Re: And Reality Sets In, Kelly McParland, Dec. 29.
Democracy has three essential features. First, it is about government by the people and the people’s right to choose their leaders. Second, it is not a tyranny of the majority. Third, it is about change and renewal.
Disregarding these, then-prime minister Stephen Harper chose his narrow base of supporters and ruled on their behalf, ignoring others who voted for opposition parties. Thanks to our first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, he won a contrived majority. Despite getting only 40 per cent of votes, he claimed he had the mandate of the majority. He appointed senators who failed to win the election. Finally, he refused to accept that after a decade of his Conservative rule, time had come for change and renewal.
As such, the landslide victory of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was also a triumph of democracy. This explains why Harper’s attack ads ridiculing Trudeau’s lack of experience failed to dent his popularity. As for the budget deficit, it was Harper who turned a massive budget surplus left by two Liberal governments into a deficit. Harper’s government also proved to be a two-trick pony without vision. If it’s not security, it’s cutting taxes for the wealthy. And the record has been spotty on both accounts.
Prime Minister Trudeau has a clear vision for Canada. Unlike Harper’s pointless deficit by cutting taxes, he is promising greater investment on infrastructure, research and public services that will go a long way in improving the quality of life for all Canadians. In his one-sided criticism of Trudeau, Kelly McParland missed the real picture.
Mahmood Elahi, Ottawa.
Hats and hijabs
Re: Don’t Walk A Mile In Her Hijab, Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa, Dec. 24.
Hats off to Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa for their excellent essay on the meaning of the hijab. It is the custom for married women in the Orthodox Jewish community to cover their hair with a sheitel (wig), hat or kerchief when in public. Unmarried Jewish women are not required to do so.
In my unique role as the daughter of the rabbi emeritus and the wife of a rabbi at a prominent Conservative synagogue in Toronto, I have chosen to wear a hat during synagogue prayer services, mostly because I enjoy the look. The vast majority of our married female congregants do not. It would be a huge step backward if the Conservative movement were to insist all married women always cover their hair in public. So, I stand in solidarity with Asra and Hala “with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism, that demands we cover our hair.”
Judith Weinroth, Toronto.
Blame Bush, not Obama
Re: The Hollow President, Barbara Kay, Dec. 30.
Barbara Kay is right. The policies President Barack Obama has pursued have not succeeded in eliminating terrorism, or combating climate change and other problems facing the humans on this planet. While it would be easy to blame the U.S. system and the fact his hands are tied by the determined Republican opposition in the House of Representatives, perhaps the main reason is no other policy has been suggested that might have had some success.
The terrorist acts Kay mentions were home grown and at least partly due to the incompetence of security agencies, not policy shortcomings. Having the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade almost bankrupted the country and delayed the national armies taking control. It can be argued if George W. Bush hadn’t jumped with both feet before thinking the situation out, the terrorist situation may not have grown so serious.
Sudhir Jain, Calgary.
Not a credit card
Re: Rethinking What Gets Covered, Brian W. Rotenberg, Dec. 30.
Dr. Brian Rotenberg’s comments are timely as Canada enters a deepening crisis in health-care funding and policy management. While he and every other physician in the country is all to aware of the problem, politicians are clinging to a bygone era of universal social safety where just about every other like-minded nation has long since abandoned the notion of universal government insurance for health care.
However, it is not the role exclusively of physicians to be system gatekeepers and to bear the only responsibility for climbing utilization expenditures. Governments need to be more responsible and to think outside their closed box that is the Canada Health Act. As well, people themselves need to be held accountable to how they use (or abuse) the system. A health card cannot be looked at like a credit card, where usage is unlimited but the bill is never ever mailed to the user.
Dr. Steven E. Rubenzahl, Toronto.
Enthroning the Liberals
Re: The People’s Choice, Rex Murphy, Dec. 26.
I agree with Rex Murphy et al. we should have a referendum on any electoral change. There is more than one alternative to first past the post (FPTP) and each system has have its failings. Although the New Democratic Party, the Greens and the Bloc Québécois all support electoral change, forming a majority, they do not favour the same change as the Liberals.
The parties who do not get the seat numbers from FPTP support some form of proportional representation. The NDP favours mixed member proportional representation because this would give them more seats. The Liberals have shown interest in the ranked ballot, in which candidates are eliminated and voters’ second choice is counted to achieve a majority of support for one candidate in each riding.
Most people will hold their noses and move subsequent choices to the political centre. We have the possibility of creating political royalty as the Liberal Party traditionally holds the political centre.
Derek Bignell, Toronto.
Crash course in Democracy 101
Re: No Need For A Referendum, Spencer McKay, Dec. 30.
Dominic Leblanc, the Government House Leader, said, “(O)ur plan is not to have a national referendum, our plan is to use parliament to consult Canadians.” That approach is both ironic and self-serving — ironic because it is now an official stance from the same people who decried the lack of democracy and transparency in the Harper government, and self-serving because they know Canadians can be hoodwinked into willingly accepting the legality of such a move under our current system of governance, and craft a new system that will be loaded in their favour for generations to come. They can then sanctimoniously proclaim, “That is what Canadians wanted.”
The media and political pundits must offer the public unvarnished and honest discussions of all possible ways our current system can be improved or replaced, in what countries such systems are now operating, and their benefits and drawbacks. A crash course in “Democracy 101” if you will. This will be a start of informed public involvement and discussions that will hopefully lead to a more responsible choice for us all.
Kanti Makan, Cambridge, Ont.