The Wrong Formula (Feb. 27), stating Tim Hudak was correct to drop his plan to attack unions by eliminating the Rand formula that ensures everyone who benefits from union agreements pays dues.

It's worth noting the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of employees through their union to engage in political advocacy and play a role in our democratic system. The court recognizes the democratic nature of unions.

Workers are engaged in causes beyond collective bargaining because government legislation deeply affects our working lives. The positive societal impact of such advocacy is undeniable – stronger health and safety laws, minimum standards for wages and working conditions, parental leave etc. – all of which have benefited every Ontario worker, not just union members.

Marty Warren, United Steelworkers Ontario; director, Toronto

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Tough club to join

Re The Phony Crisis Of The Middle Class (Feb. 27): There may be no collapse of the middle class, but the future for those trying to join that club is bleak.

I'm sure the median student debtor has rushed to call a real estate agent after the oh-such-good news that home values are higher.

Frank Hilbrecht, Cambridge, Ont.

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Predators unleashed

Re The Nest Robber (Facts & Arguments – Feb. 28): Is there a newspaper equivalent to a page-turner?

If so, Marlene O. Maier's sad, mesmerizing submission on predators, both animal and human, deserves the prize. Thank you for printing it.

Jo Meingarten, Toronto

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The mayor, the chief

Re 'Arrest Me,' Rob Ford Dares Blair (Feb. 28): Finally, Toronto's crack-smoking mayor and I can agree on something.

Norman Rosencwaig, Toronto