March 2019

Contents Related Letters

Re. “A Doubled Apocalypse,” by Navneet Alang (December 2018)

The word “apocalypse” means “revelation.” Look it up! If one were to insert the word “revelation” each time the word “apocalypse” appears in Alang’s article, one would find it difficult to understand. May I suggest that the word “catastrophe” would provide a clearer ­meaning: “on this doubled catastrophe, the catastrophe in fiction, and the catastrophe that has already befallen the Anishinaabe.” That makes more sense. Also: “Post ‘revelationary’ works have a particular resonance at the moment. We live in what feels like a moment of ‘rapture.’ ” Alert!

Real words have actual meanings. Don’t just use them as buzzwords.

Charles Diltz
Uxbridge, Ontario

Re: “Money Matters,” by Michael Taube (December 2018)

While providing a good overview of banking history in Canada and the U.S. — history that would appear to put the Canadian path in a good (sensible?) light — Michael Taube insists that it is all just not good enough: out of date, not innovative. While he writes that Canada did sidestep mistakes “to circumvent many of the worst financial convulsions that the U.S.” experienced, still it seems “many commentators criticize Canada’s overarching degree of state intrusion within our financial system.” And while he notes that “regulation enabled Canada to escape the worst effects,” he goes on to cite Patricia Meredith and James L. Darroch, who examine “some innovative ways to end the archaic nature of Canadian banking.”
This review ended up, for this reader anyway, to be a subtle rendering that sounded more like an election platform.
Taube focuses on the perceived costs of not eliminating paper cheques and invoices while “delaying the move toward more digitized banking processes” but does not outline what these digitized processes are other than the “latest technology.” Yet I am annoyed when two banks each ding me $1.50 just to take cash (sorry about that) out of different ATMs. Is this what he means?
His discussion of branch banking sounds like a complaint, but, personally, I do almost all my banking online. How does this cause a problem for someone like me? I really do like that I can still see a live human being to discuss serious business (like a home equity line of credit) instead of disembodied voices on the phone, which make you repeat the same information over and over as you are shunted from extension to extension.
The political mantra really raises its head where Taube editorializes his point: “What can be done to correct this downward trend” and “the authors inexplicably suggest the federal government should intervene” (italics mine). And he leads the reader to a familiar premise when concluding that “supporters of free markets would obviously prefer to see the private sector lead the charge toward innovation.” Did Taube not spend the first half of the review alluding to the pitfalls of such an approach?
Ultimately, I am not well enough versed in economics or financial studies to know what is true. I expect a reviewer to help the reader find their way through both the material being reviewed and the larger topic, rather than start to eerily sound like the slogans we are likely to hear as our federal election looms. Or is Taube angling for a speech writing job?

Lawrence Wardroper

Re: “Money Matters,” by Michael Taube

Lawrence Wardroper is free to agree or disagree with my analysis of Canadian financial institutions. My feeling is they could do better with respect to updating and modernizing technologies and strategies, and I believe my review emphasizes this.
With respect to the role of the reviewer, I’m afraid Wardroper’s expectations won’t always be realized. My preference with book reviews has always been to provide some personal analysis, but primarily let the author talk and guide readers in one particular direction or another. Conversely, when I write columns and op-eds (as I have for more than two decades), I control the narrative, direction, ideological underpinnings, and so on. That’s the way I like to do things.
Wardroper wondered if I was “angling for a speech writing job.” A speech writing role I already performed with former prime minister Stephen Harper? How amusing. Nevertheless, if he requires an answer, I’ll sum it up in one word: no.

Michael Taube

Re: “Say It Loud,” by Drew Fagan

I read Drew Fagan’s review of Megaphone Bureaucracy through the lens of SNC-Lavalin. Considering his observation that bureaucrats are “most comfortable in the shadows,” I couldn’t help but think of our erstwhile clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick.

Two months ago, he exploded — or, more accurately, imploded — into public view by lobbing a broadside at Conservative senator David Tkachuk, who supported Ottawa’s United We Roll protests. Wernick opined, “I worry about my country right now. I worry about the rising tide of incitements to violence when people use terms like treason and traitor in open discourse. Those are the words that lead to assassination.” Amidst public outrage, he resigned three weeks later.

I wonder how SNC-Lavalin-Gate would have unfolded if Wernick — as well as Jody Wilson-Raybould and Justin Trudeau, for that matter — had first read Fagan’s review. Nevertheless, I suspect it’s going to take a lot more political transparency before the public service vision that Dennis C. Grube articulates in his book can find its legs.

Bill Engleson
Denman Island, BC

Re: “Better Voters,” by Elizabeth May

May’s critique of Too Dumb for Democracy? is right on the money. We have the ability to resolve problems, especially those of our own making. But, as she writes, we must educate ourselves.

Society can eliminate the use of fossil fuels through solar, wind, and water, yet we procrastinate. Indeed, it seems only near-death experiences inspire corrective action. But when it comes to the earth’s survival, that can’t be our instigator. The risk is too immense. Canada’s government, concerned with corporate sponsorship in the next election cycle, is content to give lip service to voters.

We can influence our political leadership, however. Vote intelligently — vote to survive!

Brian Danko
Burlington, ON

Elizabeth May begins her review of David Moscrop’s Too Dumb for Democracy? by elucidating her views on the environmental crisis: our climate is changing in ways that will lead to catastrophe, this trend is probably due to human activity, and most of us refuse to recognize the situation or its dangers. She then exhorts us to “turn off our reptilian brain.” Does she really think that’s helpful?

Personally, I wouldn’t recognize my reptilian brain if it stared me in the face. In fact, May’s approach reinforces the problem many of us “less-gifted” people have with experts. They seem more interested in waxing erudite than advancing arguments. To put it crudely: cut the crap.

May gets back on track by suggesting we adopt a non-partisan approach. But it takes two to tango. Yes, we must seek consensus, but let’s not pretend all of us come from the same point of departure.

Leslie Buck

Re: “All That Jazz,” by George Fetherling

In 1961, a colleague and I bought the Scene, a Victoria jazz club, from the lawyer-cum-­saxophonist Wally Lightbody. It was right across the water from Vancouver and also featured big names like Phineas Newborn and Charles Mingus.

After Mingus packed the Scene for a week straight, I had the pleasure of taking him to Vancouver for his Cellar gig. He was a big man with a short fuse and had cut his teeth in New York’s toughest neighbourhoods. I saw evidence of this when a burly customer made a racist comment. I wonder if the B.C. Lions, whom George Fetherling mentions, fared any better.

Edward Harvey

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