York Region rapid transit plan includes link to University

York Region’s rapid transit committee is expected today to call for a $539-million commitment to build a $1.6-billion rapid transit network – with links to York University – reported the Toronto Star Sept. 10. Such a network would be contingent on both Ottawa and Queen’s Park agreeing to provide funding along with York Region that would bring bus rapid transit to the region by 2010. The plan features bus rapid transit along Yonge Street and Highway 7, with some extensions within Vaughan and Markham, and possibly links to the TTC at York University and the Don Mills subway.

Family values new theme in election

News media have been seeking out political scientist Robert MacDermid, of York’s Faculty of Arts, to comment on the Ontario election campaign. Here are some of his comments:

  • The Globe and Mail Sept. 10 quotes him on Ontario Premier Ernie Eves’s decision to emphasize his family during the provincial election campaign. “The Conservatives want to bolster their electorate, people who are usually against same-sex marriage,” MacDermid said. But that likely is not the case with Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, he added. “He’s always done the family thing…. Dalton has the idealistic life most people don’t have.”
  • In a separate story Sept. 10, the Globe said NDP leader Howard Hampton cited MacDermid’s study of election financing as the reason he singled out real-estate and gold tycoon Peter Munk for a visit Sept. 10. Hampton’s entourage pulled up in front of Munk’s Forest Hill home to say that giving an education tax break to seniors will benefit the rich. MacDermid’s study found that Munk’s group of companies, including Barrick Gold and real-estate developer TrizecHahn, gave a total of $121,000 to the Tories to help with the 1999 election campaign.
  • On how Tory ads trash McGuinty, MacDermid told The Hamilton Spectator in a Sept. 10 story these kinds of messages do nothing to promote democracy. “It doesn’t help me that the Conservative party doesn’t think Dalton is up to the job. I want to know what they stand for.”
  • MacDermid also told 680 News (CFTR-AM), Toronto, Sept. 9, that Eves remains premier constitutionally during an election but cannot pass legislation since the legislature has been dissolved.

Campaign promises could be difficult to keep

Ontario parties are making election pledges that run into the billions while Ontario’s economy is suffering, reported Canadian Press Sept. 9. As for the NDP’s platform, “there are a lot of things in there that sound really great but nowhere does it say how these things will be paid for,” said Bernie Wolf, an economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business.

Cracking down on plagiarism

This fall, some of Canada’s top universities are requiring students to hand in their essays to an American company so it can scan its electronic database for duplicate passages, reported Regina’s Leader-Post Sept. 10. Turnitin.com then spits out an “originality report” to their professors along with the electronic copy of the papers. The underlying assumption – guilty until proven innocent – changes the nature of the battle against plagiarism, a growing problem at university as class sizes balloon and personal contact with professors diminishes. In the past, professors went to turnitin.com only if they were suspicious of a paper’s authenticity. The University of Toronto, McGill University and the University of British Columbia are among those testing out this more aggressive tactic. Most clients start out with more limited use of the service. Other Canadian university clients include York, Simon Fraser, McMaster, Brock, Ryerson and Western Ontario, said the newspaper.

Math whizzes plot fight against SARS

If SARS makes an unwelcome return this coming winter, Canada’s mathematicians will be ready, reported The Hamilton Spectator Sept. 9. The Canadian Press story said mathematicians from Canada, China, Taiwan, Australia and the US Centers for Disease Control gathered in Banff, Alberta, the weekend of Sept. 5-6 to try to coordinate ways to use the power of mathematical modelling to fight severe acute respiratory syndrome. “The optimal design of the quarantine period is one of the major issues…we’re discussing here,” explained conference organizer Jianhong Wu, mathematics professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and Canada Research Chair in Applied Mathematics. “If it’s too long, then the possibility that some people will not obey the order is high. If it’s too short, of course the potential is that some symptomatic person might come back into the community and again spread the disease.”

Fixed mortgages offer certainty

Moshe Milevsky, a professor of finance at York’s Schulich School of Business, says fixed rates are almost always higher than variable rates because they include a premium for protecting borrowers from fluctuations of short-term rates, reported CP Sept. 9 in a story about lower mortgage interest rates. The real question isn’t “Where are interest rates headed?” but “How important is it to have certainty in your personal budgeting?” “There are very few things that are as certain as the payments on a five-year mortgage,” Milevsky said. “A lot of us don’t need that certainty.”

On air

  • Political scientist Robert Drummond, dean of York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the first week of the Ontario election campaign, the prevailing wisdom that the Tories won Week 1, the polls possibly being premature and the Tories concentrating on the things they want to talk about, on the “World According to Mark 3” (CFRA-AM), Ottawa, Sept. 9.