Letters May 22: Why urban living is good; home on a plane; ambassadors at work

Risk not always higher in high-density areas

Re: “High-density living and the pandemic,” letter, May 20.

A recent letter writer suggests that we shouldn’t encourage people to live in city centres because it puts them at risk during a pandemic.

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While many large cities have been hit hard by COVID-19, a strong causal relationship with urban density has not been established. Many large, dense Asian cities have had much lower rates of COVID-19 than their less densely populated European and North American counterparts.

In North America, some of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 can now be found in low density rural regions.

Vancouver and San Francisco are two of the most densely populated cities in North America, and yet both have lower rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths than most North American cities.

Even within B.C.’s Lower Mainland, the prevalence of COVID-19 is similar in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which includes the densely populated city of Vancouver, as it is in the Fraser Health Region, which is mostly lower-density suburbs and rural areas.

Discouraging people from living in cities for health reasons is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

People living in cities tend to be healthier on average than those in suburbs or rural areas.

In addition to better access to health care in cities, studies have shown that a big reason that city dwellers are healthier is because they tend to get more exercise than their suburban or rural counterparts since they can walk or cycle to many of the places they need to go, and are less dependent on driving.

The City of Victoria hasn’t been forcing people to live downtown as the letter writer seems to suggest; they choose to do so because it offers them an attractive lifestyle. As a result, roughly as many people have moved into Victoria since 2011 as have moved to Langford.

In the longer term, climate change is a greater threat to the world’s health and well-being than COVID-19.

We should be encouraging people to live in cities, since urban dwellers produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than suburban and rural residents thanks to lower levels of driving, smaller, more energy efficient homes, and reduced demand for clearing and developing land.

Steven Murray

Turn unused planes into homes

As some planes are going to be taken permanently out of service, their bodies should not be scrapped, but turned into housing for those in need.

The government should ensure that they do not become second homes, but primary residences with, for large craft, more than one dwelling.

Disused airport lands could serve as the location for these aircraft, stripped of wings and flight electronics. Such locations will often have local transport and other amenities nearby.

Any local hotels could be turned into condos and apartments with retail and community spaces established on lower floors.

The time has come to radically adapt to new circumstances, new and old.

Glynne Evans

What to do with that extra $300

There are so many people who are hurting because of the COVID 19 pandemic. The government recently announced a one-time tax-free payment of $300 to all persons receiving Old Age Security.

We will each receive this supplement. For many pensioners, it is needed to cover their extra costs incurred during these times.

For others who may already be comfortable in their retirement it is a nice little bonus. If you are in this group please consider donating the money to a local charity.

They in turn will help those who are in most need of help. That is how we each intend to use our $300 supplement.

Richard and lori Parsley

The unglamourous work of ambassadors

Re: “How ambassadors became cab drivers,” Lawrie McFarlane column, May 17.

Lawrie McFarlane’s ill-informed broadside against Canadian ambassadors reveals more about his lack of understanding about what ambassadors do than it does about the profession itself.

Over the last year, Canada’s ambassadors have been front and centre in such crucial activities as renegotiation of NAFTA agreement and, in response to COVID-19, the repatriation of an unprecedented number of Canadians from around the globe.

McFarlane seems to have missed all this. His insights appear to be based on two years spent lobbying for grain interests during the last round of global trade negotiations, over 30 years ago.

One would hope that even this limited experience would have taught him that key trade policy decisions such as Canada’s position on supply management are made at the cabinet table, not by officials on the fly in Geneva.

He is right in one respect: the job is not glamorous.

It’s often tough and complex, involving a range of responsibilities, working at high levels to support Canadian companies, build partnerships on global issues, look after Canadians in trouble, advocate on human rights, or promote international security, and strengthen military ties, all backed by the embassy team.

This requires cultivation of contacts and sustained engagement with leading figures in the government, business and non-government-organization communities.

As we head into uncertain times and a shifting global order, Canada’s ambassadors will be key in helping us strengthen our ties with new partners, keep tabs on adversaries, and respond swiftly to new regional and global challenges.

As a frequent writer on Canadian foreign policy, McFarlane should know this, but his comments make it clear that he really doesn’t understand the job at all.

Philip Calvert
B.C. director of the Retired Heads of Mission Association

Really locked in, and still doing their part

“Everyone must do their part” has become a constant mantra in these days. Thankfully, that is largely happening.

We regularly hear what companies are doing to help. We hear about initiatives from children to raise money for support of those affected. We even have one gentleman 101 years old doing his part.

There is one segment of our population that is largely out of sight, out of mind. That is the inmate population in federal corrections institutions.

These folk are in a virtually constant state of lockdown and confined to their rooms while this situation lasts. They are not wasting this time.

These kind folks are busy making masks to help keep front line workers safe.

I laud their contribution and thank them for it. We all owe them a vote of thanks for their help in this situation.

Phil Bulled

Conditions for wearing a mask

The federal government’s recommendation to wear masks if social distancing is not possible is fine so long as they provide them free and they are made in Canada.

I will not support the COVID-19 debacle if my money goes off shore. Manufacture the masks here. Let’s support local first.

Bennett Guinn

Beacon Hill Park needs to be accessible

One of the main reasons I come to Victoria is the sights and atmosphere, and Beacon Hill Park is always on my list for visiting.

Drive or walk along the sea bank as time allows, or perhaps just sit in the car and enjoy a takeout lunch and watch the ocean, as I did many days over the last year when my wife was in the Royal Jubilee Hospital (she’s fine now). So, please, don’t close this beautiful area off, keep it wide open for all to enjoy, including the tourists.

Paul Ellegood

Retire or replace Snowbirds planes

Re: “ ‘Good questions’ being asked about safety of Snowbirds: Trudeau,” May 19.

I’ve written to our defence ministers, parliamentarians (including senators with connections to the defence industry) for more than 30 years about retiring or replacing these planes.

I am saddened and angered once again with the loss of life and I’m looking for any help in breaking this cycle.

Peter Foran

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