A 50th anniversary with a wish list

In major features celebrating the 50th anniversary of the city’s first subway line, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star interviewed transportation experts whose wish list would include a subway extension to York University.

The Globe said March 29 the burst of energy that quickly produced a series of subway lines to make the Toronto Transit Commission a North American public-transportation beacon didn’t last. “Somewhere along the way we lost it,” said Ed Levy, a transportation consultant who has worked around the world and who watched as the pile drivers began pounding Yonge at Wellington Street in 1949. He pointed out that the subway was built after the massive mobilization of the Second World War. “We could do it then. Why in the world can’t we do it now?” At a transportation summit last week, Levy laid out his Toronto wish list, which includes extending the Spadina subway north from Downsview to York University and extending the underperforming Sheppard subway west to Downsview and east to Victoria Park Ave. to create a loop.

On March 27, the Star quoted Richard Soberman, a University of Toronto professor who did a landmark study of Metro’s transportation needs in the 1970s. He said he would build a subway to York University by building west from Sheppard and Yonge to connect that line to the Spadina line at Downsview, then building north to York University going up Keele to Steeles, as opposed to the TTC’s long-term plan of going up Dufferin and across the Finch Hydro corridor. And he’d “go up Keele because that’s where the people are. When you go up Keele, you have some development opportunities by the tank farms. And you can access York University on a right of way that’s vacant.” He sees a station at the north side of Steeles where “you could build the nation’s biggest Park ‘n Ride facility and tie it with Highway 407,” encouraging folks who live in York Region to get out of their cars and take public transit downtown.

Suspended groups allowed to meet at York

York University is once again allowing pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian student groups to hold activities on campus, reported the Globe and Mail March 27. The University took away these privileges for a week after demonstrations that led to pushing and screaming between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups. But the University yesterday warned Hillel and the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights that “future infractions will result in disciplinary proceedings.”

In a separate piece, the Globe’s Michael Valpy interviewed Toronto-born Martin Lockshin, 52, director of York University’s Centre for Jewish Studies. Lockshin’s sole personal encounter with anti-Semitism occurred in his boyhood during the early 1960s when he worked on the federal election campaign of Liberal candidate Marvin Gelber, wrote Valpy. A group of kids working for the New Democratic Party opponent taunted him for supporting a Jew, and then beat him up. But he wasn’t beaten up for working for a Jew, Lockshin explained; he was beaten up for pointing out to those taunting him that their candidate, David Lewis, was Jewish as well. It’s almost a funny story, observed Valpy, and it took place 40 years ago – before Canadian society decreed anti-Semitism to be politically incorrect. Lewis (born Losh) went on to become a totemic NDP leader and his son, Stephen, is a national icon. Lockshin described his own life as “a series of opportunities,” but then said, “My feelings have changed a little bit in the past two weeks.” The reason: he lives near the Jewish cemetery where tombstones were toppled in Toronto’s recent eruption of anti-Semitic incidents. “I have relatives in that cemetery,” he said. But “I’m not walking around feeling afraid,” he told Valpy.

Poet Miriam Waddington taught at York

Canadian poet Miriam Waddington, who died at the age of 86 in early March, raised two children as a single mother, completed three degrees, worked as a social worker and English professor at York University, and published 12 books all at a time when women were expected to be obedient homemakers, wrote the Globe and Mail’s Mary Nersessian March 27 in an extended obituary. “She’s important as a female modernist writer and for her treatment of women’s experience,” said Ruth Panofsky (MA ’82, PhD ’91), an English professor at Ryerson University, who wrote her York master’s thesis on Waddington. “She breaks new ground as a Canadian writer,” added Panofsky, who also got to know Waddington. “She participates in a real maturing of Canadian writing that began in the 1940s out of Montreal . . . and within that group she forged new ground by examining women’s experience in poetry.” “Her poetry was like a kind of promise, an invitation into a larger world,” said Laura McLauchlan (PhD ’97), who met Waddington at York while she was writing her doctoral paper on Waddington and Dorothy Livesay. “She was a very complex woman,” said McLauchlan, a sessional instructor of literary theory and drama at York who first read Waddington’s poetry as a child in Brandon, Manitoba.

Rolling over short-term GICs will destroy wealth

Rolling over short-term, guaranteed investment certificates is a sure way to destroy wealth, according to a study released March 29, reported the Vancouver Sun the same day. Researchers at York University looked at after-tax and after-inflation returns from GICs over the past 30 years. They found that real returns have actually been negative for investors in the top marginal tax rate for most of the 1974-2003 period. Long-term GICs, which generally deliver higher returns, did not suffer as much as short-term GICs from the effects of inflation and taxation. “But their quoted returns were also significantly eroded,” said study co-author Moshe Milevsky, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “While taxes and inflation each erode GIC returns, the combined effects of taxes and inflation deliver a fatal blow that can wipe out all of the quoted GIC returns, and more.”

Conference on grandmothering

About 40 academics and researchers, mostly from outside Toronto, are scheduled to present at York University’s Grandmothers and Grandmothering Mothers Day conference April 30 and May 1, hosted by the Association for Research on Mothering at York University, reported the Toronto Star March 29. “It’s a very, very new research subject, now at its primary stage,” said conference co-ordinator Andrea O’Reilly, who teaches women’s studies at York.

Judges’ exit focuses attention of Supreme Court selection

Anyone who thinks the Supreme Court of Canada has been far too meddlesome and political lately will be celebrating the retirement of Justices Frank Iacobucci and Louise Arbour, wrote Vancouver Sun’s Ian Mulgrew in a CanWest News column also printed March 29 in the Ottawa Citizen and the Montreal Gazette. Iacobucci and Arbour, once a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, were both noted for their left-of-centre leanings and their insistence on the ascendancy of the Charter of Rights. Their departure focuses attention on the highly secret process used to select Supreme Court judges and the opportunity to change it, wrote Mulgrew.

Elwy and Risa – a match made in movie heaven

Shortly after the ebullient Elwy Yost becomes host (on tiny UHF Channel 19) of the show destined to evolve into TVO’s “Saturday Night at the Movies,” Risa Shuman was hired to help him, reported the Toronto Star March 28. Shuman, said the Star, came from Hamilton and went to York University, where she got into its pioneer film program, graduated with a BA in 1973 and wound up working at a place called the Ontario Educational Communications Authority. There she met Yost. It was a pairing straight from the Hollywood dream machine – particularly when Elwy discovered his young admirer had a lot more than enthusiasm going for her, said the Star.

The military’s sorry state

In Who Is Responsible for the Sorry State of Canada’s Military? historian J.L. Granatstein, a professor emeritus at York University, points the finger at you and I, the Canadian taxpayer, for allowing our politicians to let it slide, wrote the Guelph Mercury reviewer March 27. Basically, said the reviewer, this is a long-winded, scathing and unapologetic editorial on the politicians who purposely abandoned the military for decades.

Personal trainer

On March 29, the Edmonton Journal profiled personal trainer Wendy Rodgers, an exercise psychologist at the University of Alberta. She earned a BA in physical education and psychology from York University in 1984, an MA from the University of Western Ontario and a PhD in kinesiology from the University of Waterloo.

On air

  • St. Francis Xavier shut out York University 4-0 to advance to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport finals in hockey, reported “Final Evening News” (CP24-TV), Toronto, March 27. The hockey tournament was also covered on CBC Radio, TSN and in the Edmonton Journal.
  • Jerusha Lederman, a York University graduate student working on the Gravity Probe B project at York University, commented on sighting Mars, Saturn and Jupiter in the night sky, on “AM News” (CP24-TV), Toronto, March 28.