York scientist in the laser limelight

Allan Carswell, a York University space scientist and Chairman of Optech Incorporated, was in high demand as a Mars expert Jan. 6. He was interviewed about the laser radar (lidar) technology Optech is developing for NASA’s 2007 Phoenix mission to Mars, on CBC Radio’s “Midday News,” “Here and Now” and “Regional News.” And Canadian Press and its radio sister, Broadcast News, sent out a feature on Carswell and Optech’s pioneering lidar technology, which will be used to measure atmospheric conditions on the dusty planet. Even after the safe weekend landing of the Spirit rover on the surface of Mars, said CP, Carswell is nervous about NASA’s next mission to the red planet. Although the first priority of Mars missions is to look for signs of life, the possibility of manned explorations is also driving current efforts to find out more about conditions on the planet, Carswell said. “It’s motivating a lot of the measurements to find out about the environment up there, the resources up there, the climate, the hazards that might be presented if there were astronauts going there, walking around,” he said.

Governance guru rides a hot issue

The National Post devoted the front page of the investing section Dec. 24 to a feature on Richard Leblanc, whose PhD on corporate governance has generated so much interest, he had to hire a booking agent to help him handle speaking engagements. Nine months ago, Leblanc, now a lecturer at York’s Schulich School of Business, was just a PhD student defending his thesis at York. Since then he’s spoken to some of Canada’s largest corporations, law firms, accounting firms, pension funds and institutions, including the Ontario Securities Commission, the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Toronto Society of Financial Analysts and various government officials and ministries, reported the Post. Corporate governance is the hottest issue in the market these days and Leblanc, 36, has been in the right place at the right time to take advantage of that. “I’ve probably given more speeches in the last six months than in the last six years,” Leblanc said. “I’m warmly grateful, but I never predicted [such a response].”

Leblanc agrees with the statement that 10 per cent of corporate governance in Canada is outstanding and the remainder isn’t, reported the Post. He spent five years sitting in on board meetings of 39 of Canada’s largest companies and non-profit organizations. He also interviewed almost 200 directors. Boards are full of directors who admit in private that they don’t understand the issues their companies face, Leblanc said. He recommends that boards recruit directors that are consensus builders, counsellors, challengers, change agents and conductors and avoid recruiting controllers, conformists, caretakers, cheerleaders and critics.

On air

  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed the decision of soft drink companies in Canada to pull some carbonated sugar and caffeine drinks from pop machines in elementary schools in response to criticism, in an interview aired on CBC Television’s “The National,” “University Canada Now” and “Canada Now” Jan. 6. Middleton also commented on the effect of a rising Canadian dollar on cross-border shopping by Canadians seeking bargains, on Global TV’s “Global National” Jan. 6. Despite the strong dollar, imported goods still cost the same in Canada. “When do prices ever go down?,” Middleton said. “And, now, what will happen is marketers will take the extra margin.”