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'Not being pursued'

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Re Track This (Nov. 15): Thank you for your editorial alerting us to the Liberal government's "mandate letter tracker" website. I immediately Googled to see what it says about the Liberals' broken electoral-reform promise.

Under "Fair and Open Government," it says that "a committee was established" (true) and that the matter is "not being pursued" (also true).

It would have been more honest to say, "A good report was developed" and "recommendations not being pursued." Actually, "abandoned" – as in electoral-reform promises "abandoned" – would have been still more honest.

Donna Stewart, North Vancouver

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Supply-side ledger

Re Pipeline Persuasions (letters, Nov. 14): Asking carriers to account for any increased GHG emitted by the upstream oil production "induced" by building a pipeline is like asking the transportation industry to account for the upstream emissions from manufacturing the vehicles delivered to dealerships by rail and truck.

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To carry the argument to its conclusion, transporting vehicles induces manufacturing, therefore the transportation industry should pay for the greenhouse gas emissions used to produce the cars and trucks Canadians purchase every year.

Pipelines are built because there is industrial and consumer demand for energy, not the other way around. Pipelines are literally a conduit for a consumed product, no different than a road or a railway and each should be responsible for the GHG emissions created for the transportation of the products, not their creation.

Strangling the supply side of the energy industry in Canada only allows oil from other sources to fill the demand, without a concomitant reduction in GHG gases.

Phil Courterelle, Calgary

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Power projections

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Re In Ontario, Hydro's Future Gets Murkier (Nov. 14): How we meet our energy needs may be in a period of massive flux, but that hasn't stopped the Ontario government from doubling down on obsolete nuclear technology.

Ontario is one of the few jurisdictions banking heavily on nuclear to meet future needs with its plan to rebuild 10 aging reactors at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. Nuclear will lock us into exactly the sort of inflexible and unresponsive system that we are already being warned will be little more than a massive white elephant. Ontario needs to wake up and smell the coffee before it is left with a mountain of debt and power no one needs.

Jack Gibbons, chair, Ontario Clean Air Alliance

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Horror, platitudes

Re School's Action Saves Children From California Gunman (Nov. 15): Another day in America.

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Another shooting in America.

And the horror and the platitudes continue.

And the death toll just keeps mounting …

Brenda Scott, Edmonton

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Trust falls short

Re Bill Morneau's Big Mistake (Nov. 15): I am struck by the significance that commentators attach to the blind trust as a defence against conflict of interest. Let's not forget the old chestnut: Every blind trust has a seeing-eye dog.

A blind trust might be a useful tool when a public official comes into office with a diverse portfolio of financial assets that the trustee can adjust as he or she sees fit. Thus, over time, the official can claim some degree of ignorance of the contents of his or her portfolio when conducting public business.

But in this case, when we are focusing on placing one asset, $20-million worth of shares in one company in a blind trust, isn't it likely that the minister would go about his business believing that he still had a significant interest in Morneau Shepell?

After all, why would the trustee be inclined to sell any of the shares in circumstances in which policy changes proposed by the government would likely enhance the value of the company?

John Langford, professor emeritus, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria

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Closed to openness

In your editorial on free speech at universities (Let Speech Be Free, And Kids Will Learn, Nov. 14), you advocate allowing "unhindered free speech, even when that speech is repugnant and offends students or the broader public."

This view echoes John Stuart Mill's argument that in a clash of opinions, truth will win the day. But does truth win the day? Despite hundreds of years of reasoned argument, racism (to take just one example) is still very much with us. Constantly refuting it doesn't seem to work.

And it's not merely a matter of offending some people. Some kinds of speech undermine democracy.

In our society, some groups have much more power than other groups. Their speech regularly silences the speech of marginalized groups. To support speech that further marginalizes already marginalized groups is, to say the least, highly problematic.

Florence Stratton, Regina

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Re What's So Scary About Free Speech On Campus? (Nov. 14): I imagine that many of the so-called "social justice warriors" on college campuses would probably identify as left-leaning liberals, as I do on most issues. The irony, however, is that their reflexively irrational (and sometimes violent) opposition against anything they deem to be "offensive" demonstrates some of the most intolerant and illiberal behaviour possible.

Many of their arguments aren't just intellectually dishonest – they're corrosive to the very liberal values they think they're defending.

Their illiberal ideas and behaviour perfectly demonstrate why we desperately need a new centre, one that defends secularism, science and free speech against their common enemies on both the left and the right.

Mark Bessoudo, Toronto

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Coming at you

Re Legal, But Not If You're At The Wheel (editorial, Nov. 15): Given a forced choice of whether I would prefer that the vehicle approaching my car on a single-lane, wintery road is being operated by a driver high on pot, drunk, texting, talking on a smartphone, fiddling with the infotainment displays, or an over-tired trucker, my choice is clear: I would prefer a driver high on pot.

Michael Peters, Guelph, Ont.

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Left behind

Re Albertans Are Hungry For A Fresh Political Star. Who Will It Be ? (Nov. 15): I am stupefied by Stephen Carter's ridiculous statement about the Notley New Democrats in Alberta being "far left." In any other province, they'd be seen as centrist/liberal. Like all Alberta political parties except the Greens, the governing NDP appears to have morphed into an oil and gas party.

Phil Elder, Calgary

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If, as Stephen Carter says, the Notley NDP represents the "far left," then all I can say is, "God help the left."

Brian Caines, Ottawa

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