Today's letters: Ottawa Council's budget priorities are all wrong

Saturday, Nov. 28: On who the city should be supporting, on bullies among the superpowers, and why a bridge is worth preserving. You can write to us too, at:

Ottawa -- November 21, 2020 -- Protesters for Indigenous and Black rights rallied outside Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, where they demanded the release of 12 people arrested early Saturday morning, after another protest was shut down. ASHLEY FRASER, POSTMEDIA

Council forgets who it works for

Re: Board approves 2021 police budget, sets stage for limited increases in future. Nov. 25.

Ottawa Council’s 2021 budget is sending the message that if you are not white and economically advantaged, Ottawa may not be the city for you. The devastating effects of the pandemic have highlighted the importance of investing in the social determinants of health, yet this message is falling on deaf ears.

After the disgraceful arrests of peaceful protesters last weekend, most of whom were Black and Indigenous, the Ottawa Police Services Board had a record 92 public delegates registered to speak. Chair Diane Deans began by declaring her mind was made up about the proposed $13.2-million budget increase. Which poses the question: Why waste peoples’ time if their impassioned pleas will not change the outcome?

Despite this, delegates courageously shared their views and almost unanimously opposed the increase. They instead wanted the money invested in housing, social services, mental health and a non-police crisis response service. Many speakers with extensive expertise proposed thoughtful solutions. Despite community advocacy, the increase was approved.

This outcome was disappointing but not surprising, given other council decisions. Despite declaring a housing emergency, councillors approved the demolition of 120 low-income townhomes in Manor Village and Cheryl Gardens, even after protests from devastated residents. The $15-million housing-budget increase is woefully inadequate to rebuild homes for these families and the 12,500 people on the waitlist for affordable housing.

Transit fares will increase by 2.5 per cent, delivering a blow to both low-income residents and climate action. And affirming that the declaration of a climate emergency was lip service, council made decisions that will have devastating environmental consequences, including the expansion of the urban boundary, $113 million to widen 3.3 kilometres on Strandherd Road and allocating only $2.6 million to Energy Evolution.

These decisions do not serve the majority of Ottawa citizens, especially our racialized and vulnerable populations, who have been disproportionately affected by a pandemic that rages on. It seems some members of council are forgetting whose interests they represent. The citizens of Ottawa deserve better.

Dr. Brianna McKelvie, Pediatrician, Ottawa

Dr. Eugenie Frances, Family Physician, Ottawa

Biden’s U.S. should collaborate, not bully

Re: America is back: Biden assembles leadership team, Nov. 25.

Joe Bi​den said, “The United States will be ready to lead again on the global stage.” He was elected by U.S. voters to lead a country with less than five per cent of the world’s population. The rest of the world wants the U.S. to work cooperatively but not to automatically assume leadership.

The most important thing for us to note about the U.S. election is how close it was. Nearly half of those who voted, about 74 million adults, supported President Donald Trump’s policies. Many view the Trump years as a nightmare. The U.S. disrupted major international mechanisms using its control of the international payment system, incredible military force and unrelenting political and economic pressure.

President-elect Biden wants to work with allies to keep “ad​ver​saries in check.” It would be better to stop making enemies. Openly practising “coercive diplomacy” (which it calls “maximum pressure”), the U.S. has often sought to enforce its national laws outside its territory and to seek “regime change” whenever a country would not bow to its will. Under Trump, this was obvious. Even without him, such behaviour is still possible. Many of those who support Biden also believe in the modern version of “manifest destiny.”

We would be making a huge mistake if we forgot these horrible years and the voters who liked them. Canada, and the rest of the world should welcome the U.S. as a partner but reduce its dependancy on it.

David Lorge Parnas, Ottawa

Ill-informed MPs fail to understand China

Re: Selective outrage and a silence that is deafening, Nov. 24.

The recent call by NDP MP Niki Ashton and Green MP Paul Manley to release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou represents only the most recent example of timidity and lack of understanding on the part of certain parliamentarians regarding the pervasive threats posed by Peoples Republic of China, both domestically and internationally.

