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March 29: Fixing the housing bubble. Plus other letters to the editor

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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Doomed to repeat?

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Re Liberals Reverse Course On Chinese Deal (March 28): Your article on the Trudeau government agreeing to allow a Chinese takeover of a Montreal high-tech company, thereby exposing Canadian technology to appropriation by China for use in directed-energy weapons, brings to mind the sale by Britain of advanced jet engine technology to the former Soviet Union in the late forties.

Britain led the world in jet engines at that time. Stalin could not believe that the Labour government of Clement Attlee would consent to the export of Rolls-Royce Nene engine technology to the USSR, but it did. The Soviets reverse engineered the engines and the MiG-15 fighter was born.

These aircraft with their British-designed engines flew to great effect against UN fighters in the Korean war.

Those who fail to learn from history …

J. David Gorrell, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

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Fixing the bubble

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Re There's Only One Way To Fix The Bubble (March 28): The spread of single-family, high-cost, high-maintenance (usually underoccupied) monster homes – on monster lots or tiny lots – and hundreds of square kilometres of low-density housing, each house kilometres from the nearest carton of milk or banana, with only automobile transport, is probably not the ideal answer to the housing pricing/supply situation.

Europe has found some solutions. Maybe we should look at new towns, nodal points, with good transport and integrated commercial (shops, cafés, restaurants) and residential areas, multistory buildings, with flats, balconies and parks, rather than the individual detached houses. Flats should be built to accommodate kids.

This, alas, would require planning (a dreadful word, like "thinking") and would make life more difficult for certain kinds of profiteers (a gazillion houses, few or no new transport links or roads), and would require a change in people's attitudes.

We cannot just keep eating up the land and resources forever. Just pure deregulation would lead to a massive sprawling mess. (These exist already – hidden from the urban "elite"except when they drive up to their out-of-town estates – with people walking miles to catch a bus to some underpaid job.) Nature – unpolluted, uncontaminated, unpeopled (or not excessively peopled) – is a value in itself.

Gilbert Reid, Toronto

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A market driven by speculation and not actual demographics doesn't follow the usual supply and demand scenario. The proof is that thousands of investment properties, mainly condos, sit empty here while people unable to find affordable rental housing are forced onto the streets.

Increasing housing density, which Vancouver has done by leaps and bounds, has caused land values to skyrocket.

The root cause of this situation is that governments failed to protect affordable rental housing from the start. That would have curbed speculation, while helping to keep land values down.

At this point, the horse has left the barn as far as reclaiming affordability. Only a bursting of the real estate bubble will bring back any semblance of demographics-based affordability.

Charles Leduc, Vancouver

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Cod catastrophe

Re Northern Cod's Comeback Prompts Call For Bigger Fishery (Report on Business, March 28): While it is encouraging to see that the northern cod stock is finally showing signs of recovery, will the Fisheries Union ever learn the need for caution?

Even though the stock off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador is finally rebuilding, it is still way below the numbers needed for a sustainable fishery.

This is the kind of interest-group pressure that led to the collapse of the stock in the late 1980s/early 1990s and necessitated the moratorium in 1992.

Initiating a large-scale cod fishery too soon is not the way to address the issues arising from the shrimp and crab decline. For once, let's wise up and learn from the past.

Scott Parsons, former chief scientist and assistant deputy minister (retired), Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Ottawa

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The Potter principle

I am a (white) allophone Torontonian with a McGill PhD. I spent five years at a historically black South African university, and now lead an academic department at the francophone Université de Montréal. I don't think Andrew Potter 's resignation was inevitable or even necessary, but his Maclean's article and the subsequent media focus on "academic freedom" are both academically sloppy and politically tone-deaf.

I cannot imagine such a piece written under the official banner of a (white) director of a Centre for the Study of South Africa at a (white) elite South African university. Even though white South Africans, and elite universities, have been there for centuries. We expect – and regularly see – trenchant and often polemical critique of all aspects of South African society by academics of all races, but informed by historical and socio-political insight and by relevant evidence.

Academic freedom comes with academic responsibility, not least to develop an ear for distinguishing analysis, argument, and (good) polemic from rant.

Christina Zarowsky, MD, Département de médecine sociale et préventive, École de santé publique de l'Université de Montréal

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I would like to express my appreciation to Professor Eric Savoy of Universite de Montréal for one particular line in his letter regarding the Andrew Potter incident at McGill (Academic Freedom, March 27). The line: " 'Freedom of speech' is not a credible defence against the propagation of prejudice and negative stereotype."

Surely this manifests a very dry wit, since Prof. Savoy is, in this one line, doing a very great deal to propagate the negative stereotype of universities as places that cannot tolerate much by way of disagreement or debate. Note that the line in question does not refer to a freedom – "academic freedom" – that only some possess (not, it seems, those lacking a traditional academic appointment), but the more general freedom of speech (even targeted by "scare" quotes!).

As difficult as it is to draw in some cases, I am still attracted to J.S. Mill's distinction between offence (allowed) and harm (not) when it comes to "freedom of speech."

David Checkland, associate professor, Department of Philosophy, Ryerson University

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Work wanted

Re Why Is Kaepernick Unemployed? (Sports, March 28): Just maybe because he is not as good as he once was. Colin Kaepernick was paid a large salary as a San Francisco 49er; other clubs may not be keen on $14-million for a quarterback who has been on a decline.

Some fans are trying to make the case that clubs are staying away from him because he didn't stand for the national anthem last season. That might be true in some cases, but in the NFL you have to be good. Mediocre won't get you hired.

Gregory Boudreau, Halifax

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