A long-promised tuition freeze

The Ontario government was due to announce a two-year freeze on university and college tuition, a move much anticipated by students in the province, reported the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun April 8. Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Mary Anne Chambers was scheduled to announce at York University a two-year freeze on university and college tuition in Ontario. At the same time, government sources said the institutions will receive $48.1-million to compensate for revenue lost in the first year of the freeze. This is about $10-million less than they had requested, reported the Globe. The freeze, which will take effect immediately on both undergraduate and deregulated professional programs, was promised by the provincial government in its Throne Speech in November.

A flaw to make Nightingale wince

There is an enormous missing piece in the discussion of private companies building and managing hospitals – the so-called P3s, wrote Pat Armstrong, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at York University, in an opinion piece in the Toronto Star April 8. It is a gap encouraged by the Romanow report but not by either history or the literature on health. “Florence Nightingale certainly did not miss this piece when she began reforming hospitals to make them safe for care. I am speaking of the work done by cleaners, cooks, laundry and dietary workers, clerical and maintenance staff in hospitals,” she said. “The Romanow report called them ancillary workers, and implied that their work could be contracted out to for-profit firms without harm to care. Research here and abroad tells us that under P3s they would be employed by for-profit firms focused on reducing costs by speeding up the work and lowering the wages, benefits and job security of workers.

“Health care is about vulnerable individuals who are profoundly influenced by their environments,” continued Armstrong. “Moreover, the environments for care are much more likely than other environments to constitute risks that are particularly dangerous to those requiring care…. Workers without extended health benefits come to work sick, jeopardizing patient health. Temporary workers often lack familiarity with patients or workplaces, creating possibilities for critical errors. Lack of security in jobs or income can mean less commitment, less training and more strain, which can lead to poor quality that creates risks to recipients’ health, she wrote…. In short, the more precarious the work, the greater the risk not only to workers’ health, but also to the quality of care. And history tells us that jobs in for-profit firms are much more precarious than those in public health care.”

Insp. Banks the next British TV detective?

Fans of  Peter Robinson‘s popular Inspector Banks mystery novels will welcome the news that a possible British TV show is in the works, reported Canadian Press April 7. “We’re close to doing a deal with Granada in the UK,” said the Toronto-based author and York grad, who retains strong traces of his native Yorkshire accent, in a recent interview in Halifax. He was in the city to read from Playing With Fire, the 14th entry in the Banks series. Robinson, a University of Leeds graduate who holds a doctorate from Toronto’s York University (he studied the sense of place in contemporary British poetry), has lived in Canada for more than 20 years. But Yorkshire, where the Banks books are set, remains his artistic wellspring.

Authors plan to turn study into book

While fleeing a violent relationship, a Kingston woman was told she would have to personally serve her abuser with papers asking him to pay child support or risk losing her welfare payments. When she arrived at the man’s apartment with the papers, he beat her up. The woman was one of 64 whose stories shaped a groundbreaking study released this week that is the first in Canada to examine how the welfare system treats abused women, reported the Kingston Whig-Standard April 8. The study authors – including Janet Mosher of York University and Patricia Evans of Carleton University – plan to turn some of their findings into a book and lobby the province to reform the welfare system, said Margaret Little, women’s studies professor at Queen’s University and another author of “Walking on Eggshells: Abused Women’s Experiences of Ontario’s Welfare System,” which was released April 5.

Drop in airline business was predictable, says prof

Pearson is already one of the world’s most expensive airports, rising from 18th most costly just two years ago to fifth today. It gets worse, said an editorial in the London Free Press April 8 of Toronto’s new terminal. Fred Lazar, professor of economics at York University’s Schulich School of Business, says when bankrupt Air Canada restructures, it is likely to scale back its Toronto operations as part of its long-term business plan. Rising costs at Pearson may mean those cuts will be deeper. Terminal 1, says Lazar, has cost $4.4 billion, excluding runways and taxiways, which were originally budgeted for in that total but are now expected to cost another $1 billion. By the time the old Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 are torn down and another addition added to the new Terminal 1, the total cost will be about $7 billion. The 9/11 terrorist hijackings, which added to the burden of a struggling airline industry, could not have been predicted. But Lazar thinks the GTAA should have foreseen that the 1997-98 growth by airlines was not sustainable and made a more realistic projection. Already, projections through 2010 have been revised downward 10  to 15 per cent below the original estimate.

MBA student flirts with fashion

Rachelle Turner, Jennifer Ross, Natalie Frenkel and Lyndsay Langford are the young entrepreneurs behind Virgin Thread Market, a showcase of 30 independent designers and artists that displays, promotes and sells their merchandise, reported the Toronto Star April 8. Langford, 26, works full-time as a foreign banknote trader and is a part-time MBA student at York University. “Because of my career, I mostly wear suits but I try to find those that are a bit more interesting. I love simple designs with clean lines.” She graduated from York in 2001 with a BA in economics.

On air

  • Brigitte Kitchen, former chairman, Centre for Social Justice, and professor in York’s School of Social Work, discussed increasing poverty rates in Toronto, with callers to “Goldhawk” on Rogers TV, Toronto, April 7.