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Letters: week of Aug. 30

Vote bewildering with so many candidates Sir: With an overflowing slate of candidates in the current municipal election – four for mayor, 12 for city/county council, 28 for city council, plus school trustees - voters are understandably bewildered, if
Letters to the editor

Vote bewildering with so many candidates

Sir: With an overflowing slate of candidates in the current municipal election – four for mayor, 12 for city/county council, 28 for city council, plus school trustees - voters are understandably bewildered, if not frustrated.

One proposed solution is a return to the ward system, with four districts each electing one city and one city/county councillor. But the idea has stimulated little public support.

Is the large number of candidates a problem or just an inconvenience? Some might suggest a large number of citizens willing to take the responsibility of governing is a sign of a healthy democracy. Others might say that overwhelming voters actually undermines democracy and prevents thoughtful decision-making.

In any case, it’s the system we have for this election. So how will Sarnians cope?

Well, based on past behaviour, approximately two-thirds of the 54,000 eligible voters simply won’t vote. They’ll let the other one-third make choices for them, saving the trouble of investigating candidates and platforms.

The minority who do cast ballots will be in one of two groups. The first will earnestly examine all the campaign material that comes their way, analyse, compare, and decide as objectively as possible those they wish to elect. Many will choose all eight names allowed for councillors; others will strategically pick one or two names to improve the odds of their preferred candidate.

The second group will dutifully turn up to vote without having done much homework. They may choose names more or less at random, and will naturally pick the most familiar. Often, that’s the incumbents.

Fewer names on the ballot wouldn’t matter to non-voters except, of course, as a convenient excuse for ignoring the whole process. The prepared groups will go ahead with their investigation, and the less prepared but dutiful will take a few seconds longer to pick out familiar names.

This is long entrenched voter behaviour, and switching to a ward system is more or less unlikely to change it.

If, however, we agree changes ought to be made, there should probably be a comprehensive analysis of the existing system and consideration of ways to improve it.

Bryan Trothen


Killing cap-and-trade with no alternative will cost all Ontarians

Sir: When Premier Ford announced his intention to eliminate the carbon cap-and-trade system, he gave two reasons. He said the program was ineffective because the previous government was spending the revenue on the wrong things (retrofitting homes, schools, and social housing etc. to reduce energy consumption) and he said he wanted to reduce costs to Ontarians.

Conservatives typically embrace market-based solutions, and almost every economist in Canada agrees that putting a price on carbon is the best way to encourage a reduction in consumption.

So why didn’t Ford retain the cap-and-trade program and either spend the revenue on the “right” things to reduce consumption, and/or implement a revenue neutral tax and dividend system similar to that being used effectively in B.C.

Not only have Ontario families been signed up for some significant costs, including but not limited to reimbursing businesses that had previously paid billions for cap-and-trade allowances, but when the Ontario government cancelled the cap-and-trade system and broke its contract with industry, it immediately generated investor uncertainty that was noticed around the world.

For example, the German government warned multinationals to be wary of investing in Ontario, and California took action to protect their businesses trading with the province. All told, this will result in real capital and jobs leaving the province.

The P.C.’s have repeatedly promised an alternative climate plan, but all they’ve done so far is cancel programs. There is simply no excuse for not having a plan to address what is arguably the most pressing environmental and economic issue of our time. They had plenty of time prior to coming to power.

According to the Bank of Canada, we are already seeing the economic impact of global warming which, according to Deputy Governor Timothy Lane, if left unaddressed will reach “annual costs of between $21 billion and $43 billion by the 2050s.”

Is it too much to expect our premier to focus on steering our province through the transition to a low carbon economy rather than spending his time promoting Buck-a-Beer?

Peter R. Smith


Doctor wants to help, can’t practice in hometown

Sir: I am writing to continue the discussion of substance abuse in our city, as noted in "Drug addiction in community becoming epidemic, " and "Canada Day spoiled for children by drug addict" (July 12, 2018).

It is evident the increase in substance abuse in our city is causing not only fear and insecurity in the population, but also straining both our law enforcement and health-care systems.

There have been attempts within the health-care system to help improve the situation. The Erie St. Clair LHIN, in conjunction with Bluewater Health, has been seeking government assistance in opening a "withdrawal management" program. It would provide acute services for active substance abusers through detoxification, and could provide further structure for continuing outpatient treatment.

