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Still the Great One

So Wayne Gretzky played hardball with the Phoenix Coyotes over his contract ( Star Coach, Hockey Hero And A Ruthless Player Behind The Scenes - front page, Sept. 25). Big deal. Is he the only icon ever to do that? Would you expect him to do anything less than look out for his own business interests?

Why did the Coyotes' owners grant him special favours to be a part of their franchise? It's because they wanted the name, integrity and general class act that the Gretzky name has demonstrated year in and year out. He is the greatest hockey player the world has ever seen, the triumphant architect of the Olympic win for Canada and a magnificent role model for youngsters as an athlete and family man.

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David Dean, Brantford, Ont.


Kudos to Wayne Gretzky. Finally, someone has learned to overcome mortality. In his drawn-out contract negotiations with the Coyotes, Mr. Gretzky demanded that the National Hockey League club continue to pay his salary even after his death. I'd always thought you couldn't take it with you; I guess I was wrong.

Manuel Matas, Winnipeg

Bountiful conceit

Your editorial on the B.C. polygamy case ( Bountiful's Lost Day In Court - Sept. 25) appears to be based on a rather questionable assumption: namely, that "the core values of Canadian society include human dignity and the institution of marriage." Most people, I suspect, would agree with the human dignity part (although I'm sure that much of that agreement would fall apart when details were spelled out), but marriage, I fear, is a value we gave up when we accepted the notion of "common law" as equivalent to the religious version.

Would the Bountiful situation be more, or less, reprehensible if Winston Blackmore were not married to his many wives?

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Dirk L. Schaeffer, Vancouver

Bountiful diversity

It is highly spurious to insinuate that the new proposed seat distribution for the House of Commons falls along racial lines or pits minorities against whites ( Catching Up To The New Canada: Ottawa Wants To Add More Seats - front page, Sept. 25). The proposal is colour-blind, and is only about population counts. The fact that the demographics may show these new seats will be populated by a more diverse ethnic population is merely coincidence.

Where is the evidence that "a racial aspect [is]creeping" into this issue? Is anyone opposed to the new seats because of the demographics of the area? Has anyone said seat distribution should not be based on rep by pop? While the consequences of the new seats may give more of a voice to those who live in these areas (assuming they actually vote), saying the move is about race is highly dubious.

J.D.M. Stewart, Toronto


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In answer to your extraordinary front-page announcement that adding new seats to the House of Commons "would spell [the]end of an older, white Parliament," I can do no better than quote U.S. Representative Barney Frank when he was confronted by a protester last month: "On what planet do you spend most of your time?"

Our House of Commons is one of the most ethnically diverse legislative assemblies in the democratic world. Its 308 MPs include 34 who were born in 20 countries other than Canada. In fact, the foreign born on Parliament Hill have achieved a percentage of representation almost as great as their representation in the voting population as a whole.

Ron Haggart, Toronto


What Canada needs is less seats, not more. We already have enough fat-cat politicians sucking the life out of our country.

Roderick Stewart, Toronto


Interesting that Canadian politicians feel that, with a population of nearly 34 million, we need 342 representatives in Ottawa, while our neighbours to the south, with a population of more than 300 million, seem to get along with 435. (We won't get into comparing Senates.)

Max MacIntyre, Elora, Ont.

Nukes are our friends

It's time to get rid of the delusion, apparently now shared by the U.S. President, that nuclear disarmament is either realistic or desirable ( Getting Over Our Nuclear Denial - Sept. 25). Rather than pose a threat to peace, nuclear weapons in the hands of stable states reduce war.

The U.S. and the Soviet Union avoided war because of the mutually assured destruction that would flow from the escalation of any conflict. Absent this certainty, it's difficult to see why the Soviets wouldn't have pressed their conventional superiority in Europe. Even in theatres where MAD doesn't operate, nuclear weapons restrain conflict: India and Pakistan pulled back in 1999 because of the huge risks of escalation in the presence of such weapons.

Eliminating nuclear weapons would simply give countries an immense incentive to defect from an international arms control regime. If one country could secretly develop only a few weapons, it would be able to dominate its neighbours without fear of a credible deterrent. What responsible U.S. administration would eliminate its arsenal and trust that China or Russia couldn't again develop a few bombs in secret?

Let's focus on reducing or reversing the spread of nuclear weapons to states such as North Korea that are willing to proliferate them or where, like Iran, acquisition could cause a regional arms race among countries with unstable regimes. And let's stop wasting our time on the dangerous fantasy of a nuclear-free world.

Jay Nathwani, Toronto

Who loves ya, baby?

Take Rick Salutin's column Narcissieff In The Mirror Of Politics (Sept. 25) a step further: Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are mirror images of one another, and Canada falls between the cracks.

P.J. Robertson, Morrisburg, Ont.


As the words "narcissism" and "narcissist" proliferate in popular vocabulary, the actual psychological profile of the condition known as "narcissistic personality disorder" is becoming distorted.

While pathological self-absorption is among the disorder's symptoms, the "self" in which the diagnosed narcissist is absorbed is a "false" self of his own creation, elaborately assembled to replace a "true" self that the sufferer believes would be unacceptable to the world should it not be concealed within the admirable persona he's constructed. Furthermore, a narcissist will do almost anything to destroy or discredit whomever challenges the veracity of his grandiose self.

While Michael Ignatieff may be boastful when he describes his conversation with Barack Obama, the conversation did occur. His academic and publishing credentials are real, and he actually is the leader of the Liberal Party (like it or not). But if he were a diagnosed narcissist, none of that would be true, and his chances of becoming our next prime minister vastly increased.

David Lieber, Montreal

A tip of the tuque

It's nice to see that Noah Richler is following the family tradition by speaking his mind ( I'll Take My Tuque, Victoria - You Keep Your Fish Pie - Sept. 24). We at the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (second online edition, in preparation) are dedicated not only to bringing the dictionary up to date (it was published in 1967), but also to documenting new words, at the risk of annoying British writer Victoria Glendinning even more.

The first edition shows that "eavestrough" has been in use at least since 1904, and "tuque" since 1880. "Muskoka chair" may have been in use since 1905 (we're looking into this one). We're going to add new Canadianisms such as "parkade," "seat sale," "householder," "humidex" and even the Ontario verb "to take up" (an exam, for instance - that is, to go over the questions after the exam).

Perhaps when our revised edition is up on the Web, those who see Canadian English as a quaint and irritating dialect will understand that it's just as legitimate a variety as is British or American English.

Stefan Dollinger, Laurel Brinton and Margery Fee, DCHP online editorial team, University of British Columbia


Victoria Glendinning asks, "Has any major work of art ever been produced by committee?" The answer, of course, is the King James Bible.

Philip Pye, London, Ont.

Measuring Mayor Miller

In declaring his intention not to seek re-election as mayor of Toronto in 2010 ( Toronto Mayor Won't Run Again - online, Sept. 25), David Miller renders his future agenda vulnerable. Yet, in not seeking re-election, he emerges stronger in being able to advance issues affecting his city. To paraphrase Sophocles, one must wait until the end of Mr. Miller's term of office to see how splendid his mayoralty has been.

Monte McMurchy, Toronto

Pleasure principle, indeed

Your story on Stuart Brody and Petr Weiss's study of the sexual experiences of 917 Czech women ( Size Matters* - Life, Sept. 25) confirms the adage that "the male is in the Czech." It also shows small studies of sexual behaviour can give just as much reader satisfaction as larger studies. Size really doesn't matter.

Randal Marlin, Ottawa

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