Toronto, the resented

Two York professors were quoted about the federal election in the Scarborough Mirror June 25. “Toronto is a kind of magnet for people in other parts of the country to resent,” said James Laxer, a political science professor at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. Laxer said it’s quite remarkable that Liberal MPs have dominated the Toronto landscape for the past three elections, allowing them to form their own Toronto caucus. But he’s not convinced it has worked to the city’s benefit. “For 10 years the Liberals have taken Toronto for granted, but the city hasn’t done well by the government. I don’t think that caucus [Toronto caucus] was very effective.”

Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts who is a leading expert on election and party financing, voter behaviour, polling and campaign strategies, agreed. He said looking back at three terms of Liberal governments there weren’t many issues the Toronto caucus spoke out about in the House of Commons. “The truth is many [MPs] didn’t raise Toronto issues in favour of the city,” he said. Laxer said he believes big cities could be in for a rude awakening if Harper’s Conservatives form the government. “Harper doesn’t have much use for cities. He’s definitely not the big city guy,” adding that it wouldn’t surprise him if only one big city in the country supported Harper – Calgary. That being the case, Harper could end up being the only prime minister in Canadian history elected to office without the support of big cities. “I think that is an amazing thing,” Laxer said.

Television news programs also sought commentary from both professors. As well, MacDermid discussed a report that examines the costs of the 2004 federal election to Canadian taxpayers and political parties, in an item aired across Canada on Global TV business and news programs and on CBC TV’s “The National” June 25. And Laxer talked about scenarios related to a minority government and how the role of the governor general may play out in such scenarios, on CBC Newsworld’s “Sunday Report” June 27.

Election mudslinging is typical

According to York Professor and master of McLaughlin College David Shugarman, mud-slinging and negative campaigning is not likely to improve anytime soon, reported the Richmond Hill Liberal June 27. “It’s quite remarkable to see people who are lawyers, teachers, professors or successful business people act like 16-year-olds in a hockey game,” said Shugarman, director of York’s Centre for Practical Ethics. “It’s a sad thing, but the sort of exchanges we’re seeing – thumping desks and hurling snide remarks – is outrageously disrespectful and is business-as-usual in legislatures all across Canada.” The closeness of the election race also contributes to the level of incivility, he said. “It’s a response to the tightness of the race, the pressure they’re feeling. They’re all running scared and just pushing a number of buttons they hope will move electors.”

Concerned over erosion of immigrant advances

The sheer volume of red and white signs, big and small, is a reflection of Liberal incumbent Judy Sgro’s hold on York West, a Liberal enclave since 1962, reported the Toronto Star June 26. In this immigrant community of 110,384 residents, more than 60 per cent speak English as a second language. Most are Italian, East Indian and Hispanic, many having arrived in Canada only in the last decade. George Frempong runs an online chat group for immigration issues in the riding’s Ghanaian community. “We’re worried about an erosion of the advances immigrants have made in the last few years,” said Frempong, a professor with the York/Seneca Institute for Math, Science & Technology Education.

Voter anger nothing new

Ian Greene, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, said anger directed at politicians has been a voting factor for two decades at least, reported the Toronto Star June 26. “It’s been this way for a number of years,” he said, adding that governments will always be prone to ethical scandal. “Most people are so used to politicians breaking their promises that they don’t hold them in high esteem, therefore it’s harder to attract good people into politics. It’s a vicious circle. The reality is that while people want to know what you’re going to do, they always eventually vote on some form of basic human value: Do I trust this person? Am I frightened by this person? Do they have a compassion about them?” Greene concurs and said that’s what can decide elections. “The basic ethics principle in politics is mutual respect,” he said. “That’s why honesty is important, why it’s wrong to participate in conflicts of interest and use public office for personal gain.”

A wild ride for VIA

“The sponsorship scandal is a non-event for VIA, at least from its competitive position,” says Fred Lazar, an economics professor and transportation expert at York’s Schulich School of Business, reported the Toronto Star June 27. “What is interesting is that VIA’s prospects have not really changed as a result of terminating its CEO. Makes you wonder if he made any difference and whether he deserved any salary,” he said. It didn’t surprise Lazar either that only a slim majority, 52 per cent, of people surveyed thought VIA’s overall performance was excellent or good, which is down from 63 per cent in 2002; or that the growth in airline-discounted seat capacity is having a “direct impact” on all regions of the VIA network, as VIA’s 2003 annual report warns. “VIA does not seem to be price competitive with Jetsgo or Air Canada’s low fares. Indeed, with the prospect of a fare war in the airline industry this summer, and VIA’s subsidies being reduced, VIA is likely to become even less price competitive,” he said.

