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Kumquats vs. oranges

Recently there have been calls for a referendum on what sort of a voting system we should have. There is some evidence that the recent referendums on this issue did not meet the standards for fair referendums.

Simple case in point: Suppose we were asked to choose between navel oranges and kumquats. We might expect some questions: Why do we have to answer this question? What are kumquats? What are the advantages/disadvantages?

If we were told to do some research, many might say: I don't have the time. Come referendum day, little positive would have been discussed about this in the media. So what does a hapless citizen do? Votes no to something he or she doesn't understand.

And the backroom boys who want navel oranges know this. So we keep on eating navel oranges – and voting for a system that does not represent us.

June Macdonald, Toronto


Should a referendum on eliminating the first-past-the-post system be a first-past-the-post vote?

John Van Sloten, Calgary


The vote for electoral reform has already been won. Last week, more than 60 per cent of voters chose a party committed to immediate electoral reform.

If that isn't enough, the much-remarked prevalence of strategic voting shows that we understand the current system is broken.

If either the Liberals or the NDP backtrack now, and subject voting reform to the additional roadblock of a referendum, we should consider it a betrayal of the promises that gave them our votes.

David Arthur, Cambridge, Ont.


What about the middle ground: a Citizen's Assembly, without a subsequent referendum? A random sampling of citizens looking at electoral reform would have more transparency and legitimacy (at least in the popular sense) than either lawmakers making decisions behind closed doors, or legions of ill-informed voters trudging to the polls.

Evan Bedford, Red Deer, Alta.


Prof. Berdahl replies

Re Not Academic (editorial, Oct. 23): The issues I raised about leadership at the University of British Columbia are directly related to my field of study and to my mandate as a professor of leadership studies in gender and diversity. In accepting this position, I was tasked not only with studying the issue of diversity in leadership but also to contribute to the public debate. This issue often provokes controversy and disagreement, as my blog did in this instance. Such controversy gets people talking about issues that matter.

In business, in academia and in government, as we anticipate the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canadian history, support for the non-traditional leaders we appoint to these positions is just as critical as making the appointments in the first place.

Jennifer Berdahl, professor, University of British Columbia


Extra toppings

Re Ontario Payments To Teacher Unions Tops $3.7-Million (Oct. 24): Could you imagine this happening in the real world? After a lengthy negotiations, Ford Canada and Unifor finally settle on a contract. Ford then says, "Hey, Unifor, here's a million bucks, no strings attached, for all your troubles. After all, you guys did have to order a lot of pizzas."

Brian Davis, Barrie, Ont.


Life plus 70 years

Your arguments on the copyright provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are not convincing (The Downsides Of A Good Trade Deal – editorial, Oct. 23).

To claim that the extension of copyright to life plus 70 years for creators simply adopts U.S. rules ignores the fact that half of the partner nations already adhere to this copyright regime, including the NAFTA partners, Chile, Peru and Australia. In addition, life plus 70 years is the standard copyright term in the European Union.

Surely all of these nations cannot be so concerned about the fate of Mickey Mouse that they have adopted a copyright term beyond that employed in Canada.

It is curious for The Globe, long a proponent of trade deals and the globalized marketplace, to balk at setting a level playing field for intellectual property rights among partners to a major trade agreement.

Peter D. James, Intellectual Property and Copyright Services Librarian, Koerner Library, UBC


It's their values

Re Do Conservatives Have A Future? (editorial, Oct. 24): Similar to James Carville's "It's the economy, stupid," I say to you, "It's their values, stupid."

How can one possibly write a lengthy analysis of why the Conservatives lost without one mention of the word "values"? Values are assumptions about what ought to be, about what should be pursued because it has inherent worth. The "real substance of government" is not, as you claim, its "platform and record." It is its values. They function within an individual or collective as a hierarchy; when they come into conflict, a choice must be made.

That's what the federal Conservative Party did throughout its nine years in power and the recent campaign. It chose covertness over transparency, undermining over strengthening democracy, division over social cohesion. Most significantly, it valued ideology over evidence. Not until it unconditionally renounces these and others of its current values will it deserve another shot at forming government.

John Farquharson, Victoria


24 Sussex Dr.

Re Trudeau's Homecoming Put On Hold (Oct. 24): If 24 Sussex Dr. needs structural renovations, Justin Trudeau should direct that the home for Canada's prime ministers is turned into a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient dwelling: solar photo voltaic cells, solar hot water, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint and rugs, better insulation and triple-pane windows. That would show real leadership and real change as he heads off to Paris for climate change talks.

Jim Pine, Victoria


The decision on whether 24 Sussex is a national asset or liability, and whether millions should be spent for structural repairs should be decided by MPs in a free vote.

Tex Enemark, Richmond, B.C.


The honeymoon period for Justin Trudeau with Canadians will be over very quickly if the middle class has to foot the bill for millions of dollars worth of repairs for 24 Sussex. If the building is deemed uninhabitable, surely it would be more cost effective to demolish it and build a new, smaller, more energy efficient dwelling on the site.

Mary Anne Clarke, Calgary


Why not spend money on refurbishing 24 Sussex, rather than creating new historical monuments? After all, it is our "White House" – and it has been sadly neglected for too long.

Margaret Silk, Toronto


I guess 24 Sussex is just not ready.

Dinah Gudjurgis-Taven, Calgary