Pastors on Perches
As a church-going man, I was appalled by the extent of the abuse at the Meeting House church that Rachel Browne investigated in “Bad Faith” (March/April). Clear and enforceable safe-church policies are needed to protect churchgoers and clergy alike. For far too long, many churches and perhaps especially “megachurches” have placed their pastors on pedestals. In contrast, Michael Coren’s “Pastoring in a Pandemic” (January/February) reminds us that there are countless pastors and priests who do provide community members with necessary spiritual guidance and comfort. They are the unsung heroes who rarely make the front pages. Together, these two articles paint a complex and nuanced portrait of Canadian spiritual life.
Pete van Geest
Stuck in Transit
In “Off the Rails” (March/April), an account of Ottawa’s LRT calamity, Brett Popplewell raises unanswered questions. Why do governments continue to promote public-private partnerships when public accountability is often better served by public ownership? What does it say about Ottawa and Queen’s Park that they cannot be trusted to provide competent oversight? Public transit falls partly under provincial jurisdiction and can vary across provinces, but the major requirements for effective systems—money, expertise, and coordination—are universal and best served through federal standards and guarantees.
In “Too Little, Too Latte” (March/April), Rob Csernyik zeroes in on the dynamics shaping Starbucks workers’ efforts to unionize. In many ways, this battle reflects a broader shift in what constitutes a “first job.” Historically, many jobs now designated as a “first job”—baristas, servers, bartenders, retail sales, grocery clerks—were lifetime jobs that paid living, even middle-class, wages. Today, however, these jobs are commonly deemed only a “first job,” particularly by employers responding to calls for improved working conditions. In recent testimony before the US congress, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz argued that “Starbucks is probably one of the best, if not the best, first job in America.” The fight over unionization is also about the larger issue of whether these “first jobs” will remain as such or ever allow employees to build a future.
The Price Isn’t Right
In “Will Groceries Ever Be Affordable?” Nicole Schmidt interviewed food security expert and Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois about the inflated cost of groceries and whether the trend will ever reverse. I was disappointed to read Charlebois’s pushback on allegations of price gouging against Loblaw. Nowhere in the interview was it disclosed that, a few years ago, Charlebois received a $60,000 grant from the Weston Family Foundation—which, he says, was to pay post-doctoral students. Charlebois has been a food expert for publications like the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star as well as for CTV News, but this apparent conflict of interest calls into question his neutrality and credibility.