Mayor attends crime symposium

Mayor David Miller, participating June 25 in a day-long crime symposium conducted by a triumvirate of professors from the University of Toronto, York University and Ryerson University, says will soon be time to start the search for candidates for the post of Toronto’s police chief, reported the Toronto Sun June 26. “There are several excellent candidates available both within our service, in Ontario and many other in North America and I’m sure the board will do a thorough search to find a replacement,” Miller said.

Dressing the big boys

Arnold Brant Silverstone dresses real men: sports players like Andy Roddick; CBS sportscasters like Boomer Esiason, Jim Nance and Dan Marino; celebrities like the Bachelor; and politicians like George W., said the The Globe and Mail June 26. It’s not, however, just star-power machismo fuelling the Montreal-based designer, who earned his BA from York University in 1988. In fact, upon meeting Silverstone, one is struck by the 38-year-old’s no-attitude attitude, said The Globe. It’s an approach that has proved profitable. Silverstone’s Arnold Brant business has been growing by double digits since its launch in 1997. Last year, the label ranked 80 in the Power 100 survey, a listing of the best-selling and most influential men’s wear clothing brands published by the men’s wear industry bible Daily News Record. His was the only Canadian company to make the cut. Silverstone thinks like a player. “The Calvin Kleins, the Ralph Laurens, the Armanis – they’re all in their 60s and 70s now,” he says, “so people are really watching to see who the next group of designers are going to be.”

Sweden’s prostitute law doesn’t work

“You basically can’t dictate in law what people are going to eat, drink, smoke and who they will have sex with,” says Alan Young, a law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, reported the Edmonton Journal June 26 in a story about Sweden’s solution to prostitution. The Swedish laws – making it illegal to purchase sex – are a “horribly paternalistic attitude” which assumes women cannot make their own decisions, said Young, who has represented women in the escort business. Instead, he favours such systems as that in the Netherlands, where prostitution is permitted in specified districts and can be monitored by police. He said it is hypocritical not to outlaw prostitution but then make it almost impossible for women who choose the profession to work safely.

Health-care sense

“Graham Riches is absolutely correct to point out that the primary determinants of health are not health care or even lifestyle choices as much as the provision of an adequate and humane social safety net associated with the welfare state,” wrote Dennis Raphael, professor and undergraduate program director in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, in a letter to the The Globe and Mail June 26. “The main question to be answered is why – considering that Health Canada has systematically churned out this information in the form of various reports and documents since 1974 – have governments, policy-makers and the media paid so little attention to these messages?”

Osgoode grad appointed to Ontario court

A family law specialist, Cheryl Lafreniere, is the third lawyer from Martin, Martin, Evans, Husband appointed to the Ontario Superior Court in the past decade, reported The Hamilton Spectator June 28. She graduated from York’s Osgoode Law School in 1984, after an undergraduate degree in history and English at McMaster.

York student wins award for community work

First-year social sciences student Kristal Lewis was the recipient of the North York Community Scholarship, a $1,000 award that recognizes York University students who contribute to their community while maintaining good grades, reported the North York Mirror June 26. The award was instituted in the 1980s as a celebration of York’s 25th anniversary. Lewis started working with the community as a high school student, when she volunteered to help out with an elementary school gym class. Later, she founded a program to help teen mothers at her school. “There were a bunch of us who brought in food, set up activities and looked after their kids while they did other things,” Lewis said. “It was just a way to help out some people who could use a bit of help.” Lewis was awarded her scholarship, as well as a plaque from Mayor David Miller, at North York Community Council’s June 22 session.

Fighting for her right to Aspire

At the young age of 23, York University law student Michelle Dagnino has already contributed a lifetime’s worth of achievements in the battles for workers’ and women’s rights, began a profile in North York Mirror June 26. She has worked tirelessly with the labour movement in Canada and abroad and more recently has become a vocal critic of sexism in hip-hop culture. Dagnino was recently named one of Maclean’s 25 Faces for the Future and was awarded the YWCA’s Young Woman of Distinction Award for her work. Currently studying for her law degree after earning undergraduate (’02) and masters degrees (’03) in political science at York, Dagnino said she hopes to use her legal knowledge to lobby and mediate disputes in a non-violent fashion.

On air

  • Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Law School, commented on the federal election, live on “VR Land News” (CKVR-TV), Barrie, June 25.