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Letters Nov 29

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A Christmas strategy

It was 5 p.m. last Dec. 24 when I met a friend for coffee. This was planned as our quiet moment before the holidays. I soon realized that he was not at all relaxed and asked him to explain his anxiety. He said there were still two Christmas gifts he forgot to buy and was planning to stop at the mall on the way home.

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That is when the idea came to me.

Instead of spending endless hours shopping for the 43 gifts on your list, take your annual Christmas budget and buy a great present or two for yourself. Then send 43 thank-you notes to your family and friends, telling them how much you really enjoy their gifts.

Now imagine this becoming the new way to shop for Christmas. Everyone loves their gifts. No returns on Boxing Day and no unwanted ties or sweaters of the wrong size. The economy will thrive as usual, and... no stress.

One exception is children. I will always buy gifts for all the kids on my list.

My invitation to one and all. Let us enjoy the holiday season by spending more time with family and friends rather than the shopping malls.



Subsidize winter tires

If the NDP is so intent on raiding Autopac in the name of safety, then at least let's do something that's known to work. Rather than skim the funds for infrastructure (which should be through provincial and city taxes), we should follow Quebec's lead and make winter tires mandatory.

Prudent driving, snow clearing and sanding are vital, but since instantaneous response and infinite budgets don't exist, we're left with prudent driving. Winter tires are an immediate fix that can make a difference for those drivers who are just quite not able to avoid an impending accident. They are an opportunity to at least shave off a decent percentage of accidents. If the province were to make their use mandatory, then let Autopac fund sliding-scale rebates. I believe this will make more of a safety difference than fixing a few roads.




Manitoba Public Insurance apparently has a surplus and is looking for ways to spend some of it.

There is a partial solution -- expand the coverage of MPI. Specifically, expand coverage to reimburse the auto owner for the depreciated value of the vehicle as a result of an accident. There is no doubt that a vehicle is devalued as the result of an accident.

Depreciated value is covered in a few U.S. states with more considering it. The insurance industry in the U.S. is opposed to it. Legislators in a few states, however, have passed legislation making it mandatory for insurance settlements to factor in the depreciated value of the vehicle. This coverage makes sense, especially when the accident is not the owner's fault.

MPI, the Public Utilities Board and our politicians should put the necessary orders in place to expand MPI coverage before any peripheral initiatives are undertaken. Coverage for depreciated value would be a legitimate way for MPI to expend some of the surplus while keeping within its mandate.



NDP then and now

Re: Playing politics with poverty in Manitoba (Free Press, Nov. 26)

While one can fully agree with Shauna MacKinnon that even the most progressive governments do their best to avoid the welfare debate, they hesitate to increase support for people on income assistance because there's nothing to gain politically.

But as MacKinnon and other poverty activists know, that was not always the case. In the 1970s, Manitoba premier Ed Schreyer and the NDP, as well as prime minister Pierre Trudeau, were concerned about people on social assistance and implemented a guaranteed annual income here in Manitoba. By all accounts, according to research, it was a success.

What is amazing is the difference in attitude between the Manitoba NDP in the 1970s and the NDP today. Today's provincial NDP rejects any notion of implementing a guaranteed annual income, as opposed to the NDP in the 1970s.



Trade deal reality check

The American company Lone Pine Resources recently announced its intentions to sue the government of Canada for more than $250 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement over Quebec's decision to impose a moratorium on controversial oil and gas exploration fracking activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This decision was made by elected officials and with the support of Quebec voters.

This case provides an important reality check to Canadians in the face of the Harper government's promotion of the Canada-China Investment Treaty. Once signed, it would allow Chinese companies (including state-owned enterprises) to sue Canada over decisions that can limit or reduce their expectation of profits. China could claim damages against Canada for decisions at the municipal, provincial, territorial or federal level. Decisions of Canada's courts can also give rise to damages.

This is already happening with private U.S. corporations. Is this how Canadians want to spend more of their tax dollars in the future -- defending our country against secretly negotiated, long-term, binding trade agreements made on our behalf with other countries that enable corporations to contest democratically made decisions within our borders and jeopardize our environment for generations to come?



Pig-pen replica disturbing

I was at the University of Winnipeg last week and came upon a display outside of the university cafeteria that addressed the current state of affairs for our pork industry in Manitoba.

On display was a life-size female pig standing in a replica of the type of pen these unfortunate animals spend the majority of their lives in -- standing, never lying down or with room enough to turn around.

The persons looking after the display and taking names for petitions on behalf of the Winnipeg Humane Society were very knowledgeable and opened my eyes to a situation I had no idea existed.

I am at a loss that such a tragic state of affairs can be allowed to continue in this day and age, especially in a country as progressive as Canada. This must be done away with and more humane practices put into place. I would gladly pay more for my pork if I knew the animals that feed my family were treated ethically.

I should add that I was impressed with the University of Winnipeg's cafeteria in that they use humane meat and compostable products.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2012 A16

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