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Letters to the Editor

by Archives February 17, 2009

Dear editor,

Last week’s “Atheist Ads on the STM” caught my attention. It was refreshing to see that atheism might be making an appearance in Montreal. However, as I read, I not only found out that there is no “real” plans for atheist ads in Montreal, but additionally, that the man behind the Freethought Association, Justin Trottier, is actually quite out of touch with this beloved city of ours.
He states, “Montreal has led the way since the Quiet Revolution in terms of open-mindedness and intelligent conversation with minorities, as we could see with the reasonable accommodations.” Elsewhere in the article Trottier is also quoted as saying, “I admire Quebec for its strong leadership and secularism.”
I am at a loss as to where to even begin with these comments. As for Quebec’s “strong leadership” let me not go there. I think we all know how “strong” Charest’s leadership is in fact. Sticking more to the local Montreal scene, let’s examine these statements. Firstly, Montreal, or any part of Quebec, and secularism? I am baffled. Did we not just spend nearly $2 million in this city renovating a cross for a public park? Imagine putting up a cross in a public park in the year 2009! Does not seem very secular to me.
Secondly, Montreal and strong leadership? Hmmm, so far city hall has drawn up a new logo and slogan (good luck deciphering them), erected a rebuilt cross, run over a half-dozen pedestrians trying to clear snow (actually let’s be fair it was their contractors because actual city employees are too busy to clear snow), harassed police over demanding pay increases in line with mere inflation, and, finally, given themselves a few pay hikes for all this brilliant management.
As for Trottier’s comments in regard to reasonable accommodation they are nothing if not ridiculous. Reasonable accommodation was “intelligent” conversation with minorities! Could have fooled me, looked like a couple of white men trying to figure out how to rip burkhas off Islamic women. The whole charade was far from intelligent. Who the hell are “we” to suggest “who” and “what” is reasonable? That is not accepting, open-minded or accommodating. It is racist and backward like far too much of Quebec.
I am tired of people buying into this city’s, and this nation’s, propaganda about how open and advanced we are. People place too much faith in what we are told we are in this province. Wake up! This city and this province are constantly out of step with the rest of the developed world. The highest taxes in North America and what do I get? A logo that looks like a reject from art class and a cross in a public park. Although, if this city continues to ignore the pile of pedestrians in front of the “contractors” snow ploughs, I guess we will have to erect a cross somewhere sooner or later.
Yes, I think atheist ads would be good for Montreal. Here’s one for your consideration, “Montreal – reasonably accommodating, even God pays taxes.”

Michael Ernest Sweet

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Dear editor,

In last week’s issue, you printed a letter criticizing an article I penned as Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper last semester.
The letter in question, written by Ms. Laura Roberts, a director of the Co-op Bookstore, accused me of having presented the co-op unfairly in an article detailing the bookstore’s financial woes. As anyone who has read the article may remember, the bookstore is once again projecting a deficit (this year in excess of $13,000). Ms. Roberts’ letter makes several highly specious and surprisingly vague criticisms that I should like to touch upon.
Notably, Ms. Roberts takes exception to one particularly lengthy passage (containing no less than four financial figures), which she declares “incorrect.” I admit that I find her complaint somewhat curious, inasmuch as the cited figures were drawn from the Co-op’s own financial statements and its projected budget. Perhaps if Ms. Roberts had deigned to indicate which figures she found objectionable, and provided (any) evidence to that effect, there might be some room for discussion. She did not, however, and thus we are left to rely on her disavowal of the bookstore’s own published documents.
Ms. Roberts then proceeds to declare what will no doubt come as a surprise to many an economist – namely: “Deficit is debt, so to say that we will ‘take on debt’ to ‘pay a deficit’ is absurd. We have not proposed such an idea, nor would we.”
What can one say about such a pronouncement? Well, one thing to say is “No” – as in: No, deficit is not the same thing as debt per se. Strictly speaking, deficit is the shortfall between revenues and operating expenses, which can occur from year-to-year, whereas a company’s debt is the cumulative sum of its past shortfalls. Less strictly speaking, however, accrued debt is the way that companies deal with recurrent shortfalls when they have no assets to sell.
Yet, I cannot complain about Ms. Roberts’ penchant for conflation, without also crediting her remarkable ability to grasp subtle distinctions. Before reading her letter, I would have been unable to distinguish between the bookstore’s being “obliged to re-negotiate” its debts with the CSU (which she disputes), and its being “invited to re-evaluate its current debt” with the CSU (which she prefers).
While Ms. Roberts and I may quibble over the minutiae, the broad facts remain undeniable: the bookstore, having already benefited from a GM-style bailout, continues to limp along, struggling financially despite the best efforts of its board, who I genuinely believe want the best for their organization. However, rather than attempting to cut costs, reduce staff expenses and raise margins (as might a commercial organization), the bookstore has responded to its deficit with new spending initiatives (raising funds for a staff healthcare plan, for instance).
But bankruptcy, as a businessman friend of mine likes to say, is like gravity; once you’ve gone over the cliff, you cannot avoid it forever, no matter how hard you flap your arms (or your gums). The bookstore’s directorate has staked the future of their otherwise unsustainable business on students’ willingness to throw good money after bad through a new fee levy. All quibbling aside, it remains to be seen whether students are willing to believe doubling-down is the best response to a lost hand.

Andrew G. W. Haig

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