York experts fan out for the federal election

York people were all over the media for the June 28 federal election, mostly as commentators. Here’s a roundup:

  • Early on election day June 28, James Laxer, a political science professor at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, appeared on “CBC News: Morning” nationally to discuss scenarios for the expected minority government. He later told The Globe and Mail, published the next morning,  that he was surprised that the NDP’s breakthrough in Toronto wasn’t larger considering that many of the downtown ridings are left leaning. He said the Liberals successfully convinced those voters that it wasn’t the right time to vote for the NDP because of the serious challenge coming from the Conservative Party.
          Laxer was also quoted in the National Post June 29 about NDP leader Jack Layton and the minority government. “You’re going to see a fair amount of choreography to make sure the government doesn’t fall for a period of time,” said Laxer. “There will be a lot of manoeuvring, there will be dancing around, there will be a lot of rhetoric and there will be a lot of care taken not to bring the government down.” However, Laxer said it is unlikely Layton will abandon his opposition to the missile defence shield proposed by the United States.
  • Daniel Drache, associate director of York’s Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, appeared on CTV’s “Canada AM” on election morning to discuss new voting equipment. Drache believes in the old-fashioned ballot. “The Americans had this idea of using a machine,” he said. “And, as we saw in the Gore-Bush election, a lot of this equipment is old, a lot of this equipment is faulty, and a lot of it is not particularly trustworthy.” His remarks were also carried through the day on CTV Newsnet and CFTO-TV News.
  • Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, appeared on CBC-TV’s “The National” June 28 to talk about the new “no blackout” policy on election coverage, allowing people in later time zones to know how voting went where polls have closed. “I think the basic unfairness is just that point, that some people get to know something that other people don’t know,” he said. “The question is, is it crucial in deciding their vote?”
  • Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, was interviewed June 28 on “VR Land News”, CKVR-TV, Barrie, saying it would be a defining election.
  • Bernard Wolf, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, served as a panelist for election-night coverage on “Goldhawk” on Rogers Television.
  • The Globe and Mail consulted two York experts in an election-morning story on how Canada might fare if the Bloc Quebecois held the balance of power. If what happens in Canada follows the Spanish lead, said the paper, the outcome may be more stable than some people assume. “It could be a very good time to develop more of a disposition for dialogue towards nationalism, in trying to bring nationalists to accept a working relationship with the rest of the country,” said Antonio Cazorla-Sanchez, a sessional history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. Cazorla, a Spanish historian who has lived in Canada for three years, said that Basques with strong separatist leanings learned to cooperate with minority governments in 1993 and in 1996. “This is very important – to create a habit of working together, even if the ultimate goals are different,” Cazorla said. 
          Kenneth McRoberts, principal of York’s Glendon College, is an authority on Catalonia, a region in northeast Spain that has for years been pushing for forms of sovereignty. “The [Spanish] lesson is that it is possible to work out accommodations on fiscal issues but not possible to work out accommodations on issues more explicitly linked to nationalist aspirations,” he told the Globe. The nationalist Basque and Catalan parties were unable to achieve any explicit nationalist aims, he said. “The Catalan parties had proposals to formally recognize Spain as multinational, but that hasn’t gone anywhere,” he said.
  • York student Neil Shyminsky was not altogether surprised by the outcome of Monday’s federal vote, said The Sudbury Star June 29. “Despite the scandals, people appeared willing to put up with the Liberals instead of supporting a Conservative party that is largely an unknown,” said the 22-year-old Val Caron native, a fourth-year English student who has closely followed the national and local campaigns. 
  • Several profiles of Jack Layton noted that he holds a masters degree and a PhD in political science from York. “Layton, 53, has a learning disability, but that didn’t stop him from studying politics at McGill, earning his masters at York University and writing his PhD thesis on the efforts of nations to control foreign direct investment,” said the Hamilton Spectator June 29.
  • On the eve of the election, Pat Armstrong, a sociology professor in the Faculty of Arts, wrote an opinon piece that appeared in the Quesnel, BC, Cariboo Observer June 27, about an aspect of the health care debate. “Home care in particular remains a crucial issue for many Canadian women,” she wrote. “But the added burden on family members – usually women – may have serious economic implications for those who provide the care. For women, unpaid caregiving can mean career interruption, time lost from work, income decline and a shift to part-time work or even job loss.” She concluded: “I ask the federal election candidates to deliver a comprehensive home care strategy that addresses the very gendered nature of care.”

Don’t look the other way in Iraq
Pastor Valle-Garay, a Spanish-language lecturer with York’s Faculty of Arts, wrote a letter to the Toronto Star June 29 about John Negroponti, the new US ambassador to Iraq who was ambassador to Honduras (1981-1985) during the Contra war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. Valle-Garay served as consul general of Nicaragua in Canada (1979-1988) for the Sandinista government. “Athough Negroponte was generally considered a pivotal Machiavellian character in Central America’s bloodbath, he would eventually testify before a US Congressional hearing that he was unaware of any human rights violations when he served as US ambassador in Honduras,” wrote Valle-Garay. “It certainly appears that his Central American resume eminently qualifies Negroponte for the post of US ambassador to Iraq. It is doubtful however that he will fare as well in the Middle East.

“While both Tegucigalpa and Baghdad were turned into armed fortresses by the US government, there was no insurgency in Honduras. Negroponte was relatively safe to do as he pleased. Iraq is a different story, a far cry from the exquisitely dangerous times Negroponte spent in Central America. In Iraq, he would be well advised not to look the other way.”

A musical life of the mind

“When Peggie Sampson died in Toronto on May 17 at age 92, something very particular and valuable went out of music in Canada,” wrote The Globe and Mail’s classical music reviewer, Ken Winters June 29, in a lengthy appreciation of the former York music professor. Sampson, said Winters, was a perennial student, an accomplished and ardent performer, an exceptionally equipped teacher and, above all, a tireless, questing intelligence with a large view of life. Sampson taught at York from 1970 to 1977.

A new day dawns for Dusk

“This is your basic choir-boy-becomes-saloon-singer story,” began a piece in the StarPhoenix of Saskatoon about York alumnus Matt Dusk. He’s is doing it his way, using a solid foundation of classical training to build a career as a neo-Sinatra crooner. The Torontonian has impeccable music credentials. He joined the St. Michael’s Choir School at seven and performed, trained and toured for the next 11 years. Later, he studied jazz at York University. One of his master class teachers was Oscar Peterson. It’s shaping up to be a very good year for Dusk; in addition to a new record, he’s featured in “Survivor” producer Mark Burnett’s new franchise “Casino”. Singing at the Golden Nugget in Vegas is very much where Dusk feels he belongs. Even so, the choir training has helped.

The significance of superheroes

The Calgary Herald featured a CanWest News Service story on superheroes like Spider-Man, quoting York English professor Jonathan Warren, on the front of its Entertainment section June 29. See the June 25 YFile for a summary.

On air

  • Gordon Flett, Canada Research Chair and a psychology professor in the Faculty of Arts, discussed how perfectionism can be bad for your health on “The Bill Good Show” on CKNW-AM, Vancouver.