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June 4: Pitfalls in the pipeline purchase. Plus other letters to the editor

Trans Mountain pipeline’s Sumas Pump Station.

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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Pipeline pitfalls

As a democratic socialist, I am favourably disposed toward the idea of government ownership, but only if it is done well, cheaply and is for the good of the people and the planet.

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Ultimately putting $11-billion to $14-billion of taxpayers’ money into buying and expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline is sheer folly. No matter how many pipelines are built to tidewater, Alberta’s tar-sands days are numbered. The world is moving away from the dirtiest and most costly fossil fuels. Look at the mammoth divestments from Alberta’s sands in the past two years by the oil majors: Total, Statoil, Shell, Marathon oil, and ConocoPhillips.

What do those companies know that the Liberal government does not?

Justin Trudeau should not buy into a dying cause with our money. It gives democratic socialism a bad name.

Gordon Laxer, author, After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians, Gravenhurst, Ont.

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The smart move is to purchase the pipeline and give a 51-per-cent equity stake to First Nations along the route, ensuring certainty. When the pipeline is up and running, consider offers for selling part or all of the minority stake. Now that’s reconciliation.

Ross Holden, Gatineau, Que.

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Just two weeks ago, Trudeau, Morneau & Co. said they were going to indemnify Kinder Morgan against losses caused by political obstruction, and it would “likely come at no cost to Canadian taxpayers.” Now we’ve agreed to buy the thing for $4.5-billion. Not to worry, Bill Morneau tells us, “it is not the intention of the Government of Canada to be a long-term owner of this project.” So undoubtedly we’ll get our money back. Of course, in addition to the purchase cost for the existing pipeline, there’s the undisclosed cost of completing the expansion, elsewhere estimated at $7.4-billion.

I guess they can be forgiven. Mr. Trudeau wasn’t born yet, and at age 8, the future Finance Minister probably wasn’t paying attention when Jean Drapeau said in 1970 that “The Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby.” That one eventually cost Quebeckers more than $1.5-billion – a debt that took decades to clear.

Plus ça change.

Marc Grushcow, Toronto

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Justin Trudeau and his government really had only two choices: Buy the pipeline, or stand around and watch it fail to be constructed.

A fair price is, at best, an academic construct. The only real purchase price is one determined by a buyer and seller in any specific deal. It would be a mistake to spend millions of taxpayers’ dollars on an inquiry to determine a price that no one may be willing to agree upon. On balance, our government made a difficult, courageous decision to effectively nationalize a valued, necessary infrastructure asset in the interest of all Canadians.

Gary Vickers, Nepean, Ont.

Bare-knuckle trade

What Donald Trump fails to understand is that while China, his country’s main adversary, has business partners, the U.S. has allies. And also values. Which means that in the long term of this rivalry, America’s singular advantage is both the strength of its relationships and the attraction of its dynamism and idealism.

So what does Mr. Trump do? He slaps tariffs or quotas on his allies, harming these critical relationships for a quick political pay-off. And in a more immediate sense, costing U.S. consumers higher prices while harming the economies of the trading partners who are his future customers.

By what rationale do you conduct a trade war with a country with which you enjoy a trade surplus? Or negotiate – if this is a NAFTA tactic – by ultimatum and bullying? What works in New York real estate does not play in international diplomacy. The U.S. cannot afford to isolate itself on the world stage through bare-knuckle unilateralism, and cannot afford to alienate its long-standing allies.

Brian P.H. Green, Thunder Bay, Ont.

The whys of Phoenix

Your editorial, The Phoenix Fiasco Needs An Inquiry (May 31), highlighted many problems with the development of the Phoenix payroll system. You concluded that the workplace had become “politicized,” but you didn’t ask why that happened.

Consider the scorn and derision that’s heaped by the media upon government projects that aren’t done on time, or have cost overruns. No minister, no senior civil servant, would willingly be at the centre of that, and it is understandable that they might choose to try to hide problems and hope for the best. That seems to be what happened with Phoenix.

Surely all of us, citizens and journalists, have a role to play in being realistic about how major projects are carried out, and more thoughtful when challenges arise.

Linda Peritz, Vancouver

Ontario’s big decision

If the NDP wins in Ontario on June 7, we have four years of accelerated fiscal irresponsibility. Then they return to oblivion.

If the Progressive Conservatives win, we have four years of bumbling incompetence. Then they return to obscurity.

In either case, the Liberals will likely reign for another generation after they get over the next four years. But if the Liberals win, there is the prospect of new leaders for both the PCs and the NDP, and some hope for the future after we suffer through another four years of fiscal irresponsibility.

Looking back four years from now, the Liberals are the least worst choice.

C. R. (Ray) Luft, Mississauga

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With all due respect to Ontario’s mushy-middle Liberal types, it’s crunch time. The next government will not be Liberal. It will be NDP or PC. It’s time for red voters to show us their true colours. Will they go down with their sinking ship, or drop their social justice pretenses, and hand the premier’s office to Doug Ford, who has no real platform and promises only deep cuts to taxes and public services? Or will they side with society and get behind NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to stick up for real solutions to the real problems facing real people in this province?

The centre will not hold.

It’s time for Liberals to swallow defeat, pick a side, and determine this election.

Chris Rapson, Toronto

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The fact that Doug Ford and the PC Party have released a platform but have not fully costed it speaks volumes. You can promise anything – large savings, more jobs, great prosperity for the people of Ontario – but if you haven’t attached timelines, costs for completion or what you will jettison to make it all happen, it is just a carrot for voters with no mention of a stick that may need to be used. If this is the best Mr. Ford can do, perhaps he is not ready to lead.

Deborah McLean, Napanee, Ont.

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I am confused as to why Doug Ford plans to scrap “discovery math” in the educational curriculum, should he become premier.

Isn’t undirected, experimental fumbling toward numbers exactly how he developed his party’s unfunded fiscal plan?

Terry Labach, Waterloo, Ont.

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