New book warns of impact of American security on Canadians

Canada’s border with the United States is, for citizens of both countries, a geographical fact of life, something for which few people spare a second thought unless seeking the quickest crossing point to their destination, writes the Toronto Star’s Olivia Ward in a May 8 story. But, says York University Professor Daniel Drache, the world’s longest undefended border – an 8,000-kilometre frontier crossed by 200 million people a year – has changed dramatically in its significance for Canadians since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Suddenly Canada is in a new kind of relationship with the US,” he said. “The old ideas of a ‘friendly’ border no longer apply. New American legislation has turned the border into a security wall. We are now imprisoned in North America.” Drache, associate director of the Robarts Centre of Canadian Studies, is the author of Borders Matter: Homeland Security and the Search for North America. And, he says, it’s time that Canadians woke up to their new role as outsiders on a continent dominated by a suspicious, and sometimes autocratic, superpower. “If we don’t come to grips with these huge changes, America’s border policies will go on undermining Canadian sovereignty. We didn’t negotiate these changes, they’ve been imposed on us. What’s at risk are some of our basic values, the way we treat immigration, political refugees, freedom of movement, diversity and our own foreign policy. We need a new plan for dealing with the new realities.”

Junior League opens a transformed Glendon Hall

“You’ll never get anywhere in this world by being timid,” Jane Clark, co-chair of the Junior League of Toronto Showhouse, says as she leads a group of volunteers through Glendon Hall, the mansion on the Glendon campus of York University. It is the final day of preparations before the showhouse’s gala opening party, and even with 48 of the city’s top interior-design teams sharing narrow, 1920s hallways to complete their individual room transformations, no “wet paint” sign could cause Clark to break her stride, reported the Globe and Mail’s Leanne Delap May 8 in a profile of the volunteers who led the project. The purpose is to raise money (this year’s showhouse beneficiary is Pathways to Education, a program for high-school students in Regent Park). At the same time, the Junior League is learning to take advantage of the publicity to raise its own profile. Based on the success of previous showhouses (at MacLean Estate, Valley Halla House, George Brown House and Graydon Hall Manor among others), about 20,000 people are expected to go through Glendon Hall this month; it opens to the public May 8. After the showhouse’s less permanent furnishings are returned or sold, York University is left with a lot of very special mouldings, new floors, flocked wallpaper and voluminous curtains. For their part, the designers and sponsors have had exposure to 20,000 keen customers. Everyone involved donates their time and goods.

The Toronto Star’s “New In Homes” section May 8 also featured a photo and blurb about rooms decorated by some of Toronto’s top interior designers on view at York University’s Glendon Hall, built in 1924.

Universities now major in marketing

Many universities are hiring marketing minds to bury flawed old stereotypes and rebrand themselves with strong new images that will draw more students and funding, reported the Toronto Star May 8. York University wrapped a Toronto subway station in its trademark red this week in what advertisers call a “subway domination” push to help rebrand itself as “the interdisciplinary university,” where students can specialize in more than one subject. Its slogan: Redefine the possible.

Profits by any other name

Fred Lazar, airline expert and economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, responded May 10 to a May 3 letter in the National Post from Ronald Dorsay, CEO of the Canadian Airports Council, that said airports are accountable. Lazar wrote that Dorsay “starts by claiming that profits and surplus are not the same thing. If we start with revenues and deduct expenses, we are left with pretax profits. He may want to call profits by some other name, such as surplus, in order to get around the problem of how a non-profit can earn profits, but whatever name you want to call them, they are still profits. As for his next argument, that the surpluses are used to fund capital investments, check out the cash flow statements of for-profit companies. Profits are used to pay dividends, if any; repay debt; fund capital investments; and/or build up cash reserves for future investments. Other than the payment of dividends, it appears that the ‘surpluses’ of the airport authorities are used for the same purposes. The more you look at it, the more surplus looks like profits.”

