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Canadians should scrap paper cheques to modernize the country’s payment system, a new report suggests.

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Cancelling cheques
Re Canadians should scrap paper cheques to modernize payments, report says (Aug. 25): The C.D. Howe Institute has recommended getting rid of paper cheques – it's about time. I cannot believe how Canada is stuck in the past.

I lived in Vienna from 1999 to 2006. During that time, I made direct, electronic payments for all my bills, including traffic tickets. When an organization issues an invoice, it includes its bank account number. All I had to do was transfer money from my account to the organization. Security was handled by way of PIN numbers mailed to me previously. No need to "add a payee" online on your bank's website.

I now have an account with Banco Santander in Spain. While in Canada, I have transferred money from Spain to friends in Austria and Slovakia – directly without Interac e-mail and without fees. Santander sends me an SMS with a PIN from Spain to my phone in Canada and I key that PIN and a separate electronic signature in to complete the transaction.

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Did you know that a single paper cheque can cost $1.00? - Greg Csullog, Deep River, Ont.

'Accidental' entrepreneurs
Re The best 'accidental' entrepreneurs aren't nurtured by the taxpayer (Aug. 22): Neil Seeman declares that government has nothing to do with technology entrepreneurship in Israel and Silicon Valley. Both those ecosystems were built over time by major public sector co-investment. Both depended from the start on a flow of talent and ideas out of publicly funded institutions and research labs. Given those realities, it is ironic to claim that "the co-created entrepreneur model has flopped" all over the planet. The reality is that most co-funded models are relatively new, and as they succeed, private money will displace public funding.

That's certainly the case in Israel, a small country that built 28 publicly funded incubators between 1990 and 1993. The public presence has been scaled back as privately financed incubators have taken hold. The same thing is occurring in Toronto today, as MaRS fills its Phase 2 building with a view to early private refinancing of that project.

Meanwhile, Shanghai, with roughly the population of Canada, has more than 100 business incubators – many larger than MaRS and heavily funded by the public sector. It seems that the Chinese, like others, aren't leaving the development of their innovation hotspots to "accidental entrepreneurs."

Fundamentalists such as Mr. Seeman are welcome to call that model "co-creationism." The faithful can call it intelligent design. And pragmatists of all stripes will probably just call it sensible evolution. - Ilse Treurnicht, CEO, MaRS Discovery Centre

Mr. Seeman references Josh Lerner's Boulevard of Broken Dreams as evidence for the supposed futility of government aid to entrepreneurs. This is laughably far from the actual conclusion drawn by the author. I prefer this quote from the same book:

"When we look at the regions of the world that are, or are emerging as, the great hubs of entrepreneurial activity – places such as Silicon Valley, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Bangalore, and Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces – the stamp of the public sector is unmistakable." - Christopher Lau, Toronto

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Almost right
Re Living on the electric grid: Being technologically dependent comes with risks (July 29): Brian Lee Crowley got it almost right with his concerns about protecting our grid from cyberattack, including electromagnetic pulse (EMP) events. He errs in assuming that the current model of large generating plants and distribution system, which is designed primarily to serve users, is rather outmoded. Modern societies require copious quantities of reliable energy to sustain them, and for the foreseeable future, there is no real alternative to the present structure to provide this in electricity systems.

Our generation/grid system does need continuous improvement, but increased automation and current rush of smart grid initiatives are not smart at all. A major focus is smart meters and these are needed primarily to increase prices to support expensive wind and solar generation plants and enable demand management to help address their unreliability and substantial fluctuations. Smart meters are there primarily to support wind and solar, not users.

Some of the distributed generation concepts he mentions are an important part of a new generation/grid infrastructure that we must evolve to. The purpose of such microgeneration systems is primarily to meet some measure of local demand, enabled at this level by continued storage technology development, not feed the grid. This will take time to do properly and important elements needing attention are strong cyber security and protection from EMP events. - Kent Hawkins, Ajax, Ont.

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