Air Canada’s restructuring plans lauded

Analysts applauded Air Canada’s aggressive restructuring this week, with one saying the airline could be profitable in the third quarter of the year, said The Globe & Mail July 2. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they report profits for second and third quarter, but this will be profit prior to one-time expenses and writeoffs,” said Fred Lazar, an economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “Excluding those, I think the company might report a profit for second quarter and, if not, it will definitely report a profit for third quarter. Everything seems to be in place if they have a favourable economic environment. Two or three years from now, everyone will be looking back and saying the company did an excellent job of turning itself around…. Did they get enough from their union? I suspect not…but if the company is given enough flexibility in terms of the use of people, then maybe [in] going forward that would be sufficient,” added Lazar, who also commented in “The Business Report” aired on Broadcast News July 2.

Osgoode Hall Law School alumna gets top post

Canadian judge Louise Arbour took up her new post as the world body’s top human rights official – the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted The Globe & Mail, Canadian Press and many newspapers across the country July 1. Arbour, who was a Supreme Court justice, taught at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School from 1974 to 1987.

Is Toronto beach water safe?

Seven of Toronto’s beaches were praised for their cleanliness, after being awarded the Blue Flag eco-label last week, said The Globe & Mail July 1. But some Torontonians are still hesitant to take the plunge into the waters. “Our city beaches are fine, given the fact that they are situated in a city with a high population,” said Lewis Molot, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. “You are not going to get pristine beaches.” However, he added that the though public is told it’s safe to swim, having grown up in Toronto he was shocked to hear the water actually described as clean, and even admitted he wouldn’t take a dip in Lake Ontario near Toronto.

York prof bolsters councillor’s battle

A virtual unknown manages to run a successful campaign for the council on $34,000; why do other, more well-known councillors spend almost twice that amount? asked an article in the July 2 Toronto Star. In October 2002, Toronto city councillor Michael Walker led the battle for council to set up a task force against allowing corporate donations for municipal election campaigns, saying it leaves the impression that business and union interests run city hall. Walker feels Toronto should follow the federal government, which all but outlawed the practice last year. Walker’s efforts to garner council support for changes to this practice are bolstered by York political science Professor Robert MacDermid, who makes similar suggestions in conjunction with, said the Star. MacDermid argues that banning corporate contributions makes sense, because corporations aren’t citizens, they don’t vote and they can’t run for political office. “Allowing citizens who own or control corporations to give once in their own name and again in the name of their company is discriminatory,” he said, adding he doesn’t have a problem with union donations, because such bodies are democratically elected.

Investing ‘rather a dull exercise’

For all the magazines, TV shows and newspaper articles devoted to managing your money, the sad truth is that successful investing is rather a dull exercise, said an article in The Gazette (Montreal) July 2. Just think of the world’s great investor, Warren Buffett, whose idea of a good time is sitting alone in his office reading annual reports. The article went on to ask what are the risks in investments over time. Professor Moshe Milevsky, who teaches finance specialization at York’s Schulich School of Business, said in the article that assessing financial risk is a little like weather forecasting. But instead of the probability of rain, investors want to know the probability of losses, and the odds are that they are going to regret their investment decision in a year, two years or 10 years. The Gazette continued: “Although the stock market bounces up and down on a daily basis, time smooths out that volatility, producing a real (after inflation) return of seven per cent a year in the US and a bit less in Canada.” Milevsky calculated in his 1999 book, Money Logic, that the chances a diversified basket of Canadian stocks will underperform a GIC over 35 years is just five per cent.

Milevsky was also quoted in the cover story of Bank Investment Consultant on July 1, saying people need to manage longevity risk. Commenting on various plans for people to manage their retirement income, he said, “The important thing is not that people are living longer, but that they don’t know how long. It would be easy if we all lived to be 95, but uncertainty and expenses over the final few years are unknown, and that’s what people need to be insured against.”

