Fan Mail

Readers were again generous with their thoughts this year.

One began the year on a pessimistic note:

“In my opinion, there is NO chance of hitting the projected “ferry” numbers. Who is going to want to leave Halifax to spend the night in Yarmouth, to be on time for an early sailing? What tourist will want to arrive in NS so late in the evening that the only choice will be to spend the night in Yarmouth?”

“This government gets 3 F’s from me – F on Ferry, F on Film, and F on Fracking. I have little hope, and assume my kids will have to live elsewhere to have a prosperous and healthy life.”

The pessimism on the Ferry was certainly merited—the 14,000 visitors it brought cost at least $1,000 each in subsidies. They make up less than 1% of the 2016 visitors to Nova Scotia.

An observer of the No vote on amalgamation in Pictou County opined that the efforts of the Yes side were counterproductive:

“…the best sales people for the No side are the Yes side politicians and bureaucrats.”

These articles are necessarily brief and superficial. In response to “Lots of Surgeons, Not Enough Money”, one reader found a pleasant way to say as much:

“Good article as usual. You are just scratching the surface of the problems in our health care system but this is a good scratch!”

A September article noting the dramatic slowdown in refugee arrivals since the end of February was echoed by many frustrated private sponsors. It appeared then that the federal Liberals would substantially miss their twice-rescheduled goal of 25,000 government supported refugees by the end of 2016.

Happily, things have sped up considerably in the last ten weeks and there is a good chance they will make it. Even better news for Nova Scotia, which may reach 5,000 immigrants this year, including 1,500 refugees.

Positive comments are of course encouraging, but it is most rewarding when it is possible to notice discernible impact on public policy. A December 2014 article observed that it made no sense to pay Nova Scotia Power a risk premium on the financing of Efficiency Nova Scotia investments, since payment via ratepayers is virtually guaranteed.

In late 2016, the Utilities and Review Board approved a change to low interest rate bank borrowing, which will save ratepayers millions. Of course, the article may have had nothing to do with it, but one can always hope.

My proposal that carbon taxes could be offset by income tax reductions was dismissed as naïve:

“Don’t be duped in believing politicians claims that they can create a “revenue-neutral” tax. They haven’t created one yet, and likely won’t in the future.”

The suggestion that the government should restrict the number of Individual Program Plans (IPPs) per teacher drew hostile fire from teachers:

“This is truly one of the most ignorant and irresponsible opinions I’ve ever read on any subject. Your lack of compassion for those with special needs—and their right to an adequate education—shows a lot about your character or lack thereof.”

There were other less incendiary versions of the same opinion. They were largely justified. The effort to identify ways that the government could help teacher workload issues should have been better informed.

That said, engaging with critics is often productive.

One of them acknowledged as much in our exchanges:

“Thank you for asking questions and requesting more information. If the government were doing what you’re doing, I think our work-to-rule would be over a lot quicker.”

IPPs are very labour intensive and therefore represent an area of opportunity, but it is beyond the scope of these articles to identify how to make them work better. Neither are they a suitable topic for the rigid straight-jacket imposed by collective bargaining.

The article on Canadian Values was well received. For example:

“Bill Black’s handy test for Americans to see if they’d like living in Canada is outrageously funny and at the same time, so very true. I have read it three times already and it makes me laugh out loud every time.”

Many readers chose to share it with American friends and relatives. The response differed sharply depending on how people had voted. Let’s hope that Canadians never become so polarized.

It is always encouraging to receive comments such as:

“Thank you for these articles. I find them helpful in understanding reality. Please don’t stop.”

But they also emphasize the responsibility to do the homework.

Please keep the comments coming, good and bad. They both encourage and challenge the writer.

This space will be on break til the New Year. Merry Christmas.


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