Commentary/Letters to the Editor, 1 Feb 2017

COMMENTARY/Larry Coté

Titans of Ego

It is generally accepted that effective leadership requires those who assume such positions to have a healthy ego. If that axiom be true then both Canada and the United States are in really good hands — or might we say heads.

A healthy ego is not per se a bad thing, whether that be the assessment of the neighbour next door, a manager in business, an academic, or the head of a political party. However, it is also generally expected that the quotient of ego is a somewhere midway between an over inflated one and one that is underwhelmed by self-doubt.

Among the attributes ascribed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a healthy self-image is not the least of those from his well-stocked quiver.

It appears that Justin learned well from his father, Pierre, who raised the art of projecting self-confidence to the level of a near-science. The senior Trudeau’s instantly famous response to a reporter’s 1970 challenge over the War Measures Act, “Just watch me,” was not merely a statement but a clear indicator of his self-assuredness.

Some in the news media have labeled the young Justin as having the deportment of a rock star.

His penchant for regularly posing for selfies serves to enhance that depiction. His wife, Sophie, has also achieved much admiration in her own right and adds considerably to Justin’s image. Together, they project a confident grace and ease with their respective and mutual roles. The polls indicate that a majority of Canadians are equally at ease and comfortable with that proposition.

To the south of our border there is a new leader with an ego pundits claim is bigger than — well what comparative adequately depicts– bigger than The Great Wall? President Donald John Trump, among many attributes, demonstrates an ego that exceeds any heretofore measure of self-confidence. Unquestionably, this elephantine ego has served him well in his drive to accumulate astounding wealth. Throughout his campaign for the presidency he spared no superlative in unabashedly describing his self-proclaimed supremacy in a wide range of endeavors. Yet he enters the Office of the President with the lowest approval rating of any winner in recent memory.

The role of Melania Trump, the President’s wife, remains somewhat of a mystery. The new First Lady is a statuesque beauty that some fear may become an object rather than an asset to the presidency. One of her first forays for the Trump campaign was a colossal disaster. Unfathomably, major parts of her speech were plagiarized from a speech delivered by Michele Obama. For certain she will have a difficult task measuring up to the legacy of the immediately previous First Lady.

Juxtaposed with Prime Minister Trudeau, the media, some pollsters and much of the electorate do not yet appear supportive nor comfortable with President Trump’s leadership. Notably, he lost the popular vote yet due to the vagaries of the US electoral system he won the presidency.

So now we get to observe with some frivolity these two titans of self confidence. Who will earn and maintain the higher degree of acclaim in the minds of their respective constituents?

Stay tuned.


LETTERS

Open letter to Mayor David Augustyn

Mr. Mayor, you and Council were elected to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality.

You were elected by your constituents to represent THEIR views when dealing with issues that come before Council.

Yet you chose to undermine the decision made by Council requesting that the DSBN reconsider the name change of E.W. Farr Memorial School.

Online, you try to justify your letter to Dale Robinson [DSBN to change renaming policy, January 25], but, Mr. Augustyn, if your letter was supportive of Council’s decision why did you not send a copy of that letter to all Councillors?

Why did we all find out about this letter only when the good citizens of Fenwick paid for a Freedom of Information request?

You have betrayed the residents of this town by not supporting the hundreds and hundreds of people who do not want E.W. Farr Memorial to be removed from the school name. We can only guess at how many other “back room” letters have been sent out regarding other Council decisions and what impact those letters may be having on the direction of affairs in this town.

Mr. Augustyn, in my opinion, you need to resign.

You have shown that you fail to represent the views of your constituents and that you believe that your views outweigh those voted on by Town Council.

Last time I looked, we live in a democracy not a dictatorship.

L. Brown, Pelham


Mayor’s email sends mixed messages at best

I offer a point of clarification with respect to last week’s article regarding the actions of Mayor Augustyn connected to our ongoing efforts to have the District School Board of Niagara restore the name, E.W. Farr Memorial Public School [DSBN to change renaming policy, January 25].

We know from the discovered email presented in that article that the Mayor’s contact had been with Pelham/Thorold trustee Dale Robinson, and that she in turn forwarded the Mayor’s email message to DSBN Superintendent Wes Hahn.

On September 1 2016, myself, Craig Stirtzinger, and Jina Ker had a meeting at the DSBN offices with Superintendent Hahn (Chair of the Naming Committee), and his secretary, to discuss numerous items with respect to the name change for E. W. Farr Memorial Public School.

At this meeting we brought up the official letter from the Town of Pelham dated June 21 2016, and its request for the DSBN to reconsider its name selection. To quote Mr. Hahn’s response, “The Mayor was not in support of sending the letter.”

This was an odd statement, and we corrected the Superintendent by reminding him of governance policy: Once Town Council has voted on an item then all of Council must support it after it has passed.

In hindsight, could it be that Superintendent Hahn at the DSBN got the idea that the Mayor was not supportive of Council’s decision to send the DSBN its letter, based on the language and tone that the Mayor used in his email to Trustee Dale Robinson? This email came to light only through a Freedom of Information request.

This entire school renaming has become a very murky situation. There is widespread and growing town support for rescinding the new name. As more and more information from the Freedom of Information request comes to light, it is looking like some DSBN staff had predetermined that there would be a change.

Another email showed Former principal Sue Lawrence at Pelham Center (also a Naming Committee member) had started searching out “Fonthill/Pelham Center Historic Names” more than a full month before the DSBN trustees had voted to authorize a renaming process.

These actions by this principal—who had direct authority over students (especially those who were on the Naming Committee)—as well as authority over staff and classroom activities, have created serious questions around the legitimacy and independence of the entire process and outcome.