Thus far, they have been able to obtain seven residential beds, though the need is far greater. There are three outpatient recovery management clinics in the city, involving medication-assisted treatment, which have definitely been of benefit, but the fact a city Sarnia’s size requires three fully operating clinics is indicative of the problem here.

I am a U.S.-trained psychiatrist, with four years of experience directly managing addiction patients. I have returned to Sarnia with hopes to practice here.

I have run into multiple roadblocks in this process, as I have not fully completed my U.S. board certification, which prevents me from doing so in Canada.

Attempts to undergo training with an Ontario medical school under a “repatriation program” have, at this point, been rebuffed by three provincial medical schools.

Therefore, unless there is some other venue to pursue I will likely return to the U.S.

Meanwhile, I am constantly exposed to reports on 'psychiatrist shortages' and the increasing 'opioid crisis' both in the province and nationwide.

I don't have a solid solution here. I wish I could be of more use to my hometown, considering my skills and experience. However, we need to keep pursuing solutions, as the problem cannot be ignored or "driven out of town."

Michael Koval, M.D.


Mayor shouldn’t walk in parade

Sir: I see that the theme of the upcoming Labour Day Parade is "Violence & Harassment - Not part of the Job."

I would hope that this theme precludes any participation by Mayor Mike Bradley.

For those who have forgotten, or did not read the various reports by the integrity commissioner and others, they are available on the city's web at There is a shortcut to the exact page available at

Dick Carpani


Backyard fire smoke is annoying

Sir: I have to confirm the contents of the Aug. 16 article, "Smoked out: City ponders changes to backyard fire bylaw."

I live near in an apartment near the Northgate shopping centre and the practice is very prevalent in this area. I frequently smell burning wood during the day and night - weekdays and weekends.

Why would someone burn wood during the day in the summer with 26 C and above temperatures? Are they sitting outside beside a wood fire?

On cooler nights, I often can’t open the window. If it isn't Chemical Valley flaring (usually not an issue - but it occurs, depending on the direction of the wind) it is usually wood smoke.

Maybe the city can issue top-rated facial air purifiers for its citizens. What's a few hundred thousand dollars?

Tom Finlayson


‘Float down’ can be done safely

Sir: I completed my first St. Clair River ‘Float Down’ on Aug. 19

I left from the Canadian side of Lake Huron. I was tethered to a standup paddleboard, wore a PFD with a whistle and was sober, with only water on board.

I left the river at Centennial Park, which was enough for me. It was fun and very safe.

Under the Blue Water Bridge the water was calm with no powerboats transiting through. An easy paddle.

If people followed the Canadian Coast Guard precautions for this event listed in the Aug. 16 edition of The Journal, I believe they would be safer than bicycling through their neighbourhood.

Maybe some of the "on water resources" could be deployed to the launch site to discourage excessive drinking on the water. Be proactive.

There were 18 government boats blocking vessels from entering the river at noon. That's eighteen.

In short, I think this could be a fun annual event that anyone could complete safely with just a bit of planning.

I realize this is a very controversial event. You're entitled to your view, and I to mine.

Michael Lester


Excited to vote for Gillis

Sir: I had an opportunity recently to have an extensive conversation with mayoral candidate Anne Marie Gillis, and what a treat that turned out to be.

I hadn’t met her before, had only seen her on TV at city council meetings. I found her to be warm, engaging, knowledgeable and very sincere.

She has a whole lot of experience in municipal politics and we covered a lot of topics pertaining to municipal government and community endeavours and concerns.

I learned a lot about her thinking and vision, and believe we have an excellent candidate in Anne Marie Gillis. I encourage you to listen to her platform.

In the federal and provincial elections, I felt like I was voting against someone, rather than for someone.  Or that I was voting for the least bad option. I know many of my friends felt the same way.

But now, I feel like I have someone to vote FOR. I’m voting for a person and a future that sounds right to me.

I feel excited about the mayoral election now, and excited to cast my vote (although I still have to learn how to do it electronically). And that excitement feels good.

Laurie Trombley


There are better things to spend Float Down money on

Sir: I applaud Margot Gulliford and her letter in the Aug 23 issue, “Why do our taxes protect stupid, irresponsible float-downers?”

I agree totally with her comments. The costs involved for this so-called non-sanctioned event cuts into the city’s budget for the important items that need "fixing."

Also, the government should be cutting the Coast Guard budget and put the money into the health-care system that keeps getting cut.

I also would like to know who to register a complaint with. I’m surprised that the shipping companies are not complaining also?

Penny Clarke


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