Fan Mail

Readers again provided many comments on this year’s articles. Not all of them were positive.

Darlene Grant Fiander, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, took exception to my report on this year’s excellent results. She points out that the Yarmouth ferry results in 70 (seasonal) jobs and $11 million in spending, of which $4.4 million is for fuel. No doubt this is true, but it hardly justifies $14 million in subsidies.

Rob questioned my assertion that the new way of subsidizing films has better transparency. Who was getting paid, or how much they were getting under the previous tax-based system is invisible to all but tax assessors.

Under the new system, there is a public announcement of the name and subsidy amount for each film project. Even greater transparency would be achieved if the contributions to the income of those making over $100,000 were published.

Some of my friends in the business world were surprised and dismayed by the advocacy of a $15 minimum wage. They did not buy the argument that a slow transition and support for investments in productivity would make it viable. “If a worker’s pay represents his/her marginal contribution to the firm, allow the market to decide. With all respect, I am highly skeptical of the ability and effectiveness of our bureaucrats to micro-manage our economy.”

I wrote three articles on the leadership race for the federal Conservatives, the last of which looked at the policy positions of the seven leading candidates.

An organizer for Kevin O’Leary took exception to my criticism of his comparatively meagre policy offerings: ”Kevin has been a declared candidate for two weeks. The others have been candidates for six to twelve months.” No doubt true when it was written, but O’Leary never advanced much more. Having started late, he quit early.

A guns lobbyist was disappointed that my article on the seven candidates did not chart their positions on gun control. Although the article tested readers’ patience by being twice the usual length, it necessarily omitted many topics, some of them rather more important than guns.

A former Cabinet Minister wrote that he “was particularly impressed by” the column urging environmentalists to advocate practical solutions.

He was heavily outnumbered by a well-orchestrated group, who thought that it was acceptable for taxpayers to pay for disposing of a derelict vessel. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society chose to abandon it rather than paying the fine it incurred for breaking the law.

“This article is a waste of time.” “Mr. Black, how is it to live in alternate reality? You should learn a new concept: facts checking. Everything you talked about was a load of rubbish!” “These are fake news… Mr. Black, you are an anti-activist and by far not a true journalist…” “Get your facts straight Mr. Black or start writing for the gossip column.”

Most difficult to write was the article arguing for respectful dialogue about racial inequities—finding the right tone without fudging the issue. This received a lot of supportive comments from people who were struggling to find ways to discuss the topic constructively.

“I always enjoy your thought provoking and well researched columns. Today’s was a great example.” “I am happy you are doing this. Thank you for your leadership.” “So appreciated your article yesterday. As (was) whispered to me at a meeting 2 weeks ago ‘we are all pretty good people around this table and we are now all labelled as racist.’ Sometimes hard to listen and not be able to say much.”

Inevitably, there were others who thought being rude and offensive was the right choice for minority activists, rather than the recommendation in “Bill Black’s outdated, over-privileged and backwards line of thinking.”

It is always useful to hear opposing views not only for their content but also by the way they are expressed. What are characterized as differences about facts are often differences in how an issue should be framed.

Tourism’s Ms. Fiander asserts that “the figures quoted on the marine access link to the United Sates are simply wrong…” without quarrelling with the assertion that the subsidies are $14 million, close to $1,000 per passenger. Where we strongly differ is whether that expenditure is justified by the resulting economic benefit.

The Sea Shepherd supporters differ on “facts” because they think the problem was not their actions but rather the choice of the Canadian government to defend the seal industry.

This is not to say that the columns are immune from error. I am always glad to receive and acknowledge evidence of factual errors.

Beyond that, if the columns contain accurate facts but fail to prompt any discussion, it means that the ideas expressed are neither new nor interesting. So please keep feedback of all kinds coming.

Merry Christmas.


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