Ottawa Hydro deals fail ‘smell test’, prof says

Consulting deals handed out by Hydro Ottawa to its own board members don’t pass the “smell test” for corporate governance, reported the Ottawa Citizen May 9. The utility company, which is owned by the city but operates independently from council, paid $531,000 over the past two years to members of its board of directors, advisory board, and the wife of an advisory board member. According to Wesley Cragg, director of the business ethics program at York University’s Schulich School of Business, there’s no excuse for handing out consulting fees to board members. “It doesn’t matter how many committees it goes through – it’s irrelevant,” he said. “It’s pretty obviously and straightforwardly a conflict of interest.” He added that he’s amazed the company doesn’t have bylaws prohibiting board members from getting those jobs, and that over time there would be many questions about impartiality and appropriateness. Cragg said, “Those kinds of board positions are ones you take on as voluntary, or quasi-voluntary. As a basic principle for bodies like this, if you’re going to join, accept that you’re not going to do business with it. It’s a public service you’re engaging in, and if you’re going to join as a public service, there’s a personal cost for that.” He suggested that if the board believes members should be compensated for time they put in as directors, they should pay a stipend instead.

Instead of Tidefall Drive, how about Glenn Gould Court?

If Michiel Horn had his way, no one would live on a street called Scenic Millway – or not in Toronto, anyway, wrote the Toronto Star’s Oakland Ross in a May 10 piece about naming city streets. “I’ve always felt that Canadians, by and large, show their limitations by the way they name streets,” says the Dutch-born historian who teaches at York University’s Glendon College. “In continental Europe, it’s common to name streets after artists. But artists and intellectuals don’t rank very highly in the minds of people here, at least not those people charged with naming streets.” For Horn there’s something worse than numbers. It’s the sheer anodyne meaninglessness of many of Toronto’s street names – in a burgeoning city that spawns about 100 new streets a year. What irks Horn nowadays is the quantity of Toronto street names, especially new street names, that seem to commemorate nothing at all. Stonedale Placeway. Silvan Coarseway. Turf Grassway. Grass Meadoway. Robintide Court. Tidefall Drive. Ursa Starway. “These are generic subdivision names,” said Horn, who complains that such labels have nothing to do with the city, its history, or its people. “Rather than calling it Scenic Millway, name it after Glenn Gould.”

Bell’s ad agency ‘got sloppy,’ says Middleton

Cossette Communications Group Inc. has taken a hit to its reputation after dropping the ball as the creator of English-language ads for Bell Canada and losing the account to tiny upstart Grip Ltd., reported the Globe and Mail May 8. Bell ads in English Canada have generally failed to go over, said Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. The latest series of television spots – featuring a boy instructing his younger brother in the advantages of Bell products by resorting to sometimes mean trickery – are a textbook example of so-called “video vampire,” where what’s on the screen “totally overshadows the message,” he said. Middleton said he believes Cossette “got sloppy, got sucked into the Bell bureaucracy vortex and didn’t show very good judgment on creative work.”

West thunders over East at football bowl

The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) featured a photo May 10 of Josh Martyr (No. 32) of York University Lions struggling for a few more yards for the East in the second annual East West Bowl of the Canadian Interuniversity Sports, held at University Stadium in Waterloo on May 8. Martyr is a fourth-year kinesiology student at York.

Tuba player to reprise Birth of the Cool

The Birth of the Cool will be reborn in Peterborough June 11 when a group of city musicians perform the jazz recording that forever changed the sound of the music genre, reported the Peterborough Examiner May 8. A nonet Moodswings and Friends, including Justin Hiscox on tuba, will perform all the music from the Miles Davis recording June 11 at the Market Hall. Hiscox, formerly an instructor in York University’s Music Department, is currently working on two musicals and doing a lot of compositions for modern dance.

Will York scientists find water?

It’s millions of miles from Earth, but with each day, Mars is coming within closer reach of Canadians and a trio of York University space scientists are leading the way there, reported the North York Mirror May 8. Allan Carswell, Diane Michelangeli and Peter Taylor are involved in a 2007 mission to Mars, a $325-million NASA project dubbed the Phoenix.

Carswell, founder and chair of Optech Incorporated, is behind the technology that will look for clouds, dust, ice, fog and anything else in the Martian atmosphere. Using Optech’s renowned LIDAR technology (light detection and ranging), short pulses of laser light will detect particles or gases in the atmosphere up to 20 kilometres away. Used for things like 3D-laser mapping, LIDAR is what landed Carswell a job as principal investigator for the original 2001 mission, as well as a spot on the 2007 team, said the Mirror. “The idea of a Scout mission is more of a bottoms-up approach, scientists suggesting what they want to do, as opposed to NASA saying ‘We want to have these things done, do them and tell us what’s involved,'” Carswell said from Optech’s headquarters near Keele Street and Steeles Avenue. The only direction from NASA is the mission’s main directive: follow the water. The story also featured photos of Carswell and Michelangeli.