Kevin Ker, Fenwick


Kudos to Alyssa Girotti

I am really enjoying the expanded Voice. It is packed with real news and issues that are of interest to me and to my wife.

The last issue is a good case in point. Besides in-depth treatment of traffic issues and the school naming policy of DSBN, I was particularly impressed by the Commentary/Op Ed column by Alyssa Girotti. It is a very strongly worded and very well written article by a young woman that really spoke to me.

As a grandparent of ten, six of whom are female, Alyssa’s concerns are also ones I am deeply concerned about for both my granddaughters and my grandsons. Congratulations Alyssa!

And kudos for a much improved, very readable newspaper.

Bill McInerney, Pelham


On coal, trust facts, not lobbyists

Recently the right-wing Fraser Institute released a report, authored by a well-known climate change denier, arguing against reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the report authors, closing Ontario’s coal plants had a negligible effect on emissions in our province. Given the source, this conclusion should come as no surprise.

But if you have ever seen black smoke rising out of coal smoke stacks, you may be inclined to be skeptical. And your suspicion would be justified.

The overwhelming consensus among health and climate experts is that putting an end to coal was good for our health, and for our environment. Organizations as varied as the Ontario Medical Association, the Asthma Society of Canada, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, Ontario Lung Association, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Ontario Public Health Association, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, the David Suzuki Foundation, and many more have endorsed this conclusion.

Here are the facts. From 2005 to 2015, greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector have fallen by 80 per cent. Emissions of harmful particulate matter — nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides — have fallen by 86 per cent and 94 per cent respectively.

And the results on our everyday lives are just as striking. In 2005, Ontario had 53 smog days. These are days where we had to warn our citizens to be careful about just going outside to breathe. In 2015, the number of smog days was zero. From an average of one smog day a week, to zero. Studies today show that premature deaths and hospitalizations from poor air quality have dropped dramatically, reflecting the impact of our cleaner air.

These are not abstract statistics. They are about our families and friends. Last fall I had the opportunity to meet a young boy named Matthew, who lives with severe asthma. Three years ago, Matthew couldn’t go outside to play because the air quality posed too serious a risk. Since the elimination of the coal plants, these fears have become a thing of the past.

Our province should be proud of what we’ve done for Matthew, and hundreds of thousands more like him. It’s our collective effort, and our collective commitment to action, which has made this dramatic change in quality of life available to us all.

Glenn Thibeault, Ontario Minister of Energy


Library still needs some work

I have  to agree  with Marianne  Stewart [Maple Acre Library not read for prime time, Letters, Jan. 25] — the Fenwick  Library  was not ready  to open.

It is  not a warm inviting  place  and the interior  leaves  a lot to be desired. I realize things  are  in their early  stages of setting up  but the selection  of books  leaves  a lot to be  wished for. Hopefully more  books will be  brought  in to fill them empty shelves!

The staff  are friendly and  helpful.

Marilyn Bowslaugh, Pelham


Don’t let rural Canada be Trumped

Over the decades since the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and later, NAFTA, was signed, Canadian agriculture has undergone a significant shift. There was once a multitude of diverse local and regional economic drivers, but now we have a “one size fits all” export-driven, low-priced commodity production model. Farm capital needs have sky-rocketed as illustrated by the massive $90 billion farm debt. Off-farm investors control more and more of Canada’s farmland. Production — per farm, per acre and per worker — continues to go up. And that production became increasingly export and transport dependent as NAFTA-driven deregulation accelerated consolidation and transnational ownership of handling and processing facilities. Farmer numbers are ominously declining, yet governments, and most farm commodity groups and agri-business corporations remain euphoric over each signed trade agreement and growing exports.

What is missing in this picture is a few very sobering facts.

The once mighty farmer cooperative handlers and processors have been dismantled and absorbed into a handful of transnational corporations. 80% of Vancouver’s terminal capacity used to be owned and operated by prairie Pools. Now the private trade owns it all. With the Canadian Wheat Board gone there is no real economic participation by farmers beyond the farm gate, nor any referee to discipline the railroads. Prairie farmers, who once ran the majority of Canada’s grain industry, no longer have a direct connection to the customers and end-users that pay the real market value for their product.

Apart from supply management sectors and a brief spike after 2009, overall inflation-adjusted net farm income is dismal. Farm communities across Canada are suffering from chronic economic decline. This was camouflaged by off-farm manufacturing jobs in Central Canada and resource sector jobs in Western Canada, but those jobs are no longer easy to get. The decline of Canada’s rural economy is not often discussed, but four decades of loss — of elevators, rail service, machinery dealerships, manufacturing, processing, input suppliers, essential community services and retailing outlets — has steadily diminished the quality of rural life.

President Trump vilifies Mexico for the loss of US jobs, but fails to mention the American companies that flocked to the Mexican maquiladoras to take advantage of low labour and environmental standards. NAFTA allowed the US to flood Mexico with its heavily subsidized corn, pork, chicken, beef and dairy, destroying the livelihoods of millions of Mexican farmers.

President Trump will likely find reasons to reject Canadian product coming across the border, so it is very important that Prime Minister Trudeau is prepared for the worst and applies the utmost diplomacy in dealing with the Trump administration.

It is important to understand that NAFTA was never the golden egg its promoters pretended it to be, and neither are the other free trade agreements signed since. NAFTA has caused a lot of damage to the Canadian rural economy and President Trump is likely going to add more trouble. The last thing rural Canada needs is more give-aways to the US in an attempt to persuade the Americans not to back out of the deal. It is time for our Prime Minister to stop trading away the livelihoods of Canadian farmers and to start repairing the damage these deals have done so our domestic and international markets can function in a way that will make farming profitable again.

Jan Slomp, President
National Farmers Union

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