While choosing to ignore that rule-based processes have determined that Meng may have broken the laws of both Canada and the United States, her erstwhile supporters have chosen to drag out the now tiresome justification for her release that Canada’s relationship with China would be A-OK if Canada weren’t such a lackey to U.S. agendas. This suggests Canadian governments are incapable of making policy or legal decisions independent of  “superpower” influence.

More importantly, it ignores the reality that, absent current U.S.-China rifts, China would still be guilty of state-sponsored cyber intrusions, industrial espionage, human rights abuses, hostage diplomacy, economic extortion in developing countries, foreign influence activities, and territorial land grabs deemed unlawful by international courts, around the world. The depth and breadth of these activities has resulted in increasing calls by international partners to get together to develop a collaborative strategy to mitigate nefarious PRC activities.

In light of this, the ill-informed initiatives of MPs Ashton and Manley seem both poorly timed and devoid of any defensible logic or rationale.

John Gilmour, Ottawa

Appeasing Beijing’s bullies is a failing strategy

I have been so concerned of late about the threat to democracy and the rule of law and just plain human decency that Donald Trump and his more right-wing supporters pose that I had come to think of left-wing ideologues as a handful of silly, irrelevant people that we need not be concerned with.

John Ivison’s article disabused me of that notion, because MP Niki Ashton, among others, can hardly be said to be irrelevant cranks with no political influence. However, as Winston Churchill pointed out, the far left and the far right differ from each other “no more than the north pole does from the south.”

It is unclear to me whether current-day China is a right-wing dictatorship or a left-wing dictatorship, but that its authoritarian government collectively behaves like a cruel bully is beyond argument. Its treatment of the Uighurs has been not unjustly termed a form of genocide.

If an ordinary Canadian citizen or businessperson applies for a loan to a bank or private investor and tells a meaningful lie in order to get the loan, they commit a crime. Being a Huawei executive should not excuse that behaviour.  I do have concerns over Trump’s comment to the effect that he might use Meng Wanzhou as a bargaining chip, but even if she is extradited, found guilty, and jailed, she almost certainly will not suffer anywhere near as great a penalty as the “two Michaels” (Kovrig and Spavor) have already suffered, and they have done nothing wrong.

When Duff Cooper resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty following the Munich Accord, he said of then-prime minister Neville Chamberlain that he “has believed in addressing Herr Hitler through the language of sweet reasonableness. I have believed that he was more open to the language of the mailed fist.”  Perhaps we do not want to get to the language of the mailed fist just yet, but attempting to appease bullies has always been a failed strategy, and China has become an international bully.

Bruce F. Simpson, Ottawa

The two Michaels are hostages – nothing more, nothing less

Looking at MP Niki Ashton’s résumé, I can see that she must not have taken many courses in modern history, hence her failure to apparently learn its lessons. One need only read about the Munich pact between Chamberlain and Hitler. Additionally, the behaviour of the Chinese Communist Party toward the agreement between Britain and China on Hong Kong should demonstrate it has little, if any, honour.

Appeasement of bullies ultimately never wins. The Chinese are extorting us by holding the two Michaels hostage – nothing more, nothing less.

Giving in to them would create a very dangerous precedent. It would essentially tell China that any time Canada presents a problem in terms of the Chinese agenda, they need only break a trade agreement and/or take a couple of hostages. Why wouldn’t they, if ultimately Canada simply folds to such pressure?

Surely an educated woman like her would understand such a dangerous strategy.

Ken Winges, Ottawa

To support students, consult the experts who have

Re: At-risk students get more suspensions, study finds, Nov. 26.

As school boards seek alternatives to suspensions in their attempt to support and engage all students, input from those who work with students in programs for suspended and expelled youth would be of great value in the planning process.

School boards are required to provide programming for students who have been suspended for an extended period of time or expelled. Program staff, often along with community agencies and volunteers, work with the students, their families and the schools to help them be successful in the program and also upon their return to the regular school environment.  At re-entry, the approaches that have been used in the program are shared with the school support team.  The hope is that what has worked within the program will be of value in the school environment not only for the returning student but students in general.

