Letters to the editor – August 23, 2012

DANGER IN APATHY

Why is it that people who want to conserve our climate, environment and resources are called radicals, and people that support radically changing our environment and atmosphere are called conservatives?

Two hundred and fifteen million people watched the Olympic opening festivities with all its advertising, nationalist bravado and corporate messaging.

Our climate is destabilizing globally, breaking heat records, flooding, intensifying storms, causing drought such as the largest declared disaster area in U.S. history, raising sea levels and acidifying oceans, increasing the range of tropical diseases, reducing agricultural crop output and otherwise making a future for human civilization ever less possible.

Does anyone really believe, as we face challenges unlike any other in human history, that it is really important under what flag someone comes in first in a foot race by a couple of hundredths of a second, but it’s somehow acceptable that apparently we can’t have any intelligent public discussion about climate change?

“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” — Jane Goodall

Mike Bray,
Indian Head, Sask.

PIPELINE CONTROVERSY

Re: Northern Gateway Pipeline

The controversy over the pipeline grows stronger every week. The whole question of the viability of the project is a major issue. There are two aspects that require serious thoughts before Canada is committed to the project any further.

One is the abominable record Enbridge has, where major leaks are a common occurrence in the thousands of miles of pipeline the company owns and operates.

Another facet of that is the lack of sufficient cleanup techniques the company employs. This is where people really dread seeing this project proceed through our pristine wilderness and across native territory, which is not covered by treaty.

The second is the difficulty handling bitumen from the tar sands, which should be processed in Canada first.

Our workers could well use the extra work in the refining process. Which begs the question — why is the (prime minister Stephen) Harper government so intent on marketing raw materials, when value added products brings so much more revenue to the country?

Jean H. Sloan,
Lloydminster, Sask.

BRING BACK CWB

(Agriculture minister) Mr. (Gerry) Ritz and (prime minister) Mr. (Stephen) Harper want to tell farmers that they have installed a new grain marketing future after Aug. 1 when the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk selling is eliminated. Wrong.

The old private marketing structure that failed our farmers in the past has just been resurrected. Skilled selling, done through the farmer-controlled CWB single desk, and which the majority of farmers support, is being replaced with deliberate confusion through private pricing causing farmers the hardship of knowing when to sell and when to hold.

This old market structure system is run in the interests of the grain buyers. Buyers can now bestow cheaper prices upon farmers by fiddling with the delivery time, place and with the quality offers (basis), thus paying a lower overall price for grain. Grain companies are in control of the quality bids and thus expect, gleefully, to capture more profit.

If grain is in short supply, then the price would be up. But when there is an abundant supply, and even if the farmers have not yet sold any grain, the price would be down because the buyers will say there is lots of grain around. Just listen to the trade.

They talk as if they own the crop based on what they think is being produced, as if they can say for sure that it will all be harvested.

Already, Canada’s customers are worried about the quality and timely delivery of our grain.  But they are happy that they might be able to find lower prices by talking to different suppliers. So what message does this signal to farmers about our farm income, Mr. Ritz?

Farmers are asking themselves, what did I do last election to deserve such an unscientific casino marketing headache from this government? Farmers are good at reading signals and they say bring back the value of our CWB, either by court order recovery of the CWB or by reinstatement of the CWB.

Ian L. Robson,
Deleau, Man.

PRIVATIZATION BY STEALTH

Brad Wall’s Sask Party government has deviously attempted to privatize health care/medicare and the crowns, attacked the rights of labour unions and set up private boards to dictate its policy. These actions haven’t involved consultation with the people of Saskatchewan who’ve benefited from medicare, our crown utilities, labour peace and consultation.

Health care/medicare has been studied by prominent people, commissions and Doctors for Medicare, who have suggested knowledgeable recommendations. Why didn’t Wall consider these findings? Hopefully the new premier’s plan will include former recommendations.

Instead of rebuilding public laundry facilities, government decided to truck our laundry to a private Calgary facility at great cost.

Wall’s government hastily established private-for-profit surgery clinics, robbing the public system of doctors and nurses, all this at public expense. This summer, private clinics are doing a majority of surgeries. Why?

Led by (cabinet ministers Bill) Boyd and (Ken) Cheveldayoff, crown profits were taken and assets sold. A stealthy way to privatize.

The government’s attack on labour unions, supported by the Chamber of Commerce and business organizations, has been continuous.

The promise not to bring in essential service legislation was a ploy. It was introduced without labour’s support.

Saskatchewan was first to introduce collective bargaining, minimum wage, safety in the workplace legislation and other initiatives resulting in labour/management peace for years.

Unions are key players in the workplace and society. They’ve struggled to have the producers of wealth receive equitable wages and good working conditions. Why attack unions when happy, healthy well-paid workers have so much to contribute to society and the economy?

Helen M. Baker,
Saskatoon, Sask.

CHANGES ALARMING

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, I have always been proud of the University of Saskatchewan. Yet I am currently alarmed by the changes proposed for the College of Arts and Science at the U of S.

Setting a deadline of 2014, college administration proposes that in the fine arts and humanities unit of the Arts and Science College, faculty research output must rise 20 percent by 2016 while at the same time, sessional lecturers currently teaching first year classes would be let go. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I am now and have been for 20 years a sessional teaching first year classes for the department of English.

In order for faculty to meet their goal while teaching more, the college urges that graduate students and senior undergraduates help teach first year students.

Graduate and undergraduate students are hard-working and motivated, but they are trying to finish their own degrees. Taking responsibility for the education of first year students would be, to say the least, burdensome.

Administration also proposes further increases in class size, fewer classes offered to students, instruction in 50 percent of classes done by webcast, video conferencing or “flipped classrooms” where the class consists of tutorials (student-led) with a lecture as something extra.

Administration wishes to partner the humanities departments of the universities in Regina and Saskatoon. If a class is offered by the University of Regina or even another university in Western Canada, will it still be offered by the University of Saskatchewan?

I am not aware of any study showing that such methods improve teaching or learning. With tuition costs rising, are students not getting less while paying more?

These sweeping changes will affect all Saskatchewan students who choose to attend their own provincial university. Given their impact, should these proposed changes have been more widely publicized and discussed? Public funding deserves public discussion.

Rhonda Anderson,
Saskatoon, Sask.

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