In January, 2010, my UVic inbox had an e-mail invite from a democracy centre to attend a campaign school. Intrigued, I signed up for the three-day event.
Topics covered included voter identification. Discussion ensued about suppression techniques. Instructors explained voter suppression tactics were borrowed from those used by the U.S. Republican Party. Many kinds of suppression calls were canvassed. Another instructor gave detailed explanations of how robo-calls worked, techniques for recording messages, plus costs involved. He distributed his business card upon request.
Instructors made it clear that robo-calling and voter suppression were an acceptable and normal part of winning political campaigns. With election ethics like this, a more compelling case for changing to a system of proportional representation where each and every vote counts is hard to imagine.
John Fryer, adjunct professor, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria
It's a sad time for Canada (Elections Canada Turns to CRTC For Help – March 3). The Prime Minister is responding to the fact that Elections Canada is investigating 31,000 complaints as if he's the leader of the Conservative Party, rather than the head of the Canadian federal government. This is the problem with American-style partisan politics: It's blinding.
Carolyn Acker, Toronto
What's the big deal about 31,000 complaints out of 15 million voters? That's barely one-fifth of 1 per cent. Elections Canada will clean up the 31,000 complaints in no time because no Canadian would dare lie just to gain political advantage over his/her adversary, so these complaints must all pertain to genuine dirty-trickster robo-calls, for sure.
Jim McDonald, Dundas, Ont.
Re Poutine Is Bad For You (editorial, March 3): Somehow, I can't imagine the Liberal Party, with all the support it has had in Quebec in the past – including its fair share of prime ministers – insulting Quebeckers by dubbing the robo-call mastermind Pierre Poutine. Come to think of it, I can't imagine the NDP, having recently won 59 federal seats in Quebec, doing it either. That leaves another possibility – and it isn't the Bloc.
Judy Haiven, Halifax
A Lenten Sunday word to the wise among those involved in election trickery: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? The wisest, who understand the limited value souls possess in partisan politics, may substitute the word "brand."
David Roback, Halifax
You correctly observe that Guelph (Dirty Political Game Gets Dirtier –March 3) has long been an incubator for ideas. Add this innovation: In 1921, several political subversives met in a Guelph barn and founded the Communist Party of Canada. I have a question for those charged with investigating the robo-calls: Have you looked inside that barn?
Alistair Macrae, Toronto
The most disturbing aspect of the robo-call affair, regardless of who the instigators were, is that the idea has been nurtured by the same bully-minded, dirty-tricks culture that now pervades Ottawa. What sort of example are our politicians setting for young people, particularly when Canadians are trying to stop bullying and nasty tricks in schoolyards and hockey rinks?
Mary Ann Firth, Calgary
I wholeheartedly agree with our Governor-General, who "wants action taken against head shots and against fighting" (What David Johnston Said – editorial, March 3). The people who run the National Hockey League keep saying that fighting is part of hockey, that fans want to see a fight. Given what we are learning about the long-term effects of head injury, these fans should just get over it.
If they really have to see violence and blood spilled, they should watch extreme boxing. Many of us have given up on hockey – except for the Olympic style, where we see the beauty of speed, skills and play-making.
Ross Gould, Calgary
Enforcers play a major role in hockey. When a team is three goals down, a fight can easily light a fire in the rest of the players and inspire an epic comeback. They also act as a shield, as they protect teammates who are easy targets. Eliminating this "goonery" will take away a major aspect of the sport. Nothing, however, is more important than the safety and well-being of the players. If anything, rules can be added to make on-ice fighting a safer experience, instead of taking it completely out of the game.
Zenaira Ali, Toronto
Re A Strong Call From The G-G To End Fighting In Hockey (March 3): The Governor-General's warning that "If you body check me that fellow over there will shoot you" rather gives new meaning to the term "head shot."
Greg Inwood, Toronto
All in the family
Re Nazi King (Arts, March 3): The postscript to this excellent documentary about the undoubtedly pro-German Edward VIII, who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, suggests that the Royal Family never forgave Edward.
Whether forgiveness came into it or not, the fact is that in May, 1972, Queen Elizabeth, who was in Paris on a state visit, went to see her uncle, to whom she had been "Lilibet" before the abdication. He was very ill. They spent half an hour together, while Prince Philip and Prince Charles had tea with the Duchess. The Duke died later that month.
This final act might serve as a example to feuding relatives who are divided by relatively trivial issues.
Nicholas Kelly, Nanaimo, B.C.
It was encouraging to read of the development of arts venues in Montreal (Montreal Builds Its Cultural Brand – Arts, March 3). Sadly, the spreading scourge of graffiti vandalism in this city seriously undermines private and public efforts to improve our quality of life. While new structures are built and old ones are refurbished to accommodate serious art and artists, the historic facades of Montreal, even in the downtown core, are being vandalized by night crawlers with spray paint.
Clumsily executed scribblings often appear on hard-to-reach upper storeys and remain for years. Meanwhile, as millions are spent on the interiors of exhibition halls, galleries and even studios, neighbourhoods such as the Plateau and St-Henri, where many artists live and work, look like war zones. I see this as a paradox, whereby the so-called guardians of art and culture are ignoring the ugliness the rest of us have to live with on a day-to-day basis.
Richard Orlando, Montreal
Re Liberal Cant. Mindless 3D. Puffy Plot. Unless … You're A Kid (Arts, March 2):
Your Lorax review, sweetly written in rhyme, Took me back to a wonderful, cuddle-filled time When Seuss's books ruled, and "Who" stood for Horton, And Green Eggs and Ham was our Time Most Important.
Jo Meingarten, Toronto