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Stompin' Tom Connors performs at Live from Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Sunday, June 16, 2002.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Canada's soul

Back in the '70s, as teenagers, my friend Dave and I learned a few Stompin' Tom songs and set out to explore Canada (The Stompin' Board's Just Gone Quiet – March 7). With Dave on piano and me on guitar and stomping board, we played from the Brunswick Tavern in Toronto, to the bar car on the trans-Canada railway, to the Westwind in Victoria.

Playing Stompin' Tom songs opened the hearts of our audience like no other artist could. Folks young and old would hoot and holler and buy us drinks. The colour, the sincerity with a wry sense of humour, and his humility seemed to embody the Canadian soul. "Tillsonburg, my back still aches when I hear that word."

Michael Gibson, Toronto


It would be great to see a tribute album to Stompin' Tom, with proceeds going to food banks, homeless shelters, or a charity authorized by the Connors family.

Musical acts could include: Paul Brandt, Gordon Lightfoot, k.d. lang, Tom Cochrane, Randy Bachman, Neil Young, Barenaked Ladies, Bruce Cockburn, Dean Brody, Blue Rodeo, Tragically Hip, Lennie Gallant, Ian Tyson, the Sheepdogs, and many others.

David Buckna, Kelowna, B.C.


My aunt and uncle used to go to the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ont., to have a beer and see Tom Connors before he became "Stompin' Tom." Those were the days when my uncle drove the bus route to the Dome mine, my aunt was a telephone operator who said, "Number please," when you picked up the phone to make a call, and Tom's song Birth of the New Dragon Mine played on CKGB radio in the aftermath of a new mineral discovery that revitalized Timmins in the 1960s. Tom put the feelings of his listeners and the heart of Canada into his songs.

Cynthia Robins, Oakville, Ont.


(Sung to the tune of The Hockey Song)

Hello out there, and if you dare, to set what's wrong to right,

This is a tale, of good's prevail, and a man of song and might!

His journey's been from coast to coast and his legend's JUST as wide,

We won't forget Ol' Stompin' Tom and his guitar by his side.

Dave Millard, Hamilton, Ont.


Chavez truths

Hugo Chavez was a dictator and proved it by such activities as expropriation of property and limitations of free speech and expression (Not A Dictator – letters, March 7).

The question: Why can't some people recognize a dictator when they see one?

The answer: the ignorance of the times.

James Marvin, Toronto


Hugo Chavez went nose-to-nose with the two-heads-taller, miserable playground bully. He was successful in holding off the bully, because he was strong and daring and morally right.

Call me crazy, but to be on the side of that guy, I would cheerfully live in a hut held together with rotting wood and tin, in the name of what's right, in the name of stubbornly refusing to be eaten alive by the effects of greed and obscene wealth. And if I had no choice about living in that hut or in a palace, well, I'd be glad that guy was on my side.

I hardly think the opposition in Venezuela, if they win the next election, will fix the problems of the poor. They will fill their own pockets with a vengeance, and the U.S. will be happy to help them. The poor will be even more poor, but won't even have the consolation of their warrior saint to say, "I hear you, and I am with you!" Analyze all you want, but the truth about Mr. Chavez is simple and obvious.

Christina López, Winnipeg


The world needs more leaders with the guts to challenge the status quo and the stones to do it publicly. Mr. Chavez performed this role with pizzazz, while risking coups and assassination.

He is often associated with Fidel Castro, but when it comes to speeches, far from inducing slumber, Hugo Chavez kept you on the edge of your seat, even when listening through simultaneous interpretation.

Roger Barany, Vancouver


The cost? Pray tell

The descriptions of the pope's new clothes deny much of what I understood Christian teaching to be about – faith, hope and charity – with charity the most important of these (Men Of The Cloth: Outfitting Popes For Two Centuries – March 7). Wouldn't it be a great event if the new pope appeared in a simple garment, with the money saved distributed to those who need it more? The impact of this change, materially, spiritually and symbolically, would burst upon the world press in a way that no silk and satin and fancy headdress does.

Anne Spencer, Victoria


Rural inequities

Re Cabinet Minister Under Fire After Suggesting Rural Albertans 'Do All The Work' (March 6): Globalization and urbanization have caused rapid depopulation in rural communities leading to the reduction and removal of many services. Most rural residents do not actually see municipal surpluses come to fruition as municipalities are unable to spend their surpluses how they wish.

Funding for public schools leaves rural schools with declining enrolments at a disadvantage. Lacklustre services leave rural residents disgruntled and often believing the results of their hard work are channelled to "undeserving" urban areas which receive better quality services.

Danielle Penchuk, Fort Assiniboine, Alta.


User-fee zombies

Evidence from Sweden, Kenya, the United States, Canada and other jurisdictions shows that user fees tend to deter needed care and raise overall health care costs (Patient User Fees? Hot Potato – March 6). UBC economist Robert Evans refers to them as "zombies" – ideas that are intellectually dead but keep returning from the grave.

Yes, most other countries' systems have user fees. And, yes, Janice MacKinnon, a former finance minister in Saskatchewan, recommends them. But neither of these amounts to a scientific argument. Please leave the zombies in their crypts where they belong.

Michael Rachlis, MD, Toronto


Stir, fry, serve

Jane Giffen's delightful essay on the naming of leftovers reminded me of a Sunday-morning meal my older brother used to make at the cottage (Dinner: The Sequel – Facts & Arguments, March 7). Everything from the previous night's ratatouille to cold Estonian-style dilled potatoes to two-day-old steak was thrown into a cast-iron skillet after having been chopped into tiny cubes. He added several eggs, scrambled it all up and voila – Shipwreck!

We loved it then and my children love it now.

Kaia Toop, Toronto

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