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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020.The Canadian Press

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Provincial pressure

Re Throne Speech Highlights Trudeau’s Unwillingness To Let The Federal System Work (Sept. 25): Columnist John Ibbitson seems to recognize the deep desire of Canadians for more federal spending on transportation and defence, and for just letting the provinces get on with the business of botching long-term care, COVID-19 testing and daycare availability.

Let’s keep Canada provincial!

Kate Lawson Kitchener, Ont.

Is health care not a provincial responsibility? Why don’t provinces meet this responsibility – that is, to pay for health care with provincial taxes? Then each province could tailor the program to its heart’s content.

Yet, while complaining about the federal deficit, the provinces demand more money. Alberta, in its loud and proud low-tax jurisdiction, doesn’t have the grit to institute a sales tax. A rate of 5 per cent, which would still be among the lowest in Canada, would net about $5-billion. But they are only thinking about it.

Please, sir, can I have another helping of information about that famous Western fiscal probity?

Jacques Soucie Newmarket, Ont.

Has anyone considered that the Liberal Throne Speech would be almost any country’s utopia while in this dystopian world situation we find ourselves?

H. W. MacFadyen Canmore, Alta.

Drugstore dilemma

Re Ford Blames Health Canada For Testing Delays, Unveils Plan To Allow Screening In Pharmacies (Sept. 24): I am well, but for how long? The decision to allow pharmacies to test for COVID-19 leaves me perplexed and afraid.

I have had the COVID-19 test three times under extreme protocols. Each time, I felt everything was being done in the patient’s best interests. But pharmacies are stores, first and foremost.

At my Shoppers Drug Mart location, customers enter the store through the cosmetics department. I then have to go down another aisle to reach the pharmacy at the very back. How will they protect customers from interacting with a potential COVID-19 patient? Could a trip to buy wrinkle cream expose me to the virus?

I have been a regular customer since my dad and Shoppers founder Murray Koffler had their businesses across from each other. I have no choice but to stop shopping there.

Katherine Blake Toronto

Climate crunch

Re Ottawa Approves ‘Weaker’ Ontario, New Brunswick Carbon-tax Plans (Sept. 22): Canada continues to fiddle on the margins. The government seems preoccupied with the economic mantra of carbon taxes while the country looks to miss its Paris 2030 target by a wide margin. To succeed on this file, government should better understand the technologically coherent options available over the long term.

There is also a wicked irony about New Brunswick. About 15 years ago, the provincial government and its energy utility made a deliberate, strategic decision to phase out electricity generation by coal and oil. The result: New Brunswick’s reduced emissions are on track to meet the Paris target.

The federal government’s 2020 decision is sticking it to the people of New Brunswick.

John Hollins Gloucester, Ont.

Re On The Issue Of Climate Change, We Are Choking (Sept. 16): Columnist Gary Mason writes that the federal Liberals “haven’t done much.” Except they brought in a price on carbon; regulated a phase-out of coal-fired electricity; regulated steep reductions in methane emissions from fossil fuel production; funded charging stations for electric vehicles; helped municipalities buy electric buses; made efficiency and climate change a factor in approving major projects.

Meanwhile, provincial governments doing little are left off the hook, including Ontario and Alberta, provinces that cancelled help for homeowners wanting to reduce emissions. Acknowledging past actions and calling out intransigence would help everyone to apply pressure where it is needed most.

Marjory Loveys Ottawa

Re The Oil Sands Aren’t Dying – And Canada Still Needs Them To Thrive (Sept. 18): Shell and Equinor are just a few of the oil companies that would disagree with contributor Stewart Muir’s assessment of the value and viability of the oil sands. If the oil business is so profitable in Canada, why is it subsidized by $3.3-billion annually?

Fossil fuel lobbyists are one of the largest groups pressuring the government. They seem to wag the tail of government while the rest of us plead for sanity. Government appeases us with platitudes about a low-carbon future, all while sinking more money into the oil business.

It’s becoming obvious that burning fossil fuels makes us sick, burns us down and threatens biodiversity. If we’re lucky, the oil sands will die before they kill us. Invest elsewhere.

Cathy Lacroix Toronto

In San Jose, my daughter and granddaughters have not been able to properly breathe the air in their own backyard. Meanwhile, contributor Stewart Muir writes that “the oil sands can and will be part of” action on climate change. I believe it most certainly can and will – by shutting down.

Heat-trapping emissions from the oil and gas sector have almost doubled since 1990. They are largely responsible for Canada failing to meet every emissions-reduction goal to date, and holding us back from achieving the 2030 goal.

The oil sands do not have to pay to pollute like the rest of us. That should change. Then we could look forward with greater confidence to enjoying the most precious resource of all: life.

John Stephenson Toronto

Asian affairs

Re Ottawa Tried To Rebuild Diplomatic Ties With North Korea: Documents (Sept. 23): Canada should restart efforts to engage Pyongyang. Why does Canada continue to mirror the U.S. approach of maximum pressure against North Korea?

It’s a strategy that I find morally indefensible, and as a campaign to compel the country to give up a nuclear program, it has failed. Where economic and political sanctions have maximum pressure is on the most vulnerable. The United Church of Canada has consistently spoken about the consequences of sanctions on women, children, the elderly, the disabled and those living in impoverished communities.

In the face of a global pandemic that demonstrates the interconnectedness of our world, Canada should support maximum engagement with North Korea. Ease sanctions. Reopen dialogue. Use a mix of sticks and carrots: an approach that commits to a rules-based international system, but also to genuine human well-being and security.

Patti Talbot Team leader, Global Partnership Program, United Church of Canada; Toronto

Re Ottawa Solicits Proposals To Redesign Beijing Embassy (Sept. 25): I know how to save the $100,000 that the government is budgeting for a master plan and the cost of construction: Move the embassy to Taipei.

I’m sure Taiwan would be more than happy to provide a “forward-looking, ambitious, integrated and coherent” embassy complex.

Michael Arkin Toronto

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