20-something York grad running for MP

Navdeep Singh Bains, a 26-year-old, is the Liberal candidate in the newly created Ontario riding of Mississauga Brampton-South, reported the National Post May 8 in a feature on 20-something MPs in the making. He is bursting with pride about his father, said the Post. A long-time active Liberal, the elder Bains emigrated to Canada from India in the 1970s and runs a successful business in Brampton making kitchen cabinets. The business has won local business awards and is known for its charitable work. “I respect him a great deal. He came to this country with $5 and really lived the Canadian dream,” Bains said. “Because of him I’ve been motivated to get involved in charitable work at the grassroots level.” Bains is an embodiment of the Trudeauvian multicultural dream. He is fluently bilingual in English and Punjabi. A 1999 business administrative studies graduate of York University, he later earned an MBA at the University of Windsor and works in the finance division at Ford Motor Company. (He’s currently on a leave of absence.)

Women’s work continues to evolve

“Women proved that they could do anything during WWII, but there was strong pressure to give up their jobs so that men [returning from the war] could take them,” Bettina Bradbury, professor of history and women’s studies at York University, told the Toronto Star in a May 8 feature about the changing nature of women’s work. “Normality after the war meant returning to the older generation order.” But staying at home in the suburbs, raising children and taking care of a husband were an uncomfortable switch for the one-third of Canadian women who had joined the labour force as part of the war effort. It was these women, Bradbury said, who helped shape a critical wave for women in the Canadian workforce in the 1960s and 1970s. “There was the idea that women could take on careers for life. And would receive equal pay for work of equal value.”

However, despite working women’s increasing representation and success in the workplace, Bradbury says they face more challenges today than ever before. For instance, according to research co-authored last year by Leah Vosko, Canada Research Chair with York’s School of Social Sciences, women are more likely than men to be employed in precarious work situations – such as in part-time jobs, lacking in security and benefits. The other challenge for modern women is balancing work and their personal lives, said the Star. “It becomes more and more of a challenge to balance the double day and reconcile a job and a family,” said Bradbury. “You’re working a longer day and the number of spots in day care is decreasing.”

Sorbara: from flower child to law student

Ontario’s new finance minister, who will deliver his first budget May 18 is, variously, a wannabe baseball player, an aging flower child, a hard-headed businessman, a powerful politician, wrote the Toronto Sun’s Christine Blizzard in a May 9 profile of Greg Sorbara. Yet he was also a guy who once went to a Catholic seminary with an eye to becoming a priest, she wrote. Sorbara attended St. Michael’s College high school and university and then, for a while, the seminary. “He left there to become a hippie,” said his longtime friend and business partner Jim Domm. Ten years later, Sorbara returned to York University, where he earned a BA in Canadian Studies from Glendon College in 1978, and went on to Osgoode Hall where he got his law degree in 1981.

WLU gets first female vice-president academic

Susan Horton, who is interim vice-president academic and dean of the University of Toronto at Scarborough, will succeed Rowland Smith as vice-president academic of Wilfrid Laurier University on Aug. 1, reported The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) May 8. Only one other woman has held a higher executive post at Wilfrid Laurier University and that was former WLU president Lorna Marsden.

Markham plans to introduce Chinese partners

Markham’s economic development committee has recommended that its economic development department work with partners to develop a program for businesses to capitalize on trade and strategic alliance opportunities with China, reported the Markham Economist & Sun May 8. Since delegates travelled there in 2002, the town has hosted delegations from its two key Chinese partners, Zhongguancun Science Park in Beijing and the City of Wuhan. At an appropriate time, the department will also introduce park representatives to York University, Seneca College and the University of Toronto for possible collaboration on research projects, reported the newspaper.

On air

  • Saeed Rahnema, a political science professor with York University’s Faculty of Arts, commented on a Canadian campaign for the release of Siamak Pourzand, who is incarcerated in Iran and in poor health, on “CTV National News” May 8.