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The Ontario and Canadian flags fly at the Ontario Legislature Building, at Queen's Park in Toronto.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Ontario’s big big-decision

From botched candidate nominations, to threatening e-mails to constituents, where is democracy heading? Perhaps it’s time to prequalify the people who will become our lawmakers and who will decide how to spend our tax dollars. These are BIG decisions.

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Professions in Canada (or North America) are competitive. It’s hard to get in. Law, medicine, investment banking … the list goes on and on. Only the brightest get selected to practise the profession of their choice.

Why not politicians, too?

Maybe it’s time for all political hopefuls to pass a PAT (Political Admission Test) just like the MCAT, LSAT and GMAT, and only let the brightest run. And just as Olympic athletes must pass antidoping screens, political hopefuls need to be regularly tested on the basic moral and ethical values of the society we live in. In Ontario, we have an Education Quality and Accountability Office for our students. Maybe it’s time for the equivalent for candidates who want to run our governments?

N.P. Singh, Whitby, Ont.

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While your editorial, Ontario’s Bind: Bad Leader Or Wrong Party (June 6), correctly describes the undesirable choices Ontario voters are facing, it does not analyze the systemic reasons why we have this conundrum in the first place – a voting system that can give disproportional majority power to a party supported only by a fraction of the electorate, and/or the tradition of assigning the premiership to the leader of that party.

These are the features of our brand of democracy that enable the type of radical change which will prove costly in the long term.

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But Ontario is not Venezuela! Under a fairer system as practised in many Western democracies, today’s vote would likely translate into a coalition government that implements gradual and reasoned change – punishing past shortcomings, but not turning things upside down and creating instability.

Walter Tholen, Toronto

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Today, Ontarians elect MPPs, not a premier. Only if one party gets an overall majority in the Legislature does it become the governing party and its leader the premier, as the Ontario Election Handbook grievously oversimplifies.

When no party wins a majority, the incumbent premier has the first crack at testing her government’s support in the legislature. If she loses that vote, it is then up to the Lieutenant-Governor to find someone who can win that confidence vote. This is not necessarily the leader whose party won the most seats. In 1985, the Liberals led by David Peterson were the second-largest party, but with support from the NDP they and not the Progressive Conservatives – with the most seats – formed a government. After today, the tables might very well be turned.

Joseph Wearing, Political Studies, professor emeritus, Trent University

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As the three leaders limp to the finish today, perhaps the best result would be to adopt a leaf from former Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, who, when taking the measure of candidates in a literary contest, famously declared that there would be no first or second prize, only a third.

Adam de Pencier, Toronto

Reproductive facts of life

Re Bill Aims To Decriminalize Payment For Eggs, Sperm And Surrogates (May 30): Forgotten in the debate about the decriminalization of the payment of egg and sperm donors and surrogates are the marginalized women and men who currently donate in exchange for a negotiated payment.

Despite the prohibitions, paid donors and surrogates are a fact of life in Canada. The health and safety of these women are protected only by the ethics of a handful of specialized lawyers who draw up the contracts. Their medical care is not subject to the usual oversight. Their care may be with the same physician as the egg recipient or commissioning person(s). Some of these women will suffer immediate adverse events. An unknown number will be ill later as a consequence of donation/surrogacy. And what of the welfare of their own children?

Decriminalization and proper oversight will allow the provinces to reduce suffering and protect these vulnerable women and their families.

Arthur Leader, professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine, University of Ottawa

‘Tarrifying’ policy

Re Trump Seeks Separate Talks With Canada, Mexico (June 6): I agree Canada should hold tight in our rejection of U.S. attempts to delete the dispute-resolution provisions and add a sunset clause, but I’m not so sure that sticking with Mexico is in our best interest.

In NAFTAs’ current form, Mexico, with its considerably lower labour costs, enjoys a huge advantage over both Canada and the United States.

While it appears “honorable” to stand by Mexico’s side, I don’t think it’s worth falling on our sword for.

Jay Gould, Toronto

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It has been said that war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. Perhaps trade wars are His way of teaching them economics.

Americans do need to relearn the lessons of the 1930 Smoot Hawley Tariff, which choked global trade, destroyed U.S. jobs, and deepened the Great Depression. They need to relearn that trade is a mutually beneficial activity, that strong import demand is a sign of a robust economy, and that trade balances are not some scoresheet in an imaginary global contest.

These are not lessons that Donald Trump can learn. He seems unteachable, even by divine intervention. But we are hearing many U.S. leaders – congressional, state, business and academic – speaking out against Mr. Trump’s “tariffying” economic policies.

So, God willing, there is hope.

Tom MacDonald, Ottawa

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Christian Leuprecht and Roger Bradbury offer a dangerously short-sighted take on both rationality and national self-interest (Trump’s Beggar-Thy-Neighbour Trade Strategy Is Anything But Foolish – June 5). In the years after 1945, the United States led the way in creating a freer global economy precisely because the wise leaders of that time understood that a prosperous world was itself the central American interest. Prosperous countries would be peaceful democracies. This was good for the U.S. both on economic and security grounds. The Great Depression had taught the world that lesson with brutal force.

That Donald Trump is taking us back to the international divisions, and possibly the war and tyranny, of the 1930s and 1940s is neither rational nor in anyone’s interest. Perhaps not even his, but he lacks the rationality to see this.

Benjamin Carter Hett, author, The Death of Democracy; history professor, City University of New York

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In a phone call after imposing tariffs on Canada was presented as a “national security” issue, Donald Trump is reported to have said to Justin Trudeau: “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?”

He was referring to British troops’ burning down the White House during the War of 1812, which was a response to an earlier American attack at York, now Toronto. No mention from Mr. Trump about that, or about Canada not even existing until 1867. But while we’re on the topic of history, here’s a toughie for the President: When was the War of 1812?

Jerry Amernic, Toronto


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