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Voting reform? It's complicated

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I have just returned to New Zealand from visiting Canada. New Zealand adopted a proportional representation (PR) system a few years ago. My suggestion: Do not allow any party to make its own party lists for non-elected MPs, here called "List MPs" (It's Complicated – Folio, May 13).

Choose any List MPs who are given seats in Parliament from among the people who actually ran for office but failed to get the most votes. That would stop parties from giving seats to their "mates," especially the ones who were abject failures.

Mike Wells, Kawerau, New Zealand

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The important question is: "Which system fairly serves the voting public?" To anyone who has examined the question, it is obvious that only PR systems come anywhere close to electing a Parliament that fairly reflects voter equality and the diversity of preferences and priorities of Canadian citizens.

Winner-take-all systems like first-past-the-post or alternative vote clearly do not.

Rob Williams, Cherry Valley, Ont.

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A ranked ballot ensures that any party that is serious about forming government must adopt policies that appeal to a broad spectrum of Canadians. Extremist parties of any stripe – right-wing, left-wing, single-issue – will never gain enough support to govern.

Logistically, the ranked ballot system would involve minimal modification to the current voting system, so it could be implemented for the 2019 federal election. The fact the Liberal Party may benefit at the present time from a ranked ballot system is a transitory happenstance reflecting the current political state of the country, and does not diminish the sound, societally beneficial arguments in its favour.

David Pattison, Calgary

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The Liberals will do everything in their power to impose a preferential voting system on us as they see it as a path to perpetual governance. A national campaign urging every voter to make their second choice "anybody but Liberal" might serve to dampen their enthusiasm. The success of strategic voting to oust Stephen Harper might serve as the blueprint.

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J.C. Henry, Mississauga

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Arms deal? It's complicated

Michael Byers has it right (There's Still Time To Reverse A Terrible Mistake – May 12). The point is not that the Saudis are the only ones committing terrible human rights atrocities, but that we, Canada, are officially aiding and abetting them while trying to present ourselves, hypocritically and disingenuously, as leaders in the world riding a high, moral horse. It's complicated, yes, but you can't have it both ways. As a former career diplomat, I for one am ashamed of my country for this.

Stephen Woollcombe, Ottawa

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Michael Byers ends with the hysterical, "There is now only one way to save Canada's reputation" and a call for Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion to resign. His words can be added to the growing pile of moralistic musings by the professorial elite in this country against the sale. It started with a judicial review launched by Daniel Turp, a Montreal law professor and former Bloc Québécois MP no less.

First, it was our "dirty oil." Now it's $15-billion worth of light armoured vehicles assembled by General Dynamics, a company that has supported Canada's economy for more than 60 years. Why not ask the union leaders or thousands of skilled workers in southwestern Ontario, where manufacturing has been gutted, how they feel about the deal?

As Mr. Dion has said, if Canada doesn't do the arms sale, another nation will jump in.

Who pays the salaries and defined-benefit pensions of professors and politicians? The government does – through taxes generated by citizens who work for companies like General Dynamics. Let's not forget that.

Jim Hickman, Mono, Ont.

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Stéphane Dion? He's complicated

Re Dion Rejects Law Targeting Russian Human-rights Violators (May 13): The Minister of Foreign Affairs was against the Saudi arms deal until he was for it, while being for a Canadian version of a Magnitsky Act until he was against it.

Stéphane Dion was a principled man who gave us the Clarity Act. Does he still feel honour-bound to respect the Clarity Act?

Jean Olier Caron, Montreal

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She reached beyond nursing

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Re Florence Nightingale Is Born (Moment In Time, May 12, 1820): Nightingale deserves an assist for bringing down the high death rates of the Crimean War (1854-56), but she herself credited the work of the Sanitary and Supply Commissions sent out to improve conditions. Even the best of nursing care is not enough against overcrowding, lack of ventilation and fecal content in the water supply.

The laundries and kitchens she started perhaps did more good than the nursing as such.

The leaders of those two commissions, importantly, became her allies after the war to ensure that such bad conditions did not recur. She undoubtedly saved more lives by the reforms she and they got implemented after the war, by doing rigorous research on mistakes and promoting thorough reforms. She was elected the first woman Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society for that research.

The first nursing school in the world was named after her, and paid for by donations to honour her for her work. Yes, she did modernize health care, greatly improved hospital safety and always related nursing to broader health care concerns.

Lynn McDonald, editor, Collected Works of Florence Nightingale; Toronto

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