Miller endorses new busway to serve York

If mayor-elect David Miller gets his way, there will truly be a better way to York University, reported The Toronto Star Nov. 13. Miller gave his full endorsement of bus rapid transit as a cheap method of moving passengers as quickly as possible while the TTC waits for money to expand its subway system. “We’ll be able to demonstrate to the people of Toronto you can have efficient rapid transit in a relatively inexpensive way,” Miller said Nov. 12 at a national convention of transit authorities in Toronto.

About 1,000 bus trips serve nearly 50,000 students at York University on weekdays, but there’s limited room both on campus and on the surrounding streets. The TTC is fighting to get its buses, which move 40 to 60 people at a time, priority over cars, said the Star. A solution at York University is to convert a nearby Hydro right-of-way into a bus-only road, speeding up service between Downsview subway station and the University. An environmental assessment of the proposal already is under way, TTC officials said. While a subway to the University would cost about $1.5 billion and take at least 10 years to build, a busway would cost a fraction of that and could be operational in 2006.

“We will find the funds to make that proceed because it’s simple, efficient and will work,” said Miller. Both Miller and new provincial Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar called on the federal government to allow employers to hand out transit passes to employees as a non-taxable benefit that would boost transit ridership, said the Star. “It’s unbelievable to me we haven’t been able to get the federal government to act on that, because it costs nothing,” said Miller. He said Premier Dalton McGuinty, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and prime minister-in-waiting Paul Martin all called to congratulate him on Monday night. He said they told him they “understood” that cities need better funding for transit.

Argos looking for stadium site

The owners for the Toronto Argos and Hamilton Ticats apparently have conveyed their interest to the Canadian Football League about playing host to the Grey Cup, reported The Toronto Sun Nov. 13. The Sun also said sources indicate Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, the new owners of the Toronto Argonauts, are considering five sites for a possible new stadium: Exhibition Place, York University’s main campus, Downsview air force base, Varsity field and Woodbine Racetrack. Until a new stadium is built, the Argos will be playing at the SkyDome for at least the next two seasons and possibly three, said the Sun.

York grad wins GG for fiction

York alumnus Douglas Glover has won the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction for his book Elle, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 13. Based loosely on a supposed true story, Elle is the tale of a headstrong 16th-century French woman who accompanies her uncle on his voyage to the New World. He abandons her on the Isle of Demons for a shipboard indiscretion, forcing her to adapt and survive through a winter that nears mythical in its hardship and effect. Born in Waterford, Ont., Glover graduated from York University with a BA in philosophy in 1969 and became a newspaper journalist before turning to fiction. He teaches creative writing at Vermont College to support his own work but has never given up his Canadian citizenship and issues of national identity are a primary motivation for him, said the Globe. That his book won this year’s GG comes as no surprise to anyone who has read this action-packed historical novel, wrote the Montreal Gazette Nov. 13 of the author’s “juicy page-turner.”

Do we want judges with more muscle?

Three York University law professors weighed in on a recent minority language rights ruling that some say is evidence that the Supreme Court of Canada may be rediscovering a taste for policing constitutional rights, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 13. The court ruled that a trial judge could not only order the Nova Scotia government to meet its obligations by building French-language schools but also retain supervisory powers over implementation.

Patrick Monahan, dean of law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said Canadian judges will not be in a rush to supervise their orders since it would place “an intolerable burden” on their time and resources. “My instinct is that judges will not be terribly comfortable with taking on that kind of a role,” Monahan added.

Jamie Cameron said the case provided a convenient and cost-free opportunity for the court to make a bold move it may have contemplated for a while. Cameron said there may be “real conflict” ahead. “It seems the court must be contemplating its use in other situations,” she said. “They seem to be looking ahead and sending a message to lower courts that in appropriate cases, they can supervise compliance with their decisions.”

Allan Hutchinson argued, in a Globe opinion piece, that debating the politicization of judges misses the point: “While observers debate whether or not the judiciary had trespassed on forbidden political ground, a more troubling dynamic underlies the litigated issue. Democratic choice should not just be between rule by a judicial or governmental elite, but by a political process that responds to broader democratic concerns… Being neither elected by, nor representative of Canadians, judges can hardly claim democratic legitimacy. Their contributions must be restricted to discrete resolution of disputes.”

Dallaire an ‘extraordinary leader’

Retired lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire, on tour to promote his book, Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, told a London audience that “nations like [Canada] must project ourselves beyond our borders and align ourselves with humanity,” reported The London Free Press Nov. 13. Dallaire and his troops were abandoned by the UN Security Council, said David Dewitt, director of Centre for International and Security Studies at York University. In an interview Nov. 12, Dewitt called Dallaire an “extraordinary leader.”

Alumna profiled as exceptional volunteer

The Toronto Star profiled York alumna Veneise George, a resident of Scarborough’s Malvern community and volunteer extraordinaire, on Nov. 13. “You can do something about your life. Start volunteering. It all starts there,” George, 27, said. That’s how she started as a 14-year-old, when she decided to check out the Malvern Family Resource Centre. George pitched in, tutoring kids and learning about her neighbourhood. She worked her way through the volunteer ranks, becoming the youngest ever secretary to the agency’s 12-member board and then, two years ago, its youngest Chair. When she had time away from designing community programs and finding funding, she studied sociology at York University, graduating with a BA in sociology in 1998.

On air

  • More CBC Radio programs across Canada have aired a CBC Radio feature in which Dr. Joel Lexchin, health policy and management professor with York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, discussed how brand-name drug companies are trying to block American access to cheaper Canadian drugs. It was presented on “A New Day” in Whitehorse Nov. 10, and “Trail Breaker” in Yellowknife and “Mainstreet” Nov. 12.
  • York University dance students Sara Klaiman, Candice Spykers and Megan McGuire were interviewed about their dance works and why they chose York for their dance studies, on community station CIUT-FM’s “Evidance” Nov. 9. This broadcast was heard in Leeds, England, among other places, and one of the listeners in Leeds, a dancer who spent some time in York’ s dance department, called in during the program to comment positively on her York University experience.