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Military misgivings

It is interesting to view the Maclean’s/ CBC News poll results about preferences for our military role in Afghanistan. It is obvious there is no political constituency in Canada for the military. Although 68 per cent were either somewhat or strongly in agreement with substantially increasing spending on the armed forces, only 23 per cent were in favour of our military’s main purpose being “providing defence and attack in different parts of the world,” while 57 per cent favoured its role as primarily peacekeeping. It is true that the government has neglected the Forces; this is a continuation of a long tradition in Canadian politics, dating back to the Diefenbaker years and the Arrow program. The Chretien Liberals are well aware that although any U.S. administration that starved its military as we do ours would be run out of Washington on a rail, Canadians do not care enough about defence spending to make it any kind of issue at the ballot box. What the pollsters need to ask the next time around is this: “Are you in favour of paying significantly higher taxes if all the increased revenue were to go to the military?” I suspect the Grits are as confident as I am that the answer would be a resounding No by a wide margin. The issue just isn’t on voters’ radar.

Gerald M. Macdonald, Grande Prairie, Alta.

Canadian opinions

I got a warm and cosy feeling in reading about my fellow Canadians’ opinions (“Scary New World” Cover, Dec. 31/ Jan. 7). They assured me they are smart, informed and tolerant. In addition, they prompted a chuckle when they said they supported the anti-terrorist bill and then said they expected it would be abused by the police to grab other bad dudes. Only in Canada, eh! Pity. Damn it — we have it so good, let’s take care so all can have a good new year.


James Livingston, Dryden, Ont.

It’s either ironic or oddly fitting that your combined last issue of 2001 and first of 2002 are one and the same — it simply drags forward the Sept. 11 media super-saturation into the new year. Our world has been indelibly changed by these events, but the day-to-day lives of a vast majority of Canadians have not. The repetitive nature of this issue is perhaps best explained by the perennial questions it struggles to answer. What does Canada stand for? What role should Canada play on the world stage? Who are Canadians anyway? And all of the answers defined negatively by who we most certainly are not — Americans. Canada is beyond its adolescence, yet every emergency provokes a fitful identity crisis that has the country questioning its very essence, even four months after the fact. Or maybe, like any tremulous adolescent, it’s easier to loudly declare what you are not than to explore those nebulous truths that define us.

N. R. Lipinski, Regina

Pollster Allan Gregg should be careful to distinguish between the priorities of Canadians and of our governments. Many of us have always recognized the need for properly equipping and preparing our Forces for their missions. We did not need 9/11 to wake us up. Unfortunately, successive governments have made token gestures of support in world affairs, relying on lecturing others rather than making a real contribution, and sending Canadians into harm’s way ill-equipped due to government neglect. Despite polls showing up to two-thirds of Canadians support increased funding for the military, Jean Chretien dismisses this as people supportive of, or involved with, the arms industry. Lead us or leave us, M. Chretien.

Dave Griffiths, St. John’s, Nfld.

I find it somewhat encouraging that at least some Canadians are willing to spend more money on the military but doubt if this feeling will last. Since the First World War, we have endured more than 325,000 casualties in military or peacekeeping missions. Many of those casualties could have been avoided if our kids had been better-trained and better-equipped. Canadians have always been prepared to sacrifice the lives of our youth rather than our pocketbooks. Our military is still among the poorest when it comes to having state-of-the-art equipment. Canadian citizens should be ashamed and disgusted with themselves, but I don’t think they give a damn.

Trevor Frith, Huntsville, Ont.

When browsing through the year-end poll, I was dismayed to see that a large percentage of those polled, particularly men, thought that it was appropriate for the government to ask Canadians to spend more to stimulate the economy. If one thinks about it, one must conclude that Jean Chretien was irresponsible and thoughtless in asking Canadians to spend more to keep the economy rolling. Is it a good thing to ask the Canadian consumer to accept all the risk to stimulate the economy, when it is not lack of consumption that is the source of the problem? Is it smart to have us go further into debt to buy things we don’t need when personal bankruptcies are increasing, when credit-card delinquencies are on the rise and when personal debt is near the highest level in history? Is it the job of our populace to attempt to bail out corporations and governments that invested and spent improperly? I say No. I say that is a recipe for disaster. The economy needs a base of savings to draw capital from in order to create a more stable economic environment. It won’t accomplish that by spending borrowed money.

Peter Keber, Cobble Hill, B.C.

