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The EI divide

Our politicians have no idea what Canadians face on a day to day basis (EI Rules Target Occasional And Frequent Users – May 25). Most Canadians are not aware of how little is provided by the employment insurance system to workers. The maximum payment is $485 a week, no matter what you earned while employed.

Could you live on less than $2,000 a month?

Recently, a Fredericton office posted a full-time position for a receptionist at $12 an hour. They received almost 600 applications. The majority were overqualified. People want to work, but jobs don't grow on trees.

No one is getting rich off EI; there are many more wasteful programs that the government could reform to cut costs without taking money out of the pockets of the lowest earners in Canada.

E. Lamothe, Fredericton


EI recipients who have abused the system have forced the government to set higher bars all around. Repeat users are still refusing jobs and this is unacceptable.

After I graduated from McGill years ago with a BA in English and Communications, I worked full-time hours for a year in a food manufacturing business on a conveyor belt. Did I really want to do that kind of work? Of course not. I worked for minimum wages to pay my bills.

Once I decided to quit, I did not apply for EI benefits; I went back to university to teachers college. I couldn't find a teaching job in Montreal, so I accepted one at a dot on the map with no bakery, no movie theatre, sometimes no milk for days and produce that was never market fresh. Did I really want to leave my big-city life (comfort zone) to work there? No, but I needed to earn money.

Over the years, I've had to move numerous times with my family for work opportunities. Finding a job often means relocation. This is simply a working reality. Repeat EI recipients need to implement flexible job-searching measures to earn money versus relying on government handouts.

Lenna Rhodes, Burlington, Ont.


Mountain and man

It is bad enough that Mount Everest is regarded as a trophy by wannabe climbers, a vainglorious item to be ticked from a bucket list (When The World's Deadliest Mountain Conquers You – Life, May 25). The vanity and insecurity with which some people approach the climb insults the mountain and often themselves in the form of injury or death.

If ill-prepared people who have short-circuited the climbing apprenticeship wish to risk life and limb, that's one thing. But it's quite another, however, that sherpas are asked to recover bodies in the "death zone" at unreasonable risk to themselves.

Jon Heshka, associate professor, Adventure Studies Department, Thompson Rivers University


Society's distinctions

On the same day that students marked their 100th day of protest, a massive sink hole opened on Sherbrooke Street, a main artery through the centre of Montreal (Quebec, Student Leaders Agree To Talk – May 25). Last week, an innocent pedestrian was critically injured by falling bricks from a building on a downtown street. Newspapers report that the waiting period for surgery at Montreal hospitals is as long as two years. It is almost impossible to find a family doctor. The city infrastructure, quite literally, is crumbling.

Despite that, the focus of the Québécois nation is on a $250 a year increase in tuition. Quebec truly is a distinct society.

Bernard Lahey, Montreal


Jeffrey Simpson's argument that individual students and their families rather than taxpayers should pick up more of the tab for postsecondary education rings hollow (In A Province Of Sacrifice, A Few Pursue Privilege – May 25).

Mr. Simpson says imposing prices on individuals is the preferred option because of the high level of taxes that Quebeckers pay. He cites the case of a couple with two children earning $200,000 who pay $10,000 more in taxes than their Ontario cousins. However, the taxpayer-supported child-care system and lower postsecondary education fees in Quebec wipe out that difference many times over.

Quebeckers may pay higher taxes, but they pay far less in prices for public goods. Principles of fairness and solidarity, not privilege or entitlement as Mr. Simpson suggests, are animating the protest.

James L. Turk, executive director, Canadian Association of University Teachers


Just wondering

I thought there already was an office representing Alberta's special interests in Ottawa (Alberta To Set Up Ottawa Office To Advance Interests – May 25). I believe it's called something like "the PMO."

Cynthia Brunt, North Saanich, B.C.


Refugee health care

Re: Why Cutting Health Care for Asylum Seekers Makes No Sense (May 15): As André Picard notes, the current Interim Federal Health Program dates from 1957. Since then, as our health care and immigration systems have changed, the IFHP has come to provide expansive medical coverage, including more generous supplemental benefits than many Canadians receive.

That is why we have looked at the different categories of eligible recipients and made a decision – consistent with our humanitarian tradition – as to what care is necessary and appropriate for each group.

"Asylum seekers" from liberal democratic countries, such as EU members, and persons whose claims have been rejected but who refuse to leave will only be provided treatment necessary to address public health and safety risks to Canadians. These are not a "tiny minority" of asylum claimants, as Mr. Picard writes, but thousands of people representing almost a quarter of all claims.

Asylum seekers from non-safe countries will no longer receive supplemental benefits that are more generous than those available to all Canadians, but will continue to receive urgent and essential medical care while they await a decision on their asylum claim.

These are measured changes that will stop the abuse of Canada's overburdened health-care system by bogus asylum seekers, but will still provide necessary care for those persons who are most likely to be found to be bona fide refugees.

Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism


The few, the many

The juxtaposition of two stories in Friday's Report on Business – CP's Pricey Pensions Big Hurdle To Accord and Astral Bows To Shareholders On CEO's Rich Sendoff – summarizes this economy. The working and middle class have to take the hit through job losses and reduced benefits and pensions, while the upper class increases their benefits. We are assured Astral's directors still have $20-million to distribute to top mangers.

Bill Kalanchy, Toronto


Sole proprietor

You report the Queen has an assistant to wear in her new shoes to prevent chafing (Social Studies – May 24). Would that make the assistant a sole mate?

Frank Cain, Toronto