Stakeholders trump shareholders

There are signs that a quiet but dramatic revolution in corporate governance is afoot, wrote Allan Hutchinson, associate dean of research at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail March 3. “Last week, at the request of employees and retirees, Justice James Farley of the Ontario Superior Court ordered the insolvent Stelco Inc. to remove from its board two new directors who represented significant institutional shareholder groups. Fearful for the survival of the company, the judge decided that the broader interests of stakeholders deserved protection against those only interested in maximizing shareholder value as the company restructured.

“For all its apparent technicality, this decision might possibly precipitate enormous change. It seems that corporate directors must now fully take into account the diverse interests of such stakeholders as employees and creditors in setting company policy. More important, the board might be required to put those interests ahead of shareholders’ interests in circumstances such as insolvency and restructuring. In the traditionally profit-driven world of big business, this is a huge development,” concluded Hutchinson, who is completing a book, The Companies We Keep: Corporate Governance in a Democratic Age.

Sports writer argues for SkyDome

The time to pull the plug on the 25,000-seat stadium for the Argonauts at York University is right now, argued Toronto Star sports writer Dave Perkins in a March 3 column. “Since the York announcement last October,” Perkins wrote, “the SkyDome has changed hands. New ownership, according to Paul Godfrey, is much more amenable to the Argos as tenants. Godfrey said the joint will provide the weekend dates the Argos say they need. It already has replaced the battered turf on which the Argos played – for five seasons after the NFL rejected the turf as unsuitable for even an exhibition game. That’s new turf and new dates in a building for which taxpayers already have tossed hundreds of millions down the rabbit hole. So why, now, do we need to spend another $35 million on a stadium that is otherwise unnecessary?”

Conference offers health reality check

Dennis Raphael, a professor in York’s Department of Health Policy & Management, says Alberta has a relatively low rate of poverty compared to other provinces, but there are problems such as a large gap between rich and poor, reported Fast Forward Weekly, a news and entertainment tabloid distributed in Calgary, on March 3. Raphael, who is scheduled to speak at a Calgary conference on socioeconomic determinants of health, says the connection between a decent standard of living and good health is well-known and moving people out of poverty requires political action, not more research. He says governments have to do more than promote wellness education – they have to address the socioeconomic factors that negatively influence peoples’ health.

Talking in a quiet place

Last week there was a revelation that Toronto property developer Edward Sorbara had hosted a dinner last May where unidentified developers and other business people paid $10,000 to meet his brother, Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, and the premier, reported The Globe and Mail’s Murray Campbell in a March 3 column. It’s not news that governing parties find it easy to raise money. “All governments are susceptible to people who want things done and one of the ways that is done is by talking to people in a quiet place,” said Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts who studies political fundraising in Ontario.