The article “In search of our role” seems to reflect some Canadian and media opinions when quoting Saskatchewan farmer Orval Altwasser, who states, in reference to people like Osama bin Laden and his followers: “Let’s sit down and ask these people what we can do to become friends again.” So, all we have to do is sit down and have a meaningful dialogue, come to a mutual agreement and write off those few thousand U.S. casualties as a misunderstanding. Yeah, right! I seem to recall Neville Chamberlain and Hitler doing just that at Munich in 1938.

Maj. C. O. Lambert (Ret.’d), London, Ont.

Historical views

The essay by historians Norman Hillmer and J. L. Granatstein was excellent (“Household feuds,” Dec. 31/Jan. 7). It explains very clearly our Prime Minister’s hesitancy in offering help to the United States immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Jean Chretien responded in a sociable and co-operative manner when asked for help; it was a U.S. war, not a Canadian one. Canadians who put down and renounce the Prime Minister’s handling of the situation would be the first to treacherously denounce Chretien again if he kowtowed to U.S. bullying by offering help in a conflict that Canada considered unjust.

Cy Poissant, Blairmore, Alta.

Your two eastern Canadian historians came up with the novel idea that Pierre Trudeau developed the National Energy Program “to wrest the oil and gas industry from foreign control.” A nice-sounding platitude to mask the real purpose: to provide cheap oil and gas for eastern Canadian industry and homes at the expense of Western Canada. Your historians chronicle the rise and fall of American anxiety and opposition. Obviously, they surveyed the East. The western experience has been much more even-keeled and realistic. Then, Peter C. Newman again parrots an eastern view (“The defining border,” Essay, Dec. 31/Jan. 7)) when talking of an urgent national need to protect sovereignty against American pressures. We in the West would be quite happy to have a North American immigration policy that required everyone to pass customs and immigration before boarding flights, ships, etc., that originate outside North America. The West has a much more accurate and realistic perspective on our southern neighbour. We tire of eastern tirades against the U.S. and the inaccuracies they convey of Canadian history and public opinion.

Edward Oke, Olds, Alta.

Many thanks for Peter C. Newman’s thoughtful and frightening essay. One hopes it will serve as a wake-up call to the many Canadians who seem to be sleeping through the evaporation of their country. One hopes as well that when the election Newman speaks of does roll around in two years’ time, we will be offered the choice to keep Canada out of U.S. hands as much as possible.

Peter Giaschi, Kingston, Ont.

‘Our steady, quiet heart’

Bravo to Barbara Amiel for hitting the nail on the head regarding Canada’s frequent anti-American bias (“The handsome solution,” Dec. 31/Jan. 7). In pointing out that Canada “will probably go on jealously guarding its independence from the U.S. like someone jealously guarding independence from his own brain,” Amiel is merely stating what we have witnessed for years. After reading the column, however, I became concerned that the point might be lost on some, particularly those readers less knowledgeable about the Canadian political scene. I worried needlessly. Maclean’s provided all the background necessary to even the most uninformed by publishing Peter C. Newman’s essay “The defining border” in the same issue. Newman lays out all of the Canadian Establishment’s Chicken Little arguments concisely in putting forth what only he could describe as a “doomsday scenario.” Thank you, Mr. Newman, for providing proof beyond a reasonable doubt for Amiel’s thesis.


Clinton W. Ford, Calgary

Barbara Amiel got it wrong. Canadians, in opposing an American union, are not jealously guarding themselves from a brain entranced by flash, glam and handsome solutions. We are protecting our steady, quiet heart.

Jane Griscti, Whitby, Ont.

I trust that Barbara Amiel’s comment on our future leader’s qualifications — “a Canadian Giscard,” tall, gorgeous with the terrific suits and perfect hauteur — was simply said in jest. So must we label her comment about a union with the U.S. Amiel has already voted with her feet by moving to London, so perhaps she’ll leave decisions on our future to those of us who remain in the best country in the world.

Lee Davis, Vancouver

Begging to differ

Thousands of last September’s stranded airline passengers have lasting good impressions of many Canadians who opened their hearts, homes and pocketbooks in sincere acts of kindness and concern. Too bad Maclean’s didn’t see fit to include our own citizens in its year-end review of images (“Images 2001,” Dec. 31/Jan. 7).

Phil Saunders, St. John’s, Nfld.

If, in response to not liking something I read in your magazine, I was to take a baseball bat and begin smashing the windows of your offices, would I be referred to as a “hard-core demonstrator” in your magazine? The year in pictures had exactly that description for the events in Quebec City during the Summit of the Americas. Those protesters are hoodlums and thugs, and you should not gloss over their criminal behaviour with politically correct euphemisms. They are no more “demonstrators” than I would be an “irate reader” were I to commit the aforementioned acts.