Re The Old Grandee’s Tabloid Campaign (editorial, Oct. 4): You state that Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values “goes to a place the Quebec government has never trod: legislating against religious freedom.”
Three of the most important cases in the history of civil liberties in this country dealt with the Duplessis government’s efforts to prevent the Jehovah’s Witnesses from promoting their religious views in Quebec. In Boucher (1951), Saumur (1953) and Roncarelli (1958), the Supreme Court of Canada overturned Quebec court decisions which restricted religious freedom directly or indirectly. The latter case ended the reign of the authoritarian Padlock Law.
In 1954, in reaction to the first two cases, the Quebec legislature amended the pre-Confederation Freedom of Worship Act to prohibit “abusive or insulting attacks against the practice of a religious profession.” If that law still existed, it might be applied to Quebec’s Charter of Values.
Ramsay Cook, Toronto
The ongoing values debate prompts me to ask: What of a Charter of Duties, common to all Canadians? Duties such as a legislated obligation to vote? A duty, similar to jury duty, to contribute a number of hours to support public hospitals or other identified charitable organizations? A duty for every person to contribute to local environmental clean-up drives?
These are a few examples; I’m sure others can be identified. Enshrined in a legislated charter, these duties would truly reflect common national values or basic beliefs.
Paul Cosgrove, Brockville, Ont.
Aye to pension plans
Re CPP’s Failings (letters, Oct. 4): The U.S. pension system is funded differently than the CPP. In the U.S. system, current payments are funded from current tax revenues. In Canada, CPP payments are funded from an asset base; payroll deductions purchase assets that produce income to provide benefit payments.
The U.S. model is not sustainable for two reasons: 1) major demographic changes (say, boomers reaching retirement age) will undermine the cash-flow model; 2) they seem to have trouble with hard, prudent decisions (say, deficit management).
Our model would warm the heart of a Scottish Presbyterian actuary, while the U.S. model satisfies a tax-the-rich mentality. Ours is sustainable, theirs is not. The Scotsman would say save more today and you can have more tomorrow. (Apologies for the racial profiling.
John Madill, Oshawa, Ont.
Re A Plan To Ease The Coming Pensions Crunch (Report on Business, Oct. 1): Target benefit pension plans have existed in Canada since the 1940s. Typically found in the construction, entertainment and religious sectors, these generally large, private-sector plans deliver benefits efficiently and provide significant financial security in retirement to millions of Canadians.
The plans offer employees a real pension, not just a savings plan. They offer employers the same cost certainty and accounting treatment as defined-contribution plans, plus they remove all fiduciary (trustee-like) obligations from the employer.
It is curious that many em-ployers are negotiating away from defined benefit to defined contribution plans, and not toward target plans. Although defined contribution plans and target benefit plans have the same financial obligations and accounting treatment, employers that sponsor a defined contribution plan maintain a fiduciary obligation to employees. One only needs to look at the court cases south of the border to see the reality of that risk.
D. Cameron Hunter, Eckler Ltd., consultants and actuaries, Toronto
Nyet to Greenpeace
Re Two Canadians Charged In Greenpeace Protest (Oct. 4): Good job the Greenpeace protest ship was named Arctic Sunrise.
Just think of the ramifications if it had been the Rainbow Warrior. Vladimir Putin would have had those gay pirates walking the plank in a Moscow minute.
Helen Godfrey, Toronto
Sure, the piracy charges Russian authorities have brought against Greenpeace activists are a bit harsh – but what were the Greenpeace folks thinking, trying to scale the Prirazlomnaya oil platform? The Russians take their economic interests seriously.
My sympathies are limited.
Andrew van Velzen, Toronto
Alberta tax talk
Re Alberta Sales Tax (letters, Oct. 1): Spare the HST discussion, a radically changed tax process for Alberta. My vote is for a massively increased (10-fold) vehicle registration fee to fund roadwork, revisiting the absent personal health-care premium that will fund health care, and raising municipal mill rates to fund needed municipal infrastructure.
Mark Soehner, Calgary
Alberta doesn’t need a sales tax. It needs to return to a progressive income tax system. The wealthy here have been coasting comfortably since Stockwell Day and Ralph Klein introduced the 10-per-cent flat tax in 2001. On Bow Trail, as I go to work, I see the fortunate few coasting down the hill from wealthier neighbourhoods, driving to oil-patch jobs in such expensive, exotic vehicles that often I can’t even identify them.
Joseph S. Davis, Calgary
Smoke, mirrors, jobs
Re Provinces Warn Of Skills Program Boycott (Oct. 3): Provinces are wise to resist pressure to adopt the federal government’s skills training program, which is created out of smoke and mirrors and will not address the real lack of jobs that pay a decent, living wage, even to many skilled and professional workers.
Jobs are available, but often they are casual, contract, temporary or part-time jobs that demand specialized training, even advanced degrees, while paying degrading wages that do not support a middle-class lifestyle.
The Canada Jobs Grant program will use EI premiums to subsidize employers’ training costs, but will do nothing to address the real gap between skills and wages.
Julie Guard, associate professor, Labour Studies Program, University of Manitoba
Remember when …
Re BlackBerry Snubbed On Home Turf (Oct. 4): So Rogers has decided not to carry BlackBerry’s new Z30 phone in a “routine decision.” This only weeks after telecoms, including Rogers, launched an all-out campaign about how opening the spectrum auction to foreign companies would hurt Canadian jobs. I guess the campaign didn’t have an impact on them either.
Peter Smith, Winnipeg (Sent from my BlackBerry Q10)
One tweet at a time
Re Breaking Bad Often Beats Great Literature (Arts & Life, Oct. 4): Russell Smith describes a work by Karl Ove Knausgaard as a “six- volume, 3,500-word magnum opus.” I can’t wait for it to be serialized on Twitter.
Norman Rosencwaig, Toronto
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