Each student’s situation is unique, and individual strengths and needs must be considered in seeking to support all students in a fair and equitable manner.  There are, however, good teaching practices that can be applied across the spectrum. As so many educators know, to repeat an often-used student success quote, what is “essential for some” is often good practice “for all.”

Joe Veryard, Ed. D., Nepean

Public transit thinking is now out of date

Re: How OC rolls — full service, no layoffs, just near-empty buses, Nov. 25.

“The future” of work is here, and there’s no going back. Even if a majority of the people who used to take OC Transpo eventually go back to their offices, the change will still be a permanent paradigm shift. OC Transpo, along with all transportation infrastructure planning, is now hopelessly obsolete.

Chuck it in the bin, start over, figure out what the priorities are besides getting government workers downtown.

James Carruthers, Crysler

Why we should preserve the Alexandra Bridge

Re: Letter – Repair, don’t replace, the historic Alexandra Bridge, Nov. 21.

I am in complete agreement with this letter-writer that the Alexandra Bridge should be repaired, not replaced. This heritage bridge has become an iconic symbol of our capital city since its inception in 1901, photographed from every angle, from both sides of the river. The Alexandra Bridge is an essential element of the area and contributes greatly to our rich heritage and culture.  Not surprisingly, the bridge was honoured by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering as a National Historic Civil Engineering Site.

The Alexandra Bridge could even be considered a revenue generator for Ottawa’s tourism industry.  The popular travel website TripAdvisor, for example, lists the bridge as #12 of 101 sights and landmarks in Ottawa. The comments on the NCC’s Facebook page in response to the bridge replacement survey were overwhelmingly in favour of restoring the bridge, not replacing it.

Comments warn that the initial cost of demolishing the historical bridge and building a new one may quickly balloon over budget. Many suggest that repurposing the bridge would be far superior to replacement. The survey itself was entirely biased towards bridge destruction and replacement, allowing no opportunity to voice the merits of bridge preservation. They simply don’t build bridges like this anymore and the public recognizes this.

On a personal note, the Alexandra Bridge was built by my great grandfather, Guy C. Dunn, Chief Engineer. Proud of her heritage, I remember my grandmother saying that some day she would inherit the attractive plaques at either end of the bridge which commemorate this work. I share her pride, but my very strong preference would be to protect this historical landmark.

Deborah Wright, Nepean

Doctors deserve paid sick benefits, Premier

Due to a lack of domestic production, vaccines may not be available in Canada for several months. This underscores the need to utilize other measures to mitigate the pandemic spread without employing ever stricter lockdowns. These include isolation centres and paid sick benefits.

Most provinces and the Yukon cover their physicians from day one if they are forced to self-isolate or contract COVID-19. Only Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba do not. In fact, the Ontario government has refused to engage in any discussions around “sick pay” with the Ontario Medical Association.

While the new Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit does cover self-employed persons, it pays only $500 per week for two weeks. This is inadequate to replace the lost income for MDs, most nurses, and many other health professionals. If they are to be deterred from working while sick, additional financial support is required.

Clearly there is a need for a better coordinated federal strategy, including additional funding. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland should raise the Canada Health Transfer to the provinces and territories. They, in turn, should agree to provide pandemic sick benefits to all practising physicians, as well as, if necessary, topping up benefits to nurses and other health professionals. This will encourage them to self-isolate if needed.

Charles S. Shaver, MD, Ottawa

Football news:

Sir Alex Ferguson: Fortunately, I was retired when I watched Liverpool play in the last two years
Well, Wayne Rooney is now a coach. It's great that we saw his career - and now we can remember everything
Neymar: There is a lot of envy and hatred in social networks. The real Neymar is known by friends, family and colleagues
Neymar: Thank God for the charisma. I have a gift to be different from the rest
Wayne Rooney: It's time to lead the younger generation. I had a great career
Lineker on Rooney: One of our greatest players. England would have won Euro 2004 had he not been injured
Chelsea will give Drinkwater the third rent - Kasimpasa. He has not played since February