New tennis centre should be ready in a month

Tennis Canada’s new Rexall Centre, on the other side of the York University campus from the previous centre court, should be completed in a month, reported The Globe and Mail April 27. After the stadium, which will hold 12,500 for the Masters Series Canada men’s event from July 26 to Aug. 1, is finished, work will proceed on seven more competition courts, four practice courts and landscaping. The site is in tree-lined surroundings, and Tennis Canada has been careful to conform to regulations of the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority, whose headquarters are barely a well-struck lob away from the new complex. Looking ahead to the Masters Series Canada event, tournament director Stacey Allaster said, “We have already sold almost as much in [tournament] ticketing and corporate lounges as we did in 2003.” They have developed a business plan that works without having a title or presenting sponsor, but they hope the opening of the Rexall Centre will make the tournament a much more attractive property in the event marketplace.

Architect Yew Thong Leong of Robbie, Young and Wright Architects, also talked about what to expect once the Rexall Centre is finished, on Toronto1’s “Toronto Today” April 27.

German bank deal could rescue Air Canada, says prof

Air Canada took a major step back from the brink with a deal that largely fills the gap left by Hong Kong investor Victor Li, the airline’s original rescue investor, reported the Globe and Mail April 27. The airline said it has reached a deal with Deutsche Bank AG, which will raise $850-million by giving all the airline’s creditors a chance to buy new shares. It should be easy for Air Canada to raise that money, said Fred Lazar, a professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “They no longer have to act out of desperation,” he said. “There was a sense that the longer they waited to announce something, the more travellers would get nervous and start to leave Air Canada.”

Lazar also commented on airline woes in Canada in the Montreal Gazette April 27. Air Canada has certainly been harmed by what he called “20 years of ill-conceived domestic policies,” along with a series of recent business shocks that rocked most of the world’s large airlines. But it’s also fair to note that it is teetering on the edge at least in part because of the bad decisions and unconscionable greed of its own top managers, which have left it with high operating costs and poisonous labour relations. This problem, said the Gazette, was described recently by Lazar: Canada’s local airport authorities are “unregulated and largely uncontrollable monopolies,” Lazar wrote in a paper produced for the Canadian Institute of International Affairs. “By way of contrast, in the US and the EU, most airports are owned and operated by governments,” which means that somebody has to answer for their fees in an election. Even as airlines and passengers complain about very high landing and airport-improvement fees, Canada’s eight major airports – ostensibly non-profit organizations – have racked up profits that Lazar estimates to have totalled $1.2 billion since 1993.

LCBO profit a facade

An analysis of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario by the Brewers of Canada shows the Ontario liquor and wine monopoly “profits” to be a conceptual sham, reported the National Post April 27. In its latest annual report, delivered more than 365 days after the end of its 2002-2003 fiscal year, the LCBO claims “net income” of $939 million on sales of $3.1 billion, based on shareholders equity of just $248 million. That’s a profit margin of 30 per cent and return on equity (ROE) of 353 per cent. It also claims to have paid out of its profits a dividend to the province of $975 million. Donald N. Thompson, professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University, says he knows of “no other retail [tax-collecting] business in Canada (or indeed the world) that calculates ROE this way.” The dividend, he says, is in fact a tax the LCBO charges consumers and remits to the province. “The LCBO now is motivated to lobby the government to increase alcohol taxes, because while higher prices mean its unit sales may fall (or its sales increase will be lower) and its real profit lower, the higher taxes will mean that its reported profit, plus tax collected, will increase,” said Thompson.

Wrong on health

Dennis Raphael, professor and undergraduate program director at York’s School of Health Policy and Management, responded to a letter in The Globe and Mail April 26 that asked: “Why are Canadians among the world’s leaders in rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease?” and noted that “unhealthy lifestyles lead to a significant proportion of many debilitating and costly diseases.” Raphael replied in a letter April 27: “Sorry, Ms. Durnford, wrong on all counts. Male adult-obesity rates in Canada rank 20th of 26 nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, female adult-obesity rates are 19th of 26 OECD nations, diabetes mellitus mortality rates are 14th of 29 and circulatory disease mortality rates are 26th of 29. And, by the way, ‘lifestyle factors’ account for only a small proportion of the causes of any of these afflictions. The best predictors of disease and death are low income, insecure working and living conditions, and general material deprivation.”

Long-term survey taps into high-school drug use

The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) printed an opinion piece April 27 about effective drug treatment that cited a York University-administered study. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Ontario Student Drug Use Survey is the longest ongoing school survey of adolescents in Canada, which spans over two decades. The study is based on 14 surveys conducted every two years since 1977. In the spring of 2003, 6,616 students in Grades 7-12 from 37 school boards, 126 schools and 383 classes participated in the survey administered by the Institute for Social Research at York University.

On air

  • Ian Greene, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed whether or not ethical politics is an oxymoron, on CBC Newsworld’s “Newsworld Today” April 26.
  • Gail Mitchell, a professor with York’s School of Nursing, talked about new research on how women cope with the loss of a mother with Alzheimer’s disease, on CBC TV’s “Canada Now” in Montreal April 26.