According to Milevsky, retirees need a tax-efficient, inflation-adjusted insurance component for lifetime income, as well as exposure to equity markets. “Such a product wouldn’t cost too much if clients didn’t opt for all the bells and whistles; insurance companies would also benefit from risk pooling. After initially allowing the client to control the assets, the product could go into autopilot [and] into income. There’s an opportunity for banks with insurance subsidiaries to get into this,” said Milevsky.

Turn off TV, get outdoors

Toronto’s all fat and flabby, and that’s not good, say an article in the Toronto Star July 2, adding that the most recent Canadian community health survey said Toronto is the most sedentary urban area in the province. The best way to improve your fitness is to do something you like, said the Star. One person who has done this is James Brown, director of York’s Housing & Food Services who cycles to the University each day from his home in King City – a 40-kilometre round trip. An avid cyclist, he gradually got his wife and two children involved in the activity. Brown also takes mini holidays with his wife and friends, riding on former railway lines converted to bike trails in the Collingwood, Brantford and Elora areas. He finds his recumbent bicycle is easier on the back and behind. “Cycling is a good form of exercise,” said Brown. “It gets the heart rate up and fits in with my commute. It’s a pleasurable experience.”

Superheroes cause of moral depravity?

Whether superheroes, such as Spider-Man, are good or evil influences on the young is up for debate, says an article from CanWest News Service, carried in The Kingston Whig-Standard July 2 and quoting Jonathan Warren, professor in York’s Department of English, Faculty of Arts, who teaches a survey course in American comics and cartoons. For a fuller summary see the June 25 YFile.

Health-tax pinch begins

Canada Day was tax day in Ontario as the Liberal government’s new health-care premium started coming off paycheques, said the Toronto Star July 1. The provincial government paid for radio ads to help explain the budget – but the ads remind voters of McGuinty’s broken tax promise. “It’s a reinforcement of the worst position,” said Alan Middleton, marketing professor in York’s Schulich School of Business. Another problem is that the budget sent a mixed message by planning to end Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage of chiropractic services, physiotherapy and routine eye exams, while implementing the tax, Middleton added.

Bilingualism may help keep mental edge

Distinguished Research Professor Ellen Bialystok, professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, appeared on “CTV News” July 1, discussing her research results into how bilingualism helps keep you mentally fit and prevents the loss of your mental edge as you age. Bialystok said, “An active mind stays healthy longer. Being bilingual gives you extra practice in this mechanism [the ability to focus on a task] every day of your life, and that boosts it, reinforces it and makes it more protected against the effects of aging.”  The program host said, while it’s normal for brain function to slow down when people are 60 and older, Bialystok’s study showed language skills are a robust cushion against decline. “We found [a] slowdown with our older bilinguals…but it was much less dramatic,” said Bialystok.

On air:

  • Peter Taylor, atmospheric science professor in York’s Department of Earth & Space Science and Engineering, Faculty of Science & Engineering, sounded the alarm on Canadian weather forecasts on the “David Carr Show” (CFOS-AM), Owen Sound, on June 28.
  • Paul Hoffert, a professor in York’s ARC-CULTECH, Chair of the Bell Broadcast New Media Fund, research professor at Sheridan College and author, was the house guests on CBL-FM’s “Here and Now” program June 30, discussing his career, including being part of the band, Lighthouse. He performed live at Mel Lastman Square on Canada Day.
  • Saeed Rahnema, political science professor, Faculty of Arts, and social sciences professor, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, discussed the transfer of power in Iraq and what it means to the country and the global situation, on ROB-TV’s “Squeezeplay”June 29.
  • Edmund Fowler, retired Glendon political science professor, was on Global News Morning June 30, looking at how the minority Liberal government in Ottawa may affect Toronto.
  • Dwight Drummond of “Evening Newsflow”, CP24-TV, mentioned that a recent York Gate Mall Roots & Cultural Canada Day Festival, raised money for York’s Randal Dooley Memorial Entrance Bursary.