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Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty takes questions after delivering his financial update at a business luncheon in Fredericton on Tuesday, Nov.13, 2012. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty takes questions after delivering his financial update at a business luncheon in Fredericton on Tuesday, Nov.13, 2012. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

What readers think

Nov. 15: Hands-up federal finances, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Hands-up finances

In March, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that the expected deficit for this fiscal year would be about $18-billion (Surprise $7-Billion Deficit Surge – Nov. 14). This month, his estimate has increased by $7-billion, or 38 per cent, to $25-billion. Nonetheless, he projects a surplus four years hence in fiscal 2016-17. So he was substantially wrong in his short-term estimate, but is still confident in the longer term.

Hands up, all who are not so sure.

Phil Ford, Ottawa


Just wondering

In your schematic presentation of the Petraeus Scandal (The Players – Nov. 14), only the women are listed as parents. Each is identified as a “mother of two.”

Why not the CIA director and the general? Is it because they: a) are older and any offspring are no longer children; b) have no offspring; or c) you cannot confidently say how many offspring they have? Or is it that a woman breaking her marriage bond is worse than a man breaking his?

Kaaren Brown, Kingston


It appears that the weapons of mass (self-) destruction have been located by the FBI. These would be the Petraeus, Broadwell, Kelley and Allen e-mails. In the case of the latter two individuals, their communications over the past two years would fill as many as a mind-numbing 20,000 or more pages. One can’t help but wonder who is running the war while the general taps on his keyboard – my guess would be the other side.

Vic Bornell, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.


It won’t work

The new mandatory minimum sentences will do the opposite of what Stephen Harper says is the intention (Worries Grow Over Stiffer Drug Sentences – Nov. 13).

In the U.S., where I am incarcerated for five years for selling seeds from my desk in Vancouver, hundreds of prisoners have been sentenced to 20 years to life without parole for drugs. A man in my unit was sentenced to life without parole for 99 grams of crack cocaine. It’s costing U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars to imprison him for 40 to 60 years. Yet, others will fight over the area where he used to sell crack.

No amount of imprisonment or penalties stops the drug trade. The U.S. has more than 3,200 gangs; many countries in South and Central America and West Africa are destabilized by cartels that drug wars and prohibition create.

The new harsher mandatory minimum sentences for as few as six marijuana plants are part of legislation called the Safe Streets and Communities Act. The real answer to drug use and safe streets is transparency – acknowledging the human reality that people want drugs, that a just society makes these available in regulated, taxed and controlled circumstances without letting organized crime fulfill this inevitable human desire. Prohibition is a wretched formula for destroying societies and hurting all the citizens in them.

Marc Emery, 40252086, Yazoo Federal Prison, Yazoo City, Miss.


Fat of the land

Denmark’s so-called “fat tax” was the first to specifically target the fat content in foods, but it is in no way the first tax to target obesogenic foods and drinks (Denmark Scraps Contentious ‘Fat Tax’ – Nov. 13). Finland, Hungary, Norway and France have all increased taxes on high calorie junk foods. The Danish tax on a food’s saturated fat content did drive down consumption, but it wasn’t popular. So Denmark has changed their mind on this tax, while still keeping in place a pre-existing excise tax on pop, candy, ice cream and some other sugar-laden foods.

Ontario’s doctors don’t want to weigh in on Danish politics, but we do want to clarify our position on food taxes. We proposed higher prices on high-calorie junk foods and drinks, and at the same time lowering prices on healthier alternatives. Choosing the right way to ease the cost of healthy foods, while putting junk foods a little further out of our children’s reach, is still a worthwhile endeavour.

Doug Weir, president, Ontario Medical Association


Food fights? Really?

Re Food Fight Triggers Concern Over Student Safety (Nov. 14): In Ontario, kids get bullied to the point of suicide, shot dead like Jordan Manners or so poorly educated that we institute “no fail” policies to keep them moving through a broken system … but it’s a food fight that has raised concerns? I feel sorry for this generation of kids.

Matthew Webb, Markdale, Ont.


Tough tradeoff? Not so much

Jeffrey Simpson has often pointed out how unsustainable our health-care system is (Health Care Is Heading Into Ponzi-Scheme Territory – Nov. 14).

Mr. Simpson ventures that, based on a tax set on your birth year, someone who is currently 30 would have to pay an extra $390 a year in higher taxes to sustain the system. Hmm … that’s about what two dinners for two with drinks etc. at a steak house would cost. Pretty tough tradeoff! It also turns out that, alternatively, all working persons would pay $1,900 a year for 20 years. Oooh – that would wipe out my yearly expenditure on drink (adult drinks, that is).

Canada’s public health-care system seems pretty affordable to me.

David Pearce, Victoria


Movember’s power

The Movember movement is not about competing against another charity; it’s about making an impact on men’s health (The Downside Of High-profile Fundraising – Nov. 12). Movember has mobilized a younger generation of philanthropists and helps make Canadians more aware of their health. Any charity would benefit from that. Because of the support of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas across the country, we have been able to make a difference – 90 per cent of participants spent time thinking about improving their health; 66 per cent have had a recent general check-up; 48 per cent carried out personal research on male health issues.

We work hard to make sure donor dollars are spent effectively – 89.6 per cent of funds raised go directly to support the most promising research across Canada. Movember is a testament to how anyone can make a difference. It started in 2003 in Australia with four people and the mustache. Today, more than one million people in 21 countries are making a lasting impact on men’s health.

Pete Bombaci, national director, Movember Canada


Say again?

The article about crisis manager Judy Smith advising Jill Kelley suggests that “some scandals are love triangles. This one could turn into a love decahedron” (Judy Smith: How Lewinsky Created A Legendary Crisis Manager – Nov. 14).

Does that mean the two-dimensional decagon, or the more complicated three-dimensional dodecahedron? If it turns out to be an even more complex affair, with many facets, it might be referred to as a love rhombitruncated icosidodecahedron (Archimedian solid). However, it might just be Platonic.

Valerie Stacey, Fonthill, Ont.

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