Today’s letters: On Ottawa transit fares; gardening; COVID and more

Saturday, April 9: Low-fare transit may be an idea whose time has come, says one reader. And letter-writers have lots to say about COVID, China, Russia and other topics. You can write to us at

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Give low-fare transit its due

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Re: Are free rides a way to save the transit system? April 1.

Of municipal transit, Kelly Egan wrote it “reduces traffic congestion, it moves people without other means of transportation, it helps fight climate change, it reduces the need for more roads, it makes commuting reasonable, suburbs livable; it contributes to economic well-being; it makes urban intensification possible. Municipal transit is a public good.” He also noted that about half of operating revenues come from fares, which means an inequitable funding share comes from those with the lowest incomes.

Lower-fare transit would cost money, but expansion of the road network, forever-maintenance costs, and the increased concern for carbon emissions warrant new and creative thinking. We already know that, post-pandemic, more people will work from home. The current and expanding LRT system and connecting routes will be waiting for ridership.

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With the increased cost of gasoline, noise and air pollution from cars, maybe it is time to introduce a low-cost fare, and take full advantage of the transit system that has been underused for the past two years. A win-win for commuters (with or without cars), the pocketbook, and the environment.

I invite city councillors, and those considering running in the fall city elections, to give this serious consideration. We are ready for new thinking and action on many things post-COVID.

Mavis Mason, Nepean

Here’s to many variations of gardening

Re: In defence of urban lawns and yard work, April 5; and Give up on lawn work, Ottawa — and on lawns, Nov. 12.

Both writers made a compelling case for the benefits and drawbacks of lawn versus non-grass landscape gardening. At the end of the day, it is a matter of individuals’ preference as much as the perceived costs and the work involved in creating and maintaining a yard.

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I suspect, however, that concerns with climate change may be a deciding factor in how some people envision the yard surrounding their property. Driving around the neighbourhoods, I am interested to see that the manicured lawn, landscape gardening, or a combination of both, are thriving in Ottawa.

Dono Bandoro, Ottawa

Why were mature trees cut down?

The proposed cutting down of some of the mature forest between Campeau Drive and Kanata Avenue has now happened in spite of its importance to the environment.

The trees in this beautiful forest have taken years to mature. They contributed to our clean air and provided a beautiful place to enjoy the wildlife and a pleasant place to walk. Anyone who takes an interest in our environment will know that we each have a responsibility to take care of it.

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I hope that the person responsible loses their job.

Irene Elce, Ottawa

Let turkeys gobble up those worms

Re: Beware the jumping worm, new menace of Ontario’s forests, April 3.

There exists a simple solution to the problem of worm invasion and its not invoking the Emergencies or War Measures Act. Simply promote and increase the numbers of wild turkeys on the land. These amazing birds consume every worm and grub they uncover.

A couple of years ago, we had an invasion of Japanese beetles. There were so many of them on our trees and shrubs in the evening that their buzzing sounded like a group of helicopters. They then laid their eggs in our lawns and hayfields and their larvae ate the roots of every plant they could find. Huge tracts of our property turned brown as these damaged plants died. We didn’t know how to stop these grubs because we did not want to use chemicals, but as soon as wild turkeys discovered the grubs, they went to work. They turned over the soil in these browned areas and ate every last grub. We have not seen one beetle in the years following their tilling.

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The brown areas soon turned lush and green as these birds also fertilized the soil while they worked. Yes, wild turkeys are the farmer’s best friends.

Tim Arndt, Eganville

Why a farm is better than a jail

Re: Trading public farmland in Kemptville for a new prison is the wrong move, March 30.

I just finished writing a book, “Kemptville College, a Historical Picture — 1916-2016.” It describes how this historical farm was developed throughout the years, primarily supported by Conservative agricultural ministers. George Howard Ferguson and James Stoddart Duff had the intention to develop a model demonstration farm and school in 1916 to help the agri-food industry in Eastern Ontario. The book will be available in May.

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When I joined the college teaching, extension and research faculty in 1975, I received much encouragement from William Atcheson Stewart, another Conservative agricultural minister. These minsters were visionaries.

Eight years ago, when Kemptville College’s closure was imminent, I proposed changing this heritage farm into a Green Care Farm to help those dealing with mental health issues by letting them work in a farming environment.

Green care farming is very popular throughout Europe since the late 1990s, but the proposal fell on deaf ears. The agri-food industry in Eastern Ontario, with its extreme variable climatic and soil conditions, needs a demonstration farm more than a jail.

Willim J. Langenberg, Merrickville, retired faculty member Kemptville College

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COVID confusion as a new wave rolls in

Re: Fourth vaccine dose eligibility expanded as officials insist current COVID-19 wave is manageable, April 7.

It was only yesterday when “fully vaccinated” meant you got both doses. Now do you need four? It’s all happening so quickly, from the number of vaccines to changing restrictions. I thought we were closer to a “return to normal” when the mask mandates were eased but is that what we need?

As talk of a new COVID-19 wave increases, so does my doubt that what we’ve done so far is useful. Where would we be had we handled the pandemic better? Where would we be had there been no pandemic at all? I’m sure I’m not the only person asking these questions.

Muhammed Al-Rubaiy, Ottawa

COVID is costing us, no matter what the minister says

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Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said, “We are using every tool available to manage this virus and reduce its impact on our hospitals and health system.” However, she is not using the mask and vaccination-certificate tools that we used to use.

The province is trying to manage a complex problem by considering a single number: the availability of hospital beds. There are many other numbers that should be considered when making health policy decisions, for example, the number of severe illnesses and premature deaths attributable to COVID-19. They would also consider the staffing problems caused by shortages of teachers and nurses because of COVID. COVID-19 is costing us even if the hospitals are not full.

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Provincial leaders are misleading their constituents when they say, “If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask.” Even an Ontarian who is very careful about wearing a mask and “distancing” is at greater risk than they would be if the health mandates were still being enforced. The prevalence of COVID is greater and the probability of being near an unmasked infected person is higher.

It is the job of the health minister to keep us as safe as possible; I wish she would do her job.

David Lorge Parnas, Ottawa

Is COVID policy just political?

Re: Editorial: A pandemic muddle the Doug Ford government must fix, April 2.

I thought this editorial was spot-on. Of major importance is the booster, whose uptake is in
the 50-something per cent range, and second shots for the kids over five, which is about the same.

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Where are our medical leaders? Drs. Moore and Etches have alluded to an increase of cases but this has not been translated into government guidelines. Who is controlling this policy?
There is growing concern that these are political decisions.

And lastly, what good are the oral antivirals if you can’t get them?

Bill Rock, MD, Ottawa

Don’t try to bribe us, Premier Ford

Yesterday I got a cheque in the mail from the Ontario government, for $460. It’s a refund of my vehicle licence fees for the last two years. I see it as an intended bribe, to encourage me to vote for the Conservatives. It won’t work.

Obviously, car owners are a special underprivileged group who need to be subsidized, right? Unlike nurses, other health workers and public employees, whose salaries have be locked in to less than the inflation rate by this same government’s Bill 124. Unlike homeless people, seniors in profit-making long-term care homes, people with mental health issues — why give handouts to them? They probably don’t vote, right?

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And obviously, our provincial coffers are overflowing with money. As a further gift to car owners, Premier Doug Ford plans to build two new superhighways, the 413 and Bradford bypass. The province will pave valuable farmland and natural spaces, and the increased traffic will add to our already-increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s well established that building more freeways doesn’t ease traffic congestion. Just the opposite; build it and they will drive. (Yes, I’m a car owner.)

I have a plan for this “gift” from Ford. I plan to donate half to the Green Party of Ontario, in addition to my regular contribution. The other half will go to support the campaign of our excellent Ottawa Centre green (small “g”) NDP MPP, Joel Harden.

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Keith Shackleton, Ottawa

Treat the nurses with respect, Premier

Doug Ford, if you want my vote, remove the ridiculous one-per-cent cap on nurses’ salary increases. It’s a disgrace.

Ken Saunders, Nepean

Liberals wrong to move ahead on carbon tax

It is hard to believe the federal government went ahead with an increased carbon tax on April 1. Canada ‘s emissions amount to around two per cent of total world emissions If we got to zero, it would make absolutely no difference to global warming, yet this government continues to make Canadians suffer. This tax is extremely hurtful when inflation is running high and Canadian families are struggling to put food on the table.

Stan Painter, Kanata.

Don’t repeat past mistakes on China

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Re: Canada’s and China’s frigid relationship shows slight sign of thaw, April 7; and Why Canadian pension plans should divest from China, April 4. 

Will Canada be emphasizing the position a democracy should take in dealing with a totalitarian state such as China, or will this be, as is more likely, a return to the earlier Trudeau-era policy of sucking up to China? There are grave risks if it’s the latter.

Canadian firms lulled by greed and encouraged by such a policy will invest even more in China. What happens to these investments when China invades Taiwan, as seems increasingly likely? These investors, including the Canada Pension Plan, will take a huge haircut and the negative impact on Canadians and the economy will be significant.

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Colin Henderson, Ottawa

We shouldn’t renew talks with China

Canada’s reopening of dialogue with China saddens me. The Chinese Communist Party is a criminal government and cannot be trusted. The Uyghur genocide and forced organ harvesting are examples. Canada shouldn’t “open renewed dialogue” with China.

Graeme Barber, Ottawa

Expel Russian diplomats in Canada

How can we continue to host the representatives of Russia, a country that invades Ukraine without provocation and commits atrocities and war crimes with impunity?  And then accuses Ukraine, the victim, of faking those war crimes? Toss them all out and return our diplomats from Moscow, and confiscate Russia’s local assets to reimburse Ukraine for the massive destruction. Act with character as most Canadians expect of you. We have no need to cavort with a country of that ilk.

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Herb Westman, Ottawa

We’re not spending enough on defence

Re: NATO numbers cast doubt on Anand’s funding push, April 6.

I am surprised at this analysis. The NATO spending target for defence is two per cent of GDP. At 1.39 per cent, Canada sits fifth from the bottom, among 30 nations. Were Canada to go by global expenditure figures, as the writer suggests, we’d still be laggards. With the 10th-largest economy, Canada’s military defence spending should be at or near 10th, not 14th.

Jacques Gobin, Orléans, lieutenant colonel (ret’d)

The law is the law for everyone, Mr. Charest

Re: Law is ‘not a buffet’: Charest promises to make it an offence to blockade critical infrastructure, April 6. 

It’s encouraging that Conservative leadership candidate Jean Charest says the rule of law is not a buffet from which governments can choose the ones they enforce and ignore others.

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His proposal to give police the power to clear illegal blockades without injunctions needs to be matched, then, by the federal government no longer ignoring the constitutional rights of Indigenous Peoples to self-government and a fair share of Crown wealth derived from Crown land and resources.

Russell Banta, Ottawa

Why not accept the Pope’s apology?

Re: Papal apology for residential schools lacks ‘true intentions of goodness,’ April 1.

For years, we have heard the demand for an apology from the Catholic Church for the residential schools. Now that the Pope has provided that, we are being told that this is not enough.

If “peace and reconciliation” are truly the objectives of both sides, where are the signs from our Indigenous cousins that they are prepared to look forward?

Don Pajot, Constance Bay

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