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Ford family politics

While I wish Rob Ford and his family all the best in his recovery, I can't help but take offence at the manoeuvring the Ford family is doing to maintain political influence in Toronto during his illness.

The Ward 2 city council seat, which Rob Ford has announced he is now seeking instead of a second term as mayor, is not a family perk to be passed around. If Rob Ford wants to be a councillor, let him run against his nephew, Mike Ford, who was a candidate in Ward 2. Instead, Mike Ford has dropped out of that race and is seeking a seat as a school trustee.

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Doug Ford had months to decide to run for mayor. Doing so now as his brother leaves the mayoralty contest smacks of Tammany Hall-style politics and political jobbery.

John Roy, Toronto

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Toronto politics – or an episode of All in the Family?

Emily O'Neill, St. John's

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Pay close attention. Prest-o! Change-o! Which Ford is the mayoral candidate today? Who will be the next elected official?

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I wish both Fords health and happiness in their (one hopes soon-to-be) private lives. To paraphrase Tevye, "May God bless and keep the Fords far away from us."

David C. Cole, Toronto

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Fracking blind

Re Nova Scotia Has A Fracking Attitude Problem (Sept. 11): Konrad Yakabuski correctly writes that "the recent dramatic rise in high-volume fracking has led to legitimate concerns about groundwater contamination, climate-warming methane gas leaks, even earthquakes." Inexplicably, he then offers the opinion that, "These are, by all accounts, manageable risks."

Actually, no. The Council of Canadian Academies' "Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada," the definitive publication to date on the topic in this country, states: "Information concerning the impacts of leakage of natural gas from poor cement seals on fresh groundwater resources is insufficient"; that "not enough is known about the fate of the chemicals in the flowback water to understand potential impacts to human health, the environment, or to develop appropriate remediation"; that the impact of fracking on greenhouse gas emissions is not agreed upon and that, overall, "the health and social impacts of shale gas development have not been well studied."

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A lack of information is not the same thing as a lack of risk. Proceeding with fracking in the absence of an ability to actually know the risks involved would be equivalent to beginning a blind drive down an unknown road during a blizzard, something no sensible Canadian would do.

Courtney Howard, board member, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment; Yellowknife

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Kith and kin

I was disappointed to read the view, reflective of the pro-union, U.K. mainstream media, that the upcoming Scottish referendum is fundamentally about nationalism (A Separated Scotland? Pound Foolish – Sept. 12). Scotland's referendum stopped being about nationalism quite some time ago.

It has become an extraordinary example of democratic engagement: 97 per cent of those eligible to vote in the Scottish referendum have now registered to do so. Hundreds of thousands of people who have never been involved in politics are actively engaged.

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They are engaged, not because of nationalism, but because a great many people who live in Scotland, of numerous nationalities, believe in the basic principle of self-determination and feel that a government of their choosing will have the tools required to tackle matters such as equal rights, poverty and equality of opportunity without recourse to U.K. governments that have so consistently pursued agendas that are radically different.

Kenneth Douglas, Ottawa

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Wood it weren't so

While snow in September is shocking, the arboreal destruction Calgarians are witnessing in the aftermath is devastating. Out walking, I felt some of The Lord of the Rings' Treebeard's angst: "Many of these trees were my friends. Creatures I had known from nut and acorn."

John Van Sloten, Calgary

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A PM's résumé

Re Prime Minister 'Isn't An Entry Level Job,' Mulcair Says Of Trudeau (Sept. 11): Thomas Mulcair has adopted Conservative Party tactics in attempting to paint Justin Trudeau as too inexperienced to become PM.

The NDP's new catchphrase – "prime minister is not an entry level job" – is one we'll likely hear repeatedly. However, it must now be clear to everyone that Mr. Trudeau shares the same job description as Mr. Mulcair and Stephen Harper: leader of a national political party preparing for an election campaign. As such, he is doing a damn sight better than either of those claiming he lacks experience: The polls suggest that both the parties of Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Harper have lost support since Mr. Trudeau became leader.

Gary Vickers, Nepean, Ont.

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Commit economics

So the Harper government is reducing EI premiums for small businesses "sharply" by 41 cents per $100 of insurable earnings (Businesses Divided Over Tax Credit Limit – Sept 12). Let's say I'm considering hiring someone and paying them $40,000 a year. The drop in EI premiums saves me a grand total of $164 a year. This is supposed to sway my decision whether to hire someone?

Of course, if I had 250 employees, this reduction in aggregate would save the cost of a salary. Then I could afford to hire an additional employee. But wait – the premium reduction only applies to small businesses.

Randy Park, Toronto

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Finance Minister Joe Oliver has introduced a $550-million tax credit that cannot possibly create job growth. Plus, the program creates a financial disincentive for small businesses to grow. Regrettably, it seems the Harper government is as unwilling to commit economics as it is sociology.

Scott Grills, Brandon

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Foods for thought

Today's parents are suffering from the short-order-cook syndrome (Put a Fork in It – Life & Arts, Sept. 12). Instead of throwing family dinners out with the dishwater, parents need to cut back on the service and get kids to pitch in.

It's a win-win: The kids learn household skills, get a voice in the meals served and experience the great feeling of contributing to the family; the parents do their job of raising responsible, independent children.

The mom in Milton, Ont., is on the right track. She prepares meals together with her children on Sundays and freezes them for the busy week ahead.

Beverley Cathcart-Ross, co-author, Raising Great Parents, Toronto

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It seems to me that what's important about sitting down to meals together is not about what's on the table or how it got there, but about who's in the seats.

Ruth Ward, White Rock